The Tosspints - Have You Been Drinking? (Cover Artwork)
Staff Pick

The Tosspints

Have You Been Drinking? (2013)

East Grand Record Co.

The Tosspints are well known and well respected in the relatively tight-knit Irish punk community, but have yet to break through to a wider audience. Part of the problem could be their geographic isolation in Saginaw Michigan, which is hardly a musical hotbed. Maybe the style has just fallen too far out of favor. Either way, this band deserves your attention. The Tosspints are brothers Don (vocals/guitar) and Zak (bass/vocals) Zuzula and drummer John Johnson. Have You Been Drinking? is the band's third album and first for East Grand (the label has also re-issued their first two records 11 Empty Bottles and Cenosillicaphobia). Although they fall under the Irish punk umbrella, the sound would be better described as aggressive folk. Open chords rather than chugging riffs, sometimes played at a breakneck pace. The lead vocals are a bit raspy, and the backing vocals are often layered. All three guys sing, so the vocal arrangements are generally a cut above.

The Tosspints' songs can be roughly placed in two categories: there are songs about battle and conquest, and songs that are achingly confessional. Many of the tracks on this LP seem to deal with loss. The album opens with "Genocide is Painless". The sample that inspired the chorus plays over slowly strummed chords before things really kick into gear. Aside from being one of the best song titles of all time, it's a great story about the cruelty of war. It also features the first of a few frantic guitar solos that scream out of the mix. "Soldiers Heart" is a powerful song about the loss of manhood, or at least self-respect. It prominently features drinking, as many of these songs do.

"Our Last Breath" is a bitter song about the loss of a lover. "My Own Country" questions the traditional concept of patriotism and has an eastern European vibe. "Shoot at All the Cops" is an upbeat, almost ska-like tale of senseless inner city violence. "Johnny I Hardly Knew Ye" is their take on the traditional song that every Irish punk band for some reason feels the need to cover. "Eleanor" is an earnest ballad for a daughter. It could tug on the heart strings of even the coldest bastard, and will pack an extra punch for anyone with kids. "Your Name" is an emotionally potent song about the loss of a father. "This old tattoo it fades but your memory does not/You taught me how to be a man sometimes it's all I've got". The twelve song album ends with "Blood and Whiskey", an epic six plus minute battle hymn. The chorus is so catchy that it will stick with you for days after a single listen.

A lot of people stop paying attention at the mention of Irish punk, but with The Tosspints they do so at their own peril. The songs here are so good that they transcend any specific genre. Sometimes it feels so painfully personal that you'll feel as if you're invading someone's privacy. These guys spill their guts and it's extremely compelling. If you've ever enjoyed Flogging Molly or The Tossers, or just appreciate good songwriting, do yourself a favor and find a copy of Have You Been Drinking?.