Skinny Lister’s 2014 album Down on Deptford Broadway is a set of love songs to London and it’s bloody brilliant (seriously, buy it!). New Cross crops up this time too but The Devil, The Heart and The Fight is more national, international and universal, exploring the North, New York and mucky emotions.
True to form, the opening track bursts to life – no intro, no retreat, no regrets. Wanted is a storming punk-rock singalong with the same winning mix of rapid-fire delivery and killer chord changes that have helped make Skinny Lister one of the most compelling live bands on the circuit right now.
No let up for the next one – Geordie Lad is another soaring, memorable track – undoubtedly the lead single. It’s a surprisingly thoughtful lament to a lost friendship, about the void left when antics lead to arguments then estrangement.
Tragedy in A Minor is a journey from heartbreak to acceptance. It’s the anthem of the jilted; careening from what is love, to where’s it gone, to who needs it anyway in under three minutes.
Three songs within nine minutes; so far, so punk. If they’ve missed the accordion parts, the uninitiated may be surprised by the shift in tone for Devil In Me, for which Lorna Thomas takes over the vocal duties. The devil’s in a floral dress and there’s a fine line between love and hate. This pretty ditty has a bite; the protagonist has been wronged and vengeance will be brutal.
Lorna is also adept with raucous drinking songs like Hamburg Drunk. However, her pure sound in the folkier numbers brings a calming influence. Grace is a particularly sweet number accented by Dan Heptinstall’s deep tones. There’s something about the way their voices work together, especially how they balance each other in the tender duet Reunion.
If it’s the punk-folk that floats your boat there’s no need to worry as there are plenty of shanties to pass the flagon to. Beat It From The Chest has a rabble choir and plenty of colour and shade.
Charlie is a corker, a chanted anthem reminiscent of some of the stronger singles by The Libertines. It encapsulates the Skinny Lister ethos of authenticity, determination and following dreams. Admittedly, they had me at “carries a dream for all of us/flying the flag for Northerners”…
The closing songs work together as companion pieces. Fair Winds and Following Seas is a story about a life on the move, taking only memories and friendships, while Carry is about losing course and remembering the reason to find the way home. Time and again, the album steers a course through vengeance, love and tenacity, things that have guided voyagers to and from Deptford for centuries.
Skinny Lister’s The Devil, The Heart and The Fight is out now – don’t miss the red vinyl version!. They’re on the road now on a sold-out UK tour, followed by a full U.S. tour in November 2016. Details at http://skinnylister.com/skinnyblog/live-dates/