Down On Deptford Broadway
After impressing the folk-punk community with their breadth of traditionally rooted celtic sounds, Skinny Lister returns with their follow up effort, Down On Deptford Broadway. Boasting the same lively ensemble of accordions, mandolins, violins and acoustic instruments, the English six-piece revisits the festival-size, feel-good formula that made Forge & Flagon such an indulgent joy. Down On Deptford Broadway places particular emphasis on traditional song structures, showcasing how modern fun can derive from old ways.
This time around the songs land with a lighter touch, partly because more prominent female vocals (sounding as if from some far off, exotic Scottish or Irish fields), but also from a more intricate instrumental approach. Songs like “What Can I Say” feel fragile and delicate thanks to Lorna Thomas’ feminine charm, channeling the likes of Neko Case in a warmer, folkier aura. Likewise, the soft acoustic backing and highland fiddle gracefully glide into position in “Bonny Away,” and a somber, mood setting tempo tugs at listeners’ heartstrings in “The Dreich.” These tracks represent exceptions rather than the norm, but deserve an early mention because of how they influence Down On Deptford Broadway’s unravelling identity.
Consequently, Down On Deptford Broadway is an overall less forceful beast even when Skinny Lister bares its teeth and bites down hard. A song like “Cathy” or “George’s Glass” marches forward thoughtfully as Lorna Thomas and Dan Heptinstall share in parallel and trade vocal duties right up to their harmonizing chorus. The energetic blasts of an enthusiastically pumped accordion culminate in an airy chorus that’s just as fun to sing along with as it is to close your eyes and imagine yourself stopping for a troupe of musicians at a street corner in Hyde Park. Others like “Six Whiskies” swagger along to the blow of a tin whistle guided chorus of best friends downing ale at their local pub. Even the uppity toe tapper, “Ten Thousand Voices,” flows casually. The main point being, most songs are less direct than perhaps fans will remember from past outings, with a softer approach meaning that Down On Deptford Broadway doesn’t quite reach as high as Forge & Flagon.
Of course there are a few stadium chargers floating around in the mix to keep things lively. “Trouble On Oxford Street” probably marks the album’s single biggest and best anthem, which wouldn’t be problematic if it wasn’t so early in the track listing. Similar efforts, like “This City,” take a more casual approach during the back half, but aren’t quite as memorable or impactful as the simpler, higher energy counterparts.
Still, Down On Deptford Broadway keeps Skinny Lister as a frontrunner when it comes to the realm of traditionally informed celtic punk. The band continues to distance themselves from, although still invites, comparisons to The Pogues, The Real McKenzies, and any number of other celtic influenced acts out there maintaining both familiarity and uniqueness. The album is a little tame compared with Forge & Flagon, but thrives on Skinny Lister’s more subtle approach. A solid sophomore follow up for one of London’s most unique folk-punk acts.