Rum Sodomy & the Lash (Stiff/MCA)
My absolute happy place is the summer I spent listening to this album on repeat with my two best friends. We got into so much trouble and this album was playing for all of it. I found my people, my place, and something profound to believe in. I’d already gone deep down the punk rock rabbit hole but when I heard this album everything changed. It’s one of those albums that simply seems to appear without a direct lineage pointing the way. They meshed two genres together so seamlessly that it was hard to believe it hadn’t been done before.
The lyrics were poetry, the playing was lightning fast at times and beautifully slow at others. The folklore around the band even reached my small corner of the world. What I love most about this record is that the lyrical content is so jam packed with history that I am still unpacking it all these years later. I learned about Irish mythology, Irish tenors, the IRA, the Spanish Civil War, the poet Brendan Behan, Winston Churchill, the Gallipoli campaign of the First World War, Jesse James, even twists on old nursery rhymes. You really had to work hard to understand this stuff, you had to do homework to find out what the hell they were talking about. And remember, at the time there was no internet to cheat with. The artwork is based on a painting by French Romantic artist Theodore Gericault named The Raft of Medusa (1819). A bunch of punk rockers imposing themselves onto a classic painting. This wasn’t thug stuff, this was punk rock for the smart kids.
But…..it wasn’t so smart that the band couldn’t hang with its audience. They weren’t looking down their noses for having read a few more books than us, they also wrote about dope deals in alleyways. These were the smart kids you wanted to hang out with.
War Orphan’s Closer to Death Than Life EP is out now.