Something huge has happened to The Rumjacks. While the Australians have always played raucous, Celtic-influenced punk, they’ve never previously come close to presenting a set of songs like these. The only physical difference is the presence of new singer Mike Rivkees. The American recruit comes equipped with a great throat, but more importantly his arrival has elicited some form of alchemic reaction from his bandmates. Mike by name, Midas by nature.
Hestia is a stampeding, emotive, anthemic beauty of an album. Opener Naysayers sounds like Bay Area legends Rancid being dragged back to the studio by members of an Irish marching band. Bullhead does the same with boozy folk heroes The Pogues, its irresistibly pacey melodies just a preview of even sportier stuff to come.
Indeed, this album draws comparisons with pretty much everything that’s great about punk and folk. Wonderust skanks along like The Interrupterswhile the defiant, well worded title track recalls the socially conscious poetry of agit-folk veterans The Levellers. And just when you assume The Rumjacks couldn’t possibly conjure a heftier rock chant than first video Sainted Millions along comes a Godzilla-sized thing called Light In My Shadow, an instantly singable flag-raiser for good old-fashioned friendship in hard times.
It’s easy to describe albums full of Irish-inflected punk as ‘drinking songs’ and while these generous 14 rounds certainly serve that purpose, dig deeper and you find social commentary, lore and affecting storytelling. It’s the complete package — and even the Dropkick Murphys, Boston’s undisputed champions of Celtic bombast, cannot claim to have made an album this good in several long years. If that’s somehow all down to you Mike Rivkees, take a bow sir.