Folk-punk is constantly being insulted in some way, and its haters are going to hate. If you're not someone who despises fiddles, banjos, enthusiasm, acoustic guitars played fast, kittens and spring flowers, or the kind of person who will complain that a person can't sing very well (newsflash: this is punk, not opera), but digs their early Against Me! and Andrew Jackson Jihad, then you will love this record.
Wingnut Dishwasher's Union was the catchily named project anarchist singer-songwriter Pat the Bunny (I think I'm correct in assuming that's not his real name), formed after the demise of his rough anarchist folk-punk collective Johnny Hobo and the Freight Trains. That band's lyrics detailed a search for anti-capitalist freedom through self-destruction, depression and drug abuse. Sample lyric: "Here's to our lives being pointless, and how beautiful it is because freedom doesn't have a purpose." Wingnut, though less obsessed with wreckage and acid, was similar in many respects: sometimes sad; sometimes satirical; sometimes pessimistic; sometimes hopeful.
After Wingnut's debut of fully acoustic folk-punk, Pat is working with electric and acoustic elements: electric guitar and bass are as well-represented here as are fiddle, double bass and harmonica. Some songs and parts of songs are stripped-back acoustic strumming, with a dash of harmonica; some are rough, folky punk; some have both at the same time, which actually works really well. So many instruments allow a great diversity in the style of the songs, and the rough recording gives either a bare, lonely feel or a raucous touch to the album too, which matches Pat's voice (a cross among a feral scream, a surprised yelp and a country croon) and the lyrics.
Now, I don't want to write a review where I just quote lots of lyrics, but it's difficult to avoid. They are fantastic. Teenage and drunkard-friendly in that the passion is there in force, and the choruses are excellent (the album could have benefited from some gang vocals), and smart too, and not "smart" in that it's some dude talking about killing cops and then referencing Bakunin. Sometimes it's depressing and deadly serious: "Proudhon in Manhattan", the opener, and one of my favourite songs ever, takes in loneliness, ideology...even apocalypse. Closer "My Idea of Fun" contains the lines "Well I don't wanna kill a cop, what I want is neighborhoods where they don't have to get called when the shit goes down, 'cos our friends they are enough, and our neighbors have enough. Finally we're enough." I'm not personally an anarchist, but the lines are moving, inspiring, and make perfect sense.
Sometimes it's fun and a little dumb: "Fuck Every Cop (Who Ever Did His Job)" contains the line "I suppose you've gotta be a little crazy to believe that we shall be free, but I'm insane–and I'm not alone." Furthermore, Pat isn't afraid to take himself to task, letting the audience have a laugh at his expense. Though the record isn't a jaunt from start to finish, through fun and self-satirization pervading politics it's not constantly morose and self-worthy; that's always refreshing, and if making politics fun isn't punk, what the hell is? So "throw your hands in the air 'cos property is robbery."
An album that's made me laugh and brought tears to my eyes, even made me think and, most importantly, made me sing out loud, should be big, but it's not. It's hard to get ahold of (DIY Bandits is the label, and I got my copy from Interpunk), and worse, Pat has been in rehab, and there was a possibility he would quit music. This worry has fortunately passed, and though Wingnut Dishwasher's Union is now dead, Pat's got a new band. He's happy, and that's more important than him ever getting to England to play all these now old songs to me. I say good luck to him. Hopefully he can now get the recognition he deserves.