Living Tradition

Based in the north east of England, partly because it’s cheap and partly because of the Newcastle University course in traditional music, these five young musicians are united by their love of ceilidh music and other weird passions. They each bring their own cultural influences, from the island traditions of Jersey (onions and stripy tops) to the Northern customs of Kelso (actually pretty much the same). Amy Thatcher’s accordion and Carly Bain’s fiddle lead the melodies; Scottish and English tunes mixing with many other ingredients in their own compositions. The combination of David de la Haye, Kieran Szifris and Joseph Truswell could loosely be termed a rhythm section, but it’s much more than that – odd noises, computer effects, primal vocals and, frankly, anything else that seemed like a good idea at the time.

This music has many of the things that young folk like: drums, bass, grooves, riffs, loops, offbeats and backbeats, to name but a few. It also has very traditional elements: cracking accordion and fiddle, toe-tapping dance tunes and that all-important credibility booster: clogs! You really can dance to these guys – they’ve included a couple of live tracks to prove it, but the Monster Ceilidh Band has everything you need for a warming Waves Of Tory or a storming Strip The Willow. A waltz might be pushing it, mind you. Titles like Super Mario Smack Down and Alien Forces don’t immediately conjure up couples gliding gracefully across the floor, unless they’re armed to the teeth and/or recently deceased. Jigs, reels and hornpipes are where it’s at on Charge: polkas and schottisches too and maybe even a two-step, enough for most ceilidhs. However, you could also treat this as hip-hop grunge-style club’n’dub, or whatever they’re calling party music these days.

Don’t be put off by the cartoon-style artwork, the video game themes, the computer effects or the occasional bits of shouting: there’s good solid music to be enjoyed and danced too here! On the other hand, if the weird modern idiom and 21st-century references are what attracted you to Charge, try not to think of it as Anglo-Celtic European folk dance music until it’s too late and you’re properly hooked by the cool vibe and grimy beats, yeah? This is ceilidh music for a broad age group, good on CD and probably even better live, so whether you are old enough to have watched Hawaii Five-O in its original 1970s rather wooden incarnation starring Jack Lord, or only saw its equally wooden 2010 re-imagining with Alex O’Loughlin in the lead role and a disappointing Grace Park not fulfilling her promise from Battlestar Galactica, my conclusion regarding the Monster Ceilidh Band is the same: “Book ‘em, Danno!”

Alex Monaghan : http://www.livingtradition.co.uk/webrevs/mcb003.htm