The Good Ship, unlike many, many bands, don’t have a problem with names. First off, great band name. Secondly, their debut full-length is called, oh so fittingly, Avast! Wretched Sea: Undulating Tales Of Woe And Intrigue. And thirdly, it’s packed with absolute crackers, titled along two lines: either the sea-sailing piratey thing they’ve got going on (A Harbour Fair, Sea Monster, Tavern Song), or the whoring, philandering piratey thing they’ve got going on (These Are A Few Of My Favourite Flings, I Can Make Her Laugh, and the deliciously-titled 6000 Cocks).
But good titles are one thing. Rock is packed with awesomely-titled acts that are, in actuality, shit (Jefferson Starship, anyone?). Can The Good Ship back up good names with good music? Well this debut was released toward the end of last year, so if you’ve heard it you’re already aware of the answer. Yes. Yes, they can. Avast! Wretched Sea is crammed with corkers, a country-and-western gambol tinged with folk, rockabilly and good old meat-and-potatoes rock ‘n’ roll. It travels both ends of the spectrum, from the fast-paced cowpunk of opener A Harbour Fair (is that an accordian I hear?) to the dark and morbid heavy tones of No Shortage Of Company (‘My fingers… answer to the memory of you / Not to my bound and bloodied soul’… jeez). The tone of the album is hard-driving and edgy; the music is one part The Pogues, one part The Bad Seeds, one part Lefty Frizzell and one part Henry Morgan.
It’s obvious the lads are skilled musicians and the pace of most songs is enough to get you going, but the lyrics need their time to shine too; they’re great (but be warned: they are, for the most part, pretty distasteful. Lock up your daughters). These Are A Few Of My Favourite Flings recounts the pirate’s life of a girl in every port: ‘Linda’s a… devoted wife / But she gets bored with her normal life / When he’s away she gives me a ring / These are a few of my favourite flings.’ 18 When You’re 44 tells the story of a mutton-dressed-as-lamb harlot: ‘You’re reaching an age where you’re giving up / …your tits hanging out and living it up / When you’re going out the men know what for.’ But this underbelly of sadness and deception is tempered by the hilarity present in most other songs: in 6000 Cocks vocalist Daz laments, ‘6000 cocks in my hand and my mouth / And I hate to think of how many down south’ (don’t we all). And the beautiful echoing riff on I Can Make Her Laugh disguises the vocal refrain of ‘I can make her laugh but I can’t make her come’.
It’s more than worth your while to add this piece of eight to your collection. Avast! Wretched Sea is a stormy ride on a pirate ship riddled with termites and dysentery, but when you go down, you’ll go down singing, dammit.
Renee Tibbs is the current editor of upstart, and also writes occasionally for Beat, where this review was first published.