McDermott's 2 Hours, The Enemy Within (Hag Records, 1989)

I am sad to report that there are but four albums from McDermott's 2 Hours. Green Man has reviewed the other three --Disorder, Claws and Wings, and World Turned Upside Down. Having read the reviews that Peter Massey and Jack Merry did, and having listened to their other albums I was eager to hear what they sounded like on The Enemy Within, an album produced almost a decade before the rest of their albums. So I grabbed a pint of Guinness from the Pub, headed up to my office, watched the rain fall outside my windows, and set the CD to play. Three repeat playings later I was quite impressed with what they had done here!

(I'll be interviewing Nick Burbridge, lead vocalist and one of the tunesmiths here shortly. In a conversation earlier this week, he did note 'That's all the CDs for now. But McDermott's will be going on tour supporting The Levellers in the spring and will be making our own live album with the best tracks from all four studio recordings.' I'm certainly looking to hearing it!)

According to the liner notes for The Enemy Within, Nick Burbridge does vocals and plays acoustic guitar and bodhran, along with Marcus Laffan on drums and other percussion, Martin Pannett on bass and vocals, Tim O'Leary on fiddle, whistles, bouzouki, and vocals, Matthew Goorney on electric guitar, banjo, and harmonica. Needless to say, this is a band that fits the FHL (Faster Harder Louder) motif that I and so many other Green Man reviewers like. That it has a strong Irish feel to it and is intensely political in its lyrics makes it even more appealing. How political? Ever hear Brian McNeill's take, 'Any Mick'll Do' on what the English do to the Irish 'bombers' and such that they don't like? Well, let's just say that McDermott's makes McNeill even at his angriest seem positively bereft of passion! And this album is, to my ear, the most Irish-sounding of the four that they've done to date. The Web site for Nick Burbridge says straightforwardly that 'Nick is an Anglo-Irish writer and musician based in Brighton, England and married with three children. He has been active for over twenty-five years as a poet, playwright, novelist, documentary, short story and song writer. His writing is characterised by a commitment to the dispossessed.' Sure as hell shows here. Nick is one of those musicians who proudly raises his banner and tells you just what he thinks. I like his material; if I was of the Thatcher end of British politics, I would not. Indeed I'm reasonably sure Blair wouldn't be pleased by him either!

Now they can play a mean tune too -- I'm listening once again to the coda piece, 'Paddy On The Level' off this album, a nearly five-minute jam at which the musicians in the Neverending Session here in the Green Man Pub would nod quite appreciatively! Everything here's superb, including the track, 'Dirty Davey' which was covered by The Levellers on their 1994 album, Levellers. A few minutes ago, I played both versions of 'Dirty Davey' with the McDermott's getting the edge due to Nick being, in my opinion, a much better vocalist than the vocalist for the Levellers. There's also a tightness to McDermott's that I, who really do like the Levellers as I have most of their recordings, often find lacking in that group. What I mean is McDermott's feels like a band in a way that the Levellers do not.

So the bottom line is, I like this CD every bit as much as the other three McDermott's endeavors. The only noticeable difference with this CD, and I actually appreciate it for that difference, is a more pronounced Irishness to it. No, not the Ireland of wee drams, the fairy folk, and old men in flat caps, but rather the angry Irish who still feel the oppression of the British to this day. Good stuff it is, far better than most of what the Pogues did in their day. If you like your Irish music with a political edge, this is definitely worth hearing -- repeatedly! Donna, my wife, notes that they remind her strongly of another agit folk band, The Men They Couldn't Hang, and I agree.

Good work, lads!

[Cat Eldridge]