BIERE DE LUXE – Into The Thicket (own label)

Into The ThicketBiere de Luxe are five guys from Falmouth who don’t say much about who they are except to describe themselves as rural gypsy-punks. They do live up to the punk ethos in some ways. Into The Thicket is very much a collaborative effort in a sleeve that carries minimal information – designer Eloise Pilbeam is the only other person to receive a credit. The band recorded it themselves but don’t say where; on their home page they give themselves nom de plumes and on CD their names are in an almost indecipherable script – I would never have identified bouzouki player Tadgh Shiels, without finding his name in print.

Where they differ from punk is that these guys can play. And they rock. On the one hand there are drums, bass and guitar topped off with harmonica and on the other we have bouzouki,  accordion and keyboards and it’s they way they combine these elements that gives Biere De Luxe their unique sound. The opening track, ‘Up To My Neck In Trees’, begins with raucous bouzouki and harmonica before abruptly switching to fast country-rock. I went looking for the banjo but there isn’t one.

Guitarist Oliver Philp is the lead vocalist although bassist Andy Annear also sings so they may share lead duties. ‘Lost In A Dream’ has a strange echo on the vocals and ‘Rusty Old Blade’ is straight out of Tom Waits’ Swordfishtrombones period complete with oom-pah band sound. ‘Biere De Luxe Theme’ is a relatively conventional instrumental opening with a nice guitar figure before Lawrence Engledow’s accordion takes over and the same combination continues through ‘Gypsy Christmas’.

‘Barley Wine’ takes us back to punk, lyrically at least, but with a jolly tune and even jollier accompaniment – it’s great fun – while ‘Hambres E Incedios’ takes us somewhere between eastern Europe and Mexico. Biere De Luxe mix it up very well and the excellent sequencing of the album pulls you along very nicely.

Dai Jeffries

Artists’ website:

‘Rusty Old Blade’ – official video: