Punk music on the ukulele is perhaps, to some at least, a surprising mix but when you think about it they go hand in glove with each other. The ukulele revival has put making music into the reachable grip of the population as anyone can just pick up a uke and have a go. All you need are a few basic chords and you’ll soon be jamming along with your mates and maybe even self-releasing a few of your songs on YouTube. If that’s not the ethos of punk I don’t know what is!
Uke Punk are a three piece punk band consisting of bass, drums and a singing ukulele player. Germinating from their Northern home town of Ramsbottom, “Punk Police” is Uke Punk’s début album of ten self penned songs which effortlessly brands their mark on both ideologies.
The album’s semi-tonal punk bass opening tells us instantly these guys aren’t messing about, this is a proper punk album. It just happens that a ukulele has replaced the guitar. What instantly grabbed me however, indeed surprised me, was the ukulele sound. I had expected a distorted uke to be hammered out over a rhythm section but no, this electric tenor is clean and it is modulation and delay that give the ukulele its voice. This carves out a great aural spectrum with clear centre stage bass lines, tight percussion rhythm and melodic ukulele hooks, riffs and rhythms.
The songs themselves are well written and are good mix of up tempo bass driven punk and off beat choppy ska. Lyrically we’re in a solid bedroom punk landscape with songs about girls living across the road, a dusting of political comment, a splash of gravy and escapist tunes about James Bond…
Who the f**k is Barry Nelson?
The natural rhythm of ukulele has helped this album sprout some very real individuality and I applaud acts who envelop the uke into their characteristic timbre like this. There are some technically admirable riffs wrapped up in these songs and more than a few eyebrow raising moments of subtle ukulele glory. The opening of “I’m A European” for example is a meticulously sweet specimen of ukulele picking which transcends into a darn catchy pop song.
First and foremost, this is a great punk album. The lazy journalist in me wants to throw in a mash-up summary of band names such as of The Clash, The Rezillos, The Blockheads and The Macc Lads, but I try not to do things like that, at least not without an attempt to subtly disguise my intentions by mixing the words into an overly long sentence the casual reader would perhaps speed read straight over. In all honestly, it would also be unfair to do so as Uke Punk have a real original sound, in fact a terrific original sound and much of it is due to that wonderful ukulele tone that’s so brilliantly spliced into some great punk song writing. Punk is dead, long live Uke Punk.
You can find out all about the band on their website where you can also order a CD copy of the album. You can also stream it on Spotify or download it from i-Tunes or just pop along to Facebook or Twitter and say hello!