The Bilge Pumps,
Greatest Hits Vol. VIII
(self-produced, 2001)

Some bands repeat the same mistakes time and time again. But the Bilge Pumps, a piratical singing group based in Texas, have learned from the errors of their previous recording and have released a much stronger package for their fans.

Since the release of 2000's We Don't Know, the band has strengthened its vocals, honed its wit and polished its overall presentation. That's not saying they're a certified phenomenon just yet -- some of these pirates have no business singing solo, for instance -- but they've made great strides in a year's time.

The band has changed its lineup slightly in the intervening year. Returning pirates are Evan Cannon (Squint the Lookout), Craig Lutke (Maroon the Shantyman), Patrick McAlister (Squeegy the Cabin Boy), Robert Trotter (Phil McGroin the First Mate) and Michael Younger (Kailyn Dammit the Gunner). Two former members have escaped overboard and were replaced by R.L. McDorman (C the Bosun).

You get a sense of what's to come with the first track, a rowdy rendition of "Haul Away Joe." The nautical theme continues throughout the album's 21 tracks, adhering closely to the band's name and personae. There are plenty of drinking songs, too, as you might expect, and their arrangement of "Beer" is a treat. There are a few moments on the album where you might find yourself wincing a bit, but overall I enjoyed this new effort from the band.

Other songs include "Black & Tans," "Wop Jamboree," "The Black Ball Line," "Cape Cod Girls," "The Derelict," "Son of a Gambolier," "Itches in Me Britches," "Eliza Lee" and "Grey Funnel Line." The final track adds a touch of electric guitar, a harbinger of things to come in the band's three "hidden" tracks. Tracks 22-24 are the rockin' "Buccaneer City" (a riff on David Bowie), the backwoodsy "Ar Fa La La Yee-Ha!" and a reprise of "Itches in Me Britches," reinterpreted as a jammin' blues number.

There are several between-track conversations on the album, always in the band's pirate characters, and the humor grows tiresome if you listen to the CD more than once. On the other hand, a lot of their mid-song interjections and additional lyrics are funny over and over again.

The Bilge Pumps have certainly grown and developed a lot as a band in one year. The bonus tracks demonstrate even more versatility waiting in the wings, and I suspect these guys will keep getting better and adding fun to their repertoire.

[ by Tom Knapp ]
Rambles: 19 April 2002



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