Album Review: Matilda’s Scoundrels – As The Tide Turns

The first full-length release from this Hastings’ sextet is a masterstroke in modern aggro-folk. FFO: Roughneck Riot, Levellers and Dropkick Murphys.

A few weeks ago, TNS Records posted a teaser for the debut Matilda’s Scoundrels album. I squealed, spilled coffee on my keyboard and got laughed at by my colleagues, before immediately hitting BUY on their pre-order.

Matilda’s Scoundrels formed in 2014 and have since honed their act through hard-graft, rum and good-natured dispositions, touring restlessly around the UK and Europe. They have earned a reputation as a can’t-miss band on the UK DIY circuit for their rambunctious performances. It’s hard to compete with songs like Pisshead’s Anthem, from their EP Crowley’s Curse, for a better boozy crowd-pleaser. One of my favourite memories is their opening set at 2016’s Manchester Punk Festival: despite the early hour, they instantly transformed Sound Control into a boozy brawl, complete with crowd-surfing in an inflatable dinghy.

With raucous drinking bands like Matilda’s there’s always a risk that their recorded material will not stand up to their live show, and I’d argue that their previous release Crowley’s Curse and their split with The Barracks didn’t do justice to their outstanding performances. Fortunately, they’ve exceeded themselves with As The Tide Turns: every songs sounds as good recorded as it does live, if not better.

Matilda's Scoundrels As The Tide Turns.jpg

The 10-track album uses a familiar formula: protest songs played fast on traditional instruments, accompanied by angry vocals, overdriven guitars and a tendency towards inebriation. It’s designed for drinking, dancing and disorder.

However, As The Tide Turns is much more than a rowdy folk album. The top recording quality allows the variety of layered instrumentation to shine in a way that you cannot appreciate in a live setting, adding a real depth and authenticity to their sound. Listen to the album through a decent stereo, and marvel at the amount of thought and skill that’s gone into these compositions.  

Burn It Down is the ideal introduction to the record, combining soft acoustic with Dan Flanagan’s heavier wall of electric guitar early on, then building in the accordion before the chorus. Jason Stirling’s gravelly street-punk style vocals compliment Thomas Quinn’s clearer singing; part of what gives Matilda’s Scoundrels their unique edge.

Something else which sets them apart from contemporaries like Roughneck Riot, The Lagan or Smokey Bastard is a coastal sea-shanty spirit that resonates in every song. They play with all the dangerous force of an unchartered sea, shifting faultlessly from calm acoustic whispers to roaring, tempestuous punk. The dynamic crests and falls, like the rolling sea, give you a sense of forward-motion throughout the album.

On one hand, As The Tide Turns could inspire rum-fuelled whirling round the deck of a ship, on the other it could stoke the fires of a revolution.  It has plenty of fist-shaking shoutalongs, particularly on Bottle of Rum where they sing, “There’s blood in the rum, don’t you know!” There’s more fun on Friends of Mine, a bouncy foot-stomper. More seriously, Shackles & Bones is a clever condemnation of the American justice system, juxtaposing lyrics about current prisons with a rolling cadence suggestive of a 19th century slave-transportation ship.

Godforsaken Sea is familiar as a riotous set-closer, and the energy has translated perfectly to the recorded version. You can feel the rolling of the waves, taste the salt in the air, and feel the indignant fury coursing through your veins. The album culminates with Into The Fire: by far their strongest song. It builds from soft acoustic eddies into a fierce maelstrom of noise. Throughout the song there’s a pending sense of doom, while the hopeful tin whistle soars over the top.

It’s comforting to hear so many familiar songs finally laid on record, after learning the choruses from singing-along in sweaty venues. Matilda’s Scoundrels have a versatility that guarantees a great reception whether they’re busking on a street corner, or at full-force on a huge festival stage. Wherever you hear it, you’re powerless not to move.

The band have described the album as a ‘labour of love’ having taken over 8 months to finish recording and mixing. “This album offers a few party tunes to get you in the mood for drinking with your mates but it also offers so much more. [We’ve] written about our experiences in the Calais Jungle, through to protest songs inspired by people marching against all manner of issues, to the massive injustices being experienced the world over by privatised penal systems and so much more. It’s an album we feel is about the times we live in right now and about the opportunity to change the direction that all this crazy shit is going into a positive future.”

As The Tide Turns is released on September 8th on TNS Records. The album is available to pre-order now from their webstore on white or translucent yellow vinyl, CD or in a bundle with a fetching black t-shirt: https://www.tnsrecords.co.uk/?product_tag=matildas-scoundrels

The album is also available to download on their Bandcamp page:

The Scoundrels will be launching the album on the Friday of Wotsit Called Festival in their hometown of Hastings on Friday 29th September. It’s £10 a ticket for a weekend full of rollicking good-times, with the likes of The Restarts, Nosebleed, Pizzatramp and Riggots.

Finally, they’re embarking on an intense run of dates around the country:

  • Fri 08 Sep – Sedlescombe | The Big Green Cardigan Festival
  • Sat 09 Sep – T-Chances, London
  • Sun 17 Sep – Prince Albert, Brighton
  • Fri 29 Sep – The Palace, Hastings | Wotsit Called Fest
  • Sat 14 Oct – The Bull | Battle Festival
  • Fri 27 Oct – New Cross Inn, New Cross
  • Sat 28 Oct – The Eagle, Eastbourne
  • Sat 04 Nov – The Smokehouse, Ipswich
  • Sat 11 Nov – Wharf Chambers, Leeds | Pie Race Festival
  • Sun 12 Nov – The Lady Luck, Canterbury
  • Sat 18 Nov – The Cremorne, Sheffield
  • Sun 19 Nov – T-Chances, London | Back From The Dead Fest
  • Sun 26 Nov – The Cricketers, Kingston | w/ Flatfoot 56
  • Mon 27 Nov – T-Chances, London | w/ Flatfoot 56

Follow Matilda’s Scoundrels on Facebook and check out their website.

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