Cranky George – Fat Lot of Good
Cranky George can trace its roots back to iconic folk/punk act The Pogues, through the brief but successful run of The Low and Sweet Orchestra in the nineties, and the first incarnation of Cranky George as a trio. The core members of the band, accordionist James Fearnley and the multi-instrumentalist Mulroney Brothers, were forced by circumstance to place the band on a backburner for some time following the release of the first EP, but expanded their lineup when they decided to resume activities. The addition of bassist Brad Wood and drummer Sebastian Sheehan Visconti transformed an already immensely entertaining band into something truly special. Their first full length release Fat Lot of Good features an abundance of nods to their shared past, but it is equally clear that Cranky George has elevated themselves to another level entirely that’s unmoored from honoring the past too much. They are vital and gloriously alive.
“Tunnel of Love” is an opening showing off their instrumental prowess, storytelling talents, and an underrated sense of humor in one song. It has a sweeping, layered approach beginning from the first note and the arrangement and vocal complement each other with the ideal amount of taste. There are a number of surprising and thrilling tempo shifts scattered across the album’s fourteen songs and some of the bravest moments in that area come with this song. “Perfect Skin”, likewise, memorably climaxes a number of times before reaching a final, dramatic ending. The vocals are even stronger here than on the aforementioned song. “Greenland’s Ice” shifts gears and goes full on traditionalist with a sea ballad not far removed from a Childe Ballad or similar efforts. Unlike other outfits, Cranky George never sounds self-conscious writing and performing material like this. It emerges from them naturally, like an expression from their very DNA.
“Yes!”, as its title implies, packs a great deal of inspiration and energy within a limited space. Despite any time considerations, however, “Yes!” manages to find room to breathe while simultaneously impressing listeners with the musician’s skill. Traditionalist themes arise again with the song “The Man with the Burning Eyes”, but any familiarity with the subject matter is rendered a positive thanks to their powerfully vivid treatment of the song’s subject. “Ne Me Quitta Pas” relies, like many of the songs, for its strong melody to draw in listeners, but the vocal here is equally compelling thanks to its lightly confident and inviting air. A hint of waltz time gives “All the Rivers in the World” an unique spin compared to earlier and similar efforts, but the lyrical content makes fresh use of any tropes and makes this song a surprisingly intense and personal statement set to a clever and immensely entertaining arrangement. The album will win a lot of new fans on first listen and their appreciation for the album’s merits will only deepen with repeated sittings. Fat Lot of Good has something for everyone and does it with style, sophistication, and sincerity throughout.
9 out of 10 stars