Various Artists – ‘Son Of Rogues Gallery: Pirate Ballads, Sea Songs & Chanteys’

Various Artists - 'Son Of Rogues Gallery: Pirate Ballads, Sea Songs & Chanteys'


Another pirate sequel from Johnny Depp and pals

Pirates are about as cool as Dappy these days. Two too many Pirates Of The Caribbean films, the global idiot convention of International Talk Like A Pirate Day, the declining fortunes of the Bounty bar: they’ve long since been meme-d into Davy Jones’ locker. So can Johnny Depp, already part of the pirate problem, become part of the solution?

Designed to make 50-year-olds wet themselves, the dazzling list of names ‘executive producer’ Depp and real producer Hal Willner have recruited here include Nick Cave, Keith Richards, Courtney Love, Michael Stipe, Tom Waits, Shane MacGowan, Iggy Pop and Beth Orton. Their vibe is freak-folk at its freakier end, like Iron & Wine after three pints of salt water, or mid-period Sufjan Stevens if he was suffering post-traumatic stress disorder from losing his leg to a crocodile.

At its best, ‘Son Of Rogues Gallery…’ is a burst of sniggering, unhinged invention. Ed Pastorini (from 101 Crustaceans) goes a cappella. Dr John achieves something like the sidewinding grooves of Snoop Dogg’s ‘Drop It Like It’s Hot’. Kembra Phaler (with help from Antony Hegarty) channels The Knife’s mad opera on choice child-scarer ‘Barnacle Bill The Sailor’.

Inevitably it’s also an adventure in need of an edit. The first volume (same title, minus the ‘Son Of’ bit) harnessed the definitive shanty classics. This one has had to dig a bit deeper for its treasure, and no-one is going to spend long listening to Macy Gray covering a song that even hardcore Elizabethan pirates probably thought would work better as a B-side. But whatever you take from this sprawling 150-minute monster, simply trying to re-cool pirates shows class.

Gavin Haynes


Director: Hal Willner
Record label: Epitaph
Release date: 11 Mar, 2013