The Good Ship – ‘Avast! Wretched Sea’

The Good Ship hail from Australia whose debut album explores and harks back to: traditional folk tales, instrumentation and moods. The large group consisting of currently 8 permanent members and an array of guests aim to blend folk frolics, sea shanties and create a whirlwind of a ride.

Commencing with ‘A Harbour Fair’, the combined folk elements of a jovial tavern sing-a-long creates a great theme and feeling of casting out to sea in the morning on a large wooden ship. The fiddle work is quite potent and yet the track is strikingly modern. A defining beginning with high hopes. A breed of skiffle and folk with a tale woven into my brain’s fabric.

An anomalous tooting trumpet starts ‘These Are A Few of My Favourite Flings’, as the band are recruited for the starting moments it feels almost like I am listening to Steve Miller Band’s ‘Abracadabra’; in fact I would compare the two. Unfortunately the track suffers from some clipping that is too noticeable. Otherwise it is a great little song but not ground breaking and challenging enough, nevertheless a cut.

‘Sea Monster’ is kind of like an old western, except at the belly of Poseidon. A running floor tom with acoustic and tremolo guitars throughout the verse section. Castanets are audible in the chorus sprinkling it with a spanish lilt. The fiddle takes the main melody line in the wave crashing moments and tails out in the verses. Three strong opening tracks musically and thematically even if the lyrics aren’t quite as catchty or memorable.

‘6000 Cocks’ follows and is a more dorian pertaining phallic acoustic piece. Maybe the sea monster before was not so literal and had a sexual subtext? Probably not. Not a particularly interesting song and almost an album filler, it is a grower but all the cocks are a little cringeworthy. Did I really just type that? Anyway on to “18 When You’re 44″ which is a country influenced vision however it again feels like one of the weaker tracks on the album. It’s bland clean guitars and simplicity is kind of dragging.

‘Don’t Kiss Me…” is a more jaunty presto song, however it feels inorganic and a little too ‘irish’ however the drunken harmonies are delighting.  However the next song “Tavern Song” feels perfectly tavern like. In fact I would disappointed if this wasn’t recorded in a tavern and was an elaborate ruse. The clinking of glasses, the inane chatter, the bar singers joining in spontaneously at random words, it must be real – it must! Even though it is a bit dragging on the chorus, regardless it is enjoyable and pure ear candy.

Skipping to ‘Bury Me’, it is a tenebrous piece with a skiffle drum beat flowing. The lyrics tell of a person selling their soul in order to ditch their troubles and possibly start again, possibly in hell. Lead by a female singer (not sure who though, will check the linear notes) it is a lament with a cute banjo and roaring chorus. I like the basis of this track and towards the end is an instrumental section that arises which is positively delightful. Too right – personal favourite.

‘I Can Make Her Laugh’ is again another filler song. Frustratingly it is at this point I realised that this album seems to alternate between great song and filler. It feels like that band sat in the corner of a grubby pub playing songs that are indistinctive from the next (such as this and “18 When You’re 44”), however that applies to less than half the album.

‘Cut Off My’ is another maudlin song, nearly on par with ‘Bury Me’ but not quite. What this song made me realise is when The Good Ship are being a bit evil and depressive and less country they can manufacture music that is surprisingly uplifting and with an essence of frission.

‘Last Song of the Night’ is simply a finale, a low tempo’d last drink moment, your friends have gone home and you realise you’re sat a bar with a scotch in one hand and your head propped up with the other. The band are finishing their set and you begin to cry because the music tells you to without having to sing a meaningful and personally relatable lyric. Which is the point of the song. It is a parody of the Last Song of the Night at a grubby point. It is ironically hilarious in it’s lyrics; “I get to the quietest part of the song and realise nobody is singing along to the last song of the night…”; it retells of that tavern moment and is an appropriate end to an album of tavern songs. All of a sudden you realise the whole album has been a bit of a joke and that in reality nothing really matters at all. (Yes, it is basically Bohemian Rhapsody spread out over an album).

When I received the album and first listened I was a little disappointed. I was expecting a faster paced drunken experience from Avast!, nevertheless after listening to it a few more times I managed to remove that sense of disappointment from what I was expecting compared to what the album is. Excusing some of the filler and calmer songs, the great ones stand out and make a fairly decent album. If there was lesser filler material and some less uncomfortable jokey lyrics it might have got a higher score. Beautiful sweeping melodies, audible delights and a refreshing folk tale.

(Apologies to the band for this ridiculously late review posting)

  1. A Harbour Fair
  2. These Are A Few Of My Favourite Flings
  3. Sea Monster
  4. 6000 Cocks
  5. 18 When You’re 44
  6. Don’t Kiss Me With Your Lips
  7. Tavern Song
  8. No Shortage Of Company
  9. Bury Me
  10. I Can Make Her Laugh
  11. Cut Off My
  12. Last Song Of The Night
– Update: The band are currently working on their second album (as of 4th February 2012), it would be great to hear it as this album showed promise.