The Bilge Pumps,
Bail Money
(Ibidis Mortem, 2014)

The Bilge Pumps are at it again. With a dogged determination you can't help admiring just a bit, this band of merry, Texas-based pirate singers keep on recording CDs, and they keep sending them in for review, despite all my efforts -- in previous reviews -- to dissuade them. OK, fair enough, lads -- you get full marks for bravery. Let's give this new disc a spin, shall we?

First, you have to understand that there's a certain special mentality when it comes to pirate bands of the sort who perform at renaissance faires and similar venues. They are typically rowdy, bawdy, jolly and crass. Some of them can sing pretty well, too.

Not the Bilge Pumps. Yes, they are rowdy, bawdy, jolly and crass. But their voices just aren't what we in the music-reviewing biz call "polished" ... or even, as often as not, in tune.

And yet, these guys do grow on you a bit, like a particularly resilient form of mold. They are fun, and that often is enough to carry a show. If I was at a pub and was, say, three or four beers in, I'm quite sure I'd have a good time if the Bilge Pumps started to play.

The songs are of the typical nautical sort you'd expect from this type of band. Not a lot of big surprises there. Basically, as I believe I've said before, if you like this sort of thing, you'll like this.

Bail Money is a live recording, and there are a few hitches in the presentation, however. When the band starts its banter on the first track, I wondered at first if there was anyone besides them in the room. Soon, I could make out the relative "din" of a half-dozen or so people cheering them on. Happily, it sounds like the room filled up a bit as the show proceeded.

Song placement is also a bit iffy. When introducing "The Night Pat Murphy Died," for instance, the band notes that the previous song was about death. It wasn't. When introducing "Johnny Jump Up," the band tells us it's the last song. It's not. When introducing "The Mermaid," they comment that the previous song was goofy. Not really.

Obviously, they mixed up the tracks when they picked and chose what to put on the album, but a little more care in ordering things certainly would have helped the flow!

Anyway ... I have been giving these guys a hard time since 2000. Any band that can hold it together that long -- with, admittedly, numerous personnel changes along the way -- deserves some credit. And, while I stick by my past statements that the Bilge Pumps does not boast any number of great singers, I will concede that they are fun. And that, too, is saying something.

Oh yeah -- they get bonus points for the Talking Heads parody of "The Mermaid." That was funny!

[ visit the artist's website ]

music review by
Tom Knapp

1 November 2014

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