I’ll never forget it: loading up what turned out to be the most-viewed Youtube version of our album Polka’s Not Dead and discovering that the stupid m___f_____ had cut out the final song, “Za Smierc Przyjaciela”. That tune is a slow, moving instrumental written by Seamus (violin) for a departed friend, with heaps of layered violins and violas and a cello. Watching it come together in the studio was magic. Realizing that 75% of the people listening to the album on Youtube wouldn’t hear it was brutal. I left a bunch of abusive comments on the guy’s video. I regret nothing.
For this is the stupid genre we’re in; a sizable minority of ‘punk’ fans are the sort of knuckle-dragging Neanderthals who think that unless a song is blasting beats and smashing guitars, it’s not worth listening to. Look, if you’re 16 and you haven’t figured out that this is dumb, ok, you probably will. But many of these guys are in their 40s. I honestly don’t think they should be allowed to vote. Like if you’re listening to the Ramones End of the Century and you skip “Danny Says”, you shouldn’t be allowed to vote. You and everyone like you can be shipped off to an island where you can skip “Za Smierc” and “Fairytale of NY” and “Danny Says” to your heart’s content, until of course you all die of starvation in three days because you won’t be able to form a functioning society.
OK, so I’m still a little bitter.
So when we assemble albums there’s always this dumb dynamic: keep it to two slow songs, max, or people will switch you off. If you look at all the other genre-adjacent bands, they almost entirely adhere to this rule. Unless it’s a special album with a special purpose, you’re not going to find Google Bordeeno or the Flapjack Marphys inserting three ballads in a row into an album. Even though I guarantee you that if they ever go back to listen to their old stuff, it’s ballads over bangers every time. There’s just something more meaningful about a real tear-jerker. There’s a reason the Pogues will always be remembered for that song, one that is almost nothing like anything in their catalogue up to 1987.
So in putting together the WWI-themed Foreign Skies I had this amazing idea to change the lyrics to the traditional song Unquiet Grave to describe a young person (of indeterminate gender) mourning their lost lover in Flanders. And I put this long home demo together using shitty instruments and mics, a demo that paid subscribers get to listen to below.
Give me money. I will use it to buy real cider and I will drink the cider. The end.
But I stood back from the demo and realized: fucking hell, this is 8 minutes long. We already had a couple of ballads going for the album and adding another seemed… not very punk. So I decided not to bring it to the band and have just listened to it privately over the years. My dad, a musician and singer himself, really liked it. That was cool. But this decision to exclude the song has always felt weird and unnatural.
And well I guess it worked out, since we re-recorded Unquiet Grave for Green Willow:
But I’ll never really hear it as a Green Willow track. It was recorded and conceived when I was drowning in WWI literature and film. And while the original demo sounds pretty bad and isn’t as professional as what it became, it really captures that haunting, mellow, poetic time of my life. So yeah, paid subscribers, enjoy!
(Or, if you don’t like slow songs, just go ahead and skip this one. You absolute prick.)
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