Sydney septet Papa Pilko And The Binrats describe their music as wild blues and slick swingin’ country rock ‘n’ roll with horns. Add to that a uniquely Australian approach to sleazy, boozy song-writing and a charismatic frontman not afraid to make a fool of himself and you have a band that tick all the right boxes for entertainment value alone. This four-track EP is the band’s third in barely eighteen months, and sees the hard-drinkin’, bar-room brawlin’ bunch get loose and lewd over the course of a short fourteen minutes. The baritone sax gives the start of opener ‘Poor Boy’ a beat-down, depression-era feel before the full horn section kicks in and the song takes off in swinging fashion. Singer and head Binrat Cyrus ‘Papa’ Pilko must have been hitting the sarsaparilla pretty hard lately, as he’s sounding much more throatily gruff than on the band’s two previous efforts, but it all adds to the downright dirty tone of the record. “I come home at 10am and I open up the door. We start out in the bedroom and then down on the bathroom floor,” he cheekily sings on ‘Woman In Black’, and you can tell he probably means it. The only bad point about this EP is that it doesn’t quite do the band justice; you have to catch them live to fully appreciate their raucously loose act and the spectacle of Pilko acting like an amiable madman. That being said, these songs swing and roll with infectious vigour. (Independent)
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.
HOWLIN’ IS OUT NOW VIA ITUNES AND BANDCAMP
After leaving The Joynt last night at around 11:30 I turned to my mate and said “with the right amount of drinks and the right people, that could have been just about the best night out you’re ever gonna have,” and I wasn’t joking. What began as a casual stroll down to West End on a chilled Saturday evening finished with the realisation that it’s this sort of gig in this sort of venue that provides the most exciting, personal, and damn entertaining gig experience anyone could ask for. All that was needed was tonight’s headliners to be on form – and they more than delivered. More on that shortly.
Support for tonight is Brisbane’s own besuited blues troubadour, Jimi Beavis. Beavis and his band of three get the show off to a flying start with an entertaining, funny, and perfectly loose set; full of black humour and charm from start to finish. An early highlight is his song ‘No Job, No Prospects,’ which gets the audience singing along to the chorus of “no job, no prospects, just sitting here discussing aspects, of unemployment,” before a kazoo appears from somewhere and adds another dimension to an already great track. Beavis is an accomplished harmonica player, and his guitarist Brodie continually makes jaws drop and hips move with his bluesy riffs, as Beavis pushes him to front-and-centre for a deserved spot in the limelight. A cover of Blind Willie Johnson’s ‘Lord, I Just Can’t Keep From Crying’ and Beavis’s own ‘You’re Frisky When You’re Sloppy Drunk’ rounds out a fine set.
The boys from Papa Pilko and the Binrats have been sinking beers next to the bar all night, so there’s no grand entrance; they simply hop onto the stage and get the show started. Dressed in all black cowboy gear and an array of headgear, the seven piece provide an interesting spectacle, centred on manic frontman Cyrus Pilko. It’s hard to tell how much of his face-contorting, hip-swinging, arm-flailing, and sweat-drenched boot-shuffling is part of a character he has created or if it’s genuinely how he is, but the singer is one of the most entertaining, charismatic, and brilliantly ridiculous Australian front-men around right now; his style is simply infectious and watching him prance and thrash about onstage is worth the admission fee alone. His early admission of “If I hadn’t popped out kids in Sydney I’d move to Brisbane today” gets a loud cheer and roars of laughter.
By second song ‘Back Home’ the band is in full swing, and they sound tight across the board, and it quickly becomes clear Pilko likes to talk to the audience between songs. He deals with a drunken heckler with aplomb before third track ‘Some Kind of Evil’ and his anecdote about being scared in caves in the Blue Mountains tails off in a fit of laughter and confusion before ‘Into The Light’ is reeled off in fine fashion.
Fifth track ‘Bar Fight Blues’ gives the three-man horn section a chance to show their stuff, as the audience dances and swings in unison, before Pilko coaxes the crowd to join him in doing the Usain Bolt pose and relates a story about accidentally whipping his band members’ faces with a belt.
Seventh song ‘East Harlem’ ups the ante again as monumental amounts of banjo riffs echo around the Joynt, before Pilko breaks out a loudspeaker for the fantastic ‘I Demand Satisfaction’ and ‘Howling’.
At this point a string breaks on a guitar, so to fill in time while it’s replaced Pilko invites Terri from the Joynt’s staff onto the stage and they run through ‘Walking Through The Jungle’ with hilarious results. When the guitar is functional again the band kick into ‘The Gambler’, which is described as “being about pokies”, and is undoubtedly the highlight of the night and the Binrats’ best song; it’s a brilliantly bluesy romp with all the right amounts of sleaze and groove.
The final track is ‘I Can’t Be Satisfied’, after Pilko relates a story of how a girl in the front row likes to reach out and “tug his cock”. Several “thank-yous” and “have a good nights” later and the show is over. Out onto the street we go, and as I reflect on what just happened I make a promise to myself: that I will go to more gigs like this, in venues like this – they are the heart and soul of Australian music and something to be cherished. Thank you Papa Pilko and the Joynt for reminding me.