Record review: Papa Pilko and The Binrats – Howlin’ (2013, EP)

Papa Pilko

Having recently seen these guys at The Joynt in Brisbane, heard many of their new songs played live, and been blown away by their musicianship, style, and outright ridiculousness, I had a strong feeling this EP was going to be good; and I was right. There’s an exciting and fascinating group of new bands across the country ploughing the furrows of a fantastic blend of country, rock, and blues genres – Graveyard Train and Quarry Mountain Dead Rats to name but two, but Papa Pilko and the Binrats (lead by the star of the show, frontman and vocalist Cyrus Pilko) could be the best of them.

If you aren’t familiar with this banjo-twangin’, hard-drinkin’, rockin’ ‘n’ rollin’ septet from Sydney, drop whatever you’re doing and go buy a ticket to one of their shows, and I mean now – GO! Failing that, get onto iTunes and get your filthy mitts on this EP – the band’s second after last year’s eponymous debut. That release had the excellent ‘The Gambler’; a song which got considerable national radio play and helped gain the boys a bit of attention, but it’s on Howlin’ they come of age.

Opener ‘Back Home’ starts off with some brilliant comedy banjo, guitar, and harmonica to kick off a stomping, barrelling track. Pilko’s ale-soaked vocals tell a story about his woman leaving home and taking his baby, which would sound like a load of nonsense and cliché if it wasn’t so catchy and fun.

Next up is ‘Some Kind of Evil’, which introduces the bluesier side to the band, and there’s even a hint of jazz amongst the horn lines and Pilko’s vaguely ominous lyrics about being overcome with “some kind of evil that comes over me, can’t you see?”

‘East Harlem’ is another banjo, horn, and double bass-led tune that shows Pilko to be quite the storyteller, even if you don’t always know what he’s going on about. Never mind, just “put a feather in your hat, and feed a bird to the old black cat”, as the man himself says.

‘Boardwalk Blues’ swings nicely and ups the tempo before the finale and title track, which sees Pilko letting loose on some solid harmonica blowin’, in between growling about road signs, altars, and night time in a fine finish.

To get the full Papa Pilko experience you really need to see them live, but this EP is the next best thing. Don’t let it pass you by.


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