Fishermen’s Friends: other lozenges are available

When someone says ‘sea shanty’ to you what comes to mind? EU cod quotas? Booze cruises? Rick Stein?  Well, what Universal records want you to do is dip in your pocket and fish out some pieces of eight for the album Port Isaac’s Fishermen’s Friends.  Yes these singing trawlermen have been belting out keel-hauling chorale for the second-homers and tourists of north Cornwall since 1899, sorry 1999.  They’d recorded a couple of fine no frills CDs on a budget and sold locally until big money came calling last year.  The result was a million ££££ contract and a new album.  Now I was under the impression that the shanty was an essentially unaccompanied ensemble singing piece, perhaps with a little pipes or squeeze box, there not being room for a backing band on the heaving deck of a man o’ war.  You’d probably record it with a few mics in a nice sounding space, flogging the jack tars through takes until they gave a suitably convincing performance.  More fool me, as their video shows, the Fishermen’s Friends have each been plonked in front of an expensive mic and tracked separately into a digital rig.

They have then been obliged to follow backing tracks played to a click by session men bribed to create that Captain Pugwash feel.  Every yo ho ho cliche has been thrown into the mix, overloud drums, guitars and flutes just some of the stowaways.  They used the same old church as a recording venue for the vocals only; why?  There is a tiny bit of stoney ambience in them but what’s wrong with Abbey Road? That they did later decamp there proves the point.   This is not authentic communal singing, why try and keep a pretence up?  As for the compressed faux-folk rock music, it’s awful, sounding like a bad copy of the Men They Couldn’t Hang, except “Union Of Different Kinds” which is a bad Strawbs, and “Haul Away Joe” which is a bad Pogues.  Only the mercifully stark “Cadgewith Anthem” hits the target.  As an example of throwing the baby out with the seawater it can’t be beat.  It went gold in the UK selling to those people who buy their CDs in Asda but I note that producer Rupert Christie, who masterminded the whole thing, tempting them away from an indie deal, has bagged credits for writing and arranging.  Someone should tell the Friends where his treasure is buried as they will be getting fuck all in royalties I bet.

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