Angels & Devils - The Mahones
Whiskey Devil Records
Oh come on! You have to believe in angels and devils. They seem to pop up everywhere. You undoubtedly have one of each perched on either shoulder guiding you through this life and on to the hereafter. In Finny McConnell's punk rock heaven, the angels and the devils are together, flailing and wailing and making one hell of a racket. Many of them are his music heroes, as they are for a lot of us. That's one of the things that make The Mahones such a great band and so influential to the Irish punk scene they've helped pioneer. Finny, to my mind has exquisite taste in rock music and rock musicians, and both of those continue to inform his writing and The Mahones' performances. And now, they're preparing to unleash their 8th studio album, Angels & Devils, their biggest sounding and most focused to date. Make no mistake, this is still a raw, ferocious record, but the blows are leveled with a master's touch. A producer's finesse has roped in the massive mixes so every nuance can be heard while the rest pins your ears back. Out of the chute it's Shakespeare Road; an unlikely title for a defining song that sets the pace for the rest of the record. Blue Rodeo's Greg Keelor shares the mic on this track, the first of a few notable guests on Angels & Devils. What follows is a gorgeous set starting with a thorough thrashing of Spanish Lady with Ken Casey from the Dropkicks adding a Snidely Whiplash lasciviousness to the verse. There are two balls to the wall instrumental sets that work wonderfully as bumpers on this tight as a drum mix of 13 tunes. Other high points include the sublimely dysfunctional duet Angel Without Wings/Merry Christmas Baby with Felicity Hamer from United Steelworkers Of Montreal (The Mahones with sleigh bells - that will get some spins at Christmas time). The frenetic pub rocker Past The Pint Of No Return wins hands down for most inspired song title, ever. Whiskey Train is something entirely new for the band, drifting into two step territory with a rockabilly workout featuring The Brains' Rene D la Muerte and Colin Irvine on lead guitar and doghouse bass. Two crackin' covers slam the door on Angels & Devils; the bonus track Tin Soldiers, Finny's tribute to Stiff Little Fingers, and the official capper, Hüsker Dü's Makes No Sense At All. It all makes more sense than just about anything I've heard this year.