On The Further Adventures of the Saw Doctors
Okay, I admit it. I love these guys because they make me laugh. In the midst of everything.
The Saw Doctors, a long-running Irish band, are criminally not-well-known around here. They are also another band my friend Tommy Shea the sportswriter turned me on to–he and his lovely wife Suzanne seem to know all the fun musical groups from Ireland and Britain, and occasionally from Australia into the bargain. This time Tommy started me off with a YouTube clip of “She Loves Me”:
What a fun song, but what an incredibly silly bunch of men! So I started collecting, because I was in love.
And now, just in time to stave off the winter blues, here they come again with a new CD,
The Further Adventures of the Saw Doctors, which features, on the cover, a boy reading an identically-named comic book. Kind of makes you want to open it up and see what these guys are up to, doesn’t it? I have to say that I couldn’t wait to get my hands on the CD–and I was pleased to find the band playing true to form when I did. The first song, “Takin’ the Train,” is a lively piece which any listener familiar with these guys will peg as being in their dancing mode; Leo Moran’s guitar starts it off, and Davy Carton’s steadily building, and sometimes raspy, vocals take it from there, singing, as he does so well, about the wistful nature of things lost:
So I’m taking the train
In the soft Galway rain
and I’m heading for the green hills far away.
This song, and the CD, had me from the get-go. There are more danceable tunes here as well: “Well Byes” is a brisk bit of social commentary featuring the guys who sell junk out of the trunks of their cars, while “Hazard” is a hard-driving song, with some rather frenzied guitar work and occasional distortions (though the self-referential lyrics–“But me, I’m back on the rock-n-roll”– could have been a bit stronger). [***See Judi’s comment below***]
The Saw Doctors have a history of including self-esteem-raising anthems among their recordings, and they continue on The Further Adventures of… Songs such as “Someone Loves You” and “Be Yourself” can claim their lyric bloodlines as obvious descendants of “Sing a Powerful Song” from If This is Rock and Roll, I Want My Old Job Back (1991) and “To Win Just Once” from Same Oul’ Town (1996). These are songs which, if you’re feeling depressed, you can count on to raise your feelings of self-worth, at the very least. It’s always nice to be reminded, for example, that
Someone loves you just the way you are
To someone somewhere you’re a shining star
Someone loves you just the way you are
And the way Davy Carton’s voice wavers when he jumps up a fifth on this refrain ought to convince you of his sincerity if nothing else does. The songs are sweet, and sometimes cynical people like me just have to sit back and let them be sweet.
By far two of the most fun tracks on this CD come near the end, however; and they are fun for different reasons. The one entitled “Last Call” has lyrics which play games: listening to Davy Carton sing
I know you won’t forget me
Give me a shout
You never let me down
You know what I’m about
a listener might fall into the trap of thinking this is another love song–but if it is, it’s of the tongue-in-cheek kind. The “Last Call” of the title is not of the telephone variety, but is instead about drinking in a bar, where the speaker is a regular, and the “love” is not a girlfriend, but a bartender. Curiously, the next song, “As the Light Fades,” is also about a bar, but what makes this track so amusing is its stylistic and content-wise nod to Dire Straits’ “The Sultans of Swing.” From the heady guitar riff which begins the song–and which recurs frequently throughout–and the lyrics which richly describe the denizens of a drinking establishment:
The early evening drinkers make their exits
There’s plenty of room down the back
As the light fades.
Carton and Moran are canny songwriters, and this is not the first time one of their pieces has hearkened back to their rock-n-roll forbears; for further discussion, listen to one of my favorite Saw Doctors songs, “Why Do I Always Want You” from If this is Rock and Roll, I Want My Old Job Back, and then let’s talk about Buddy Holly.
All in all, there are far more hits than misses on The Further Adventures of The Saw Doctors. Someone, I’d read on the band’s Facebook page, had accused them of going soft as they age, but I can’t agree with that. Rather, I think, they are becoming more themselves. And on many of these tracks, their wit’s as sharp as it ever was.
My favorite song of all on The Further Adventures of the Saw Doctors is the second track, “Friday Town,” peopled as it is with ghosts and haunts and fairies of the Irish variety. I wish I understood Irish.
P. P. S.
Another example of silliness from these guys: here’s a vid the Saw Doctors made during downtime on their brief U. S. tour this summer–
P. S. 3:
After Tommy introduced me to the Saw Doctors, I checked with my co-worker Dan, who has heard of every indie group in the universe. “You know the Saw Doctors, don’t you?” I asked. “Seen ’em four times,” he said. Grrr. But then he lent me his own Saw Doctors CD. So I don’t entirely hate him.