Album review: Skinny Lister – Down on Deptford Broadway

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I feel like I should be writing this review in breeches. Breeches, a waistcoat and a shirt with ruffled sleeves, while keeping an eye out for any rogue Press Gangs looking to slip a shilling into my drink. This record has that kind of effect on you. Harking back to a England that once was, this is an album that lurches heavily from song to song, punch drunk and raucous. ‘Down on Deptford Broadway’ is the second offering of the South London based six-piece, the follow up to the highly impressive 2013 offering ‘Forge & Flagon’, and they’ve done little to change a winning formula here, and why should they?

As with their first record, the track listing alone is a sure enough sign of what’s to come. Nautical and drinking references abound, the opening track ‘Raise a Wreck’ is a heady mix of electric guitars and sea shanty style calling, before we stumble into the drunken revelry of ‘Trouble on Oxford Street’ and ‘George’s Glass’. This is mob mentality music, which by using a combination of group vocals and a frantic beat, evokes scenes of disorderly pub singalongs, heads thrown back with arms around one another – pretty much a Skinny Lister gig in fact. It’s for this reason that they’re such an acclaimed live band. They pull no punches for the most part, screaming around on stage while a flagon of rum courses through the crowd, and it’s reflected in like on record.

Despite hailing from across the country, and the distinct northern twang of lead singer Dan Heptistnall, this is very much an album of London. ‘Six Whiskies’ is the centrepiece of the record, a swooning Pogues-esque ode to London that sways through drinking dens and cobbled streets, culminating ‘down on Deptford Broadway’. It’s impossible not to mention The Pogues when seeing, listening to or indeed reviewing Skinny Lister. The same anciently romantic obsession with the nations capital seeps through this album as it does with Shane MacGowan’s lyrics, and while they may not carry the depth or the same incomprehensible, snarling menace as their forebears, the mix of guttural shrieks and intertwining of characters into the songs are just as prevalent, no more so than in the concertina led ‘This is War’.

It’s not all disorder and uproar however. The vocals of Lorna Thomas are put to perfect use in ‘What Can I Say’, ‘Bonny Away’ and ‘The Dreich’, three welcome breathers on the record which allow the band to showcase their ability for traditional folk of a different kind. The latter two in particular are outstanding, sorrowful laments of Celtic influence; a perfect contrast to the frivolity in the remainder of the record. They’re also a reminder that ‘Down on Deptford Broadway’ is more than just a drunken, sing along record, and more than just an album for the stage. Skinny Lister have used their home of Deptford, London – an area intrinsically linked to the Docks – and entrenched it within the songs to the point that you can’t help but feel you’re there with them on record, in an 18th century alehouse or on the high seas, or if you know what’s good for you, at a show near you soon.

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