Review: Prepare to be Boarded

Rating: ★★★☆☆
boompirates_preparetobeboarBuy the CD
Genre: Contemporary Pirate Folk.
Rating: PG
Target Audience: Sea and pirate-shanty fans

Much like the Department of Naval Intelligence, I’ve been aware of the Brotherhood of Oceanic Mercenaries (B.O.O.M.) for some time – mainly in that yes, a crew called the B.O.O.M. Pirates exists, that they do most of said existing out in the Pacific Northwest, and that they boast some pretty classy pirate garb. But having not yet done any piratin’ myself in that region it was a great treat to finally get a copy of their CD to experience first hand what they’ve been up to from a musical perspective.

Prepare to be Boarded is the B.O.O.M.’s first album and features 15 tracks, ten of which are traditional, four covers, and one original to the Brotherhood. Most all the songs are performed in a traditionalish, festival manner, complete in many cases with brief opening scenarios. Haule Away Joe, for example, starts with the clear sounds of grumpy pirates hauling lines before the song itself kicks off. When it does, the lyrics of this traditional song come in crisp and strong, accompanied by a slow drumbeat and increasing backup vocals. It’s a fine, steady rendition of this classic – not quite as rough or salty as some renditions, but easily a joy to listen to.

The next several tracks: All for Me Grog, Drunken Sailor, Nelson’t Blood, and Down Among the Dead Men are also traditional, and largely continue in the precedent set by the opening song, with brief scenarios (often the sounds of a pirate pub) followed by clear vocals and a small variety of instruments ranging from guitars to fiddles, and with clear, powerful vocals. Drunken Sailor does stand out in that it features female lead vocals, which lends a bit more credibility to the song than usual (in that it’s easier to believe that women are actually being critical of the drunken sailor, as opposed to when men sing it and are probably at least as drunk as the drunken sailor in question.) Away Santianno also features female lead vocals, with the lyrics modified to suit – again a nice touch, as it always bothers me when I hear a woman’s voice singing – for example “When I was a little boy my mother often told me” – as happens from time to time.

Next up is Boom Shiver Me Timbers – a very fun, slightly haunting song very reminiscent of Mary Poppin’s Chim Chim Cherree. I originally thought this was a piratey version of that very song, although The B.O.O.M. educated me when they explained that it was indeed original, and that the, “inspiration came from many French waltzes and Gypsy tunes that inspired us (which Chim Chim Cherree is also based on.)”

Maid on the Shore is another decent traditional piece, while Scallywagg is a fine cover of the Captain Bogg & Salty classic. Deux Voyages takes a new approach as it’s largely sung in French. It comes in smoothly with guitars and a gypsy swagger beat, and the French vocals make for a nice change of pace (although I keep expecting to see pirate contortionists hovering on the ceiling, as the musical style and French vocals conjure memories of Cirque Du Soleil.)

Smooth is a stark departure from the traditional pace of this album, and a definite delight. The acoustic guitars and drums make incredible use of the stereo medium (especially with high quality speakers), and the fast paced vocals tell a piratey tale with a 90’s Alternative flair that may well be a pirate first. Mingulay Boat Song then returns us to the familiar waters of the traditional, while It’s Another Day has a nice inspirational tone about it. The album concludes with Shanty of the Bells, being a piratey version of Carol of the Bells. Generally I prefer original pirate Christmas songs rather than parodies, but you can’t deny the catchiness of “Yar yar yar yar, yar yar yar yar” (sorry – it doesn’t translate well into text. Buy the album and you can hear it proper.)

Prepare to be Boarded stands solid as a competent pirate shanty album. The opening scenarios get a little tedious after the first listen (I prefer to just get to the music), but the songs themselves are certainly first rate. If you’re looking for a first pirate-shanty album, this is certainly a fine place to start. Collectors might find B.O.O.M.’s versions of the “usual” songs (All For Me Grog, Drunken Sailor, so on…) to be a bit too standard-issue to stand apart from the hordes of other bands covering the same, but this is counter-balanced by many new (or at least lesser known) songs such as Boom Shiver Me Timbers, Scallywagg, Deux Voyages, Smooth, etc. The end product is an album that should be a fine addition for the new or seasoned pirate music enthusiast alike.