The Tossers

The Valley of the Shadow of Death

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Longtime crowd favorites in their home neighborhood on Chicago's South Side, and with four previous albums under their belt, the Tossers make their debut on the respected Victory imprint with this excellent collection of modern Celtic folk-punk. Their most obvious stylistic referent is the Pogues, whose combination of traditional instrumentation (whistle, banjo, etc.), proud alcoholism, and blistering energy formed the mold for a number of similar American and English bands. There's more than a little Shane MacGowan in singer and mandolinist Tony Duggins' combination of splenetic vituperation and self-flagellating introspection, and in his snarling delivery as well. But where the Pogues sounded like they were on the very verge of flying off the rails at any given moment, the Tossers are powerfully in control of their sound, which produces a very different type of excitement. "Go Down Witch Down" shows that harmonic complexity and visceral energy don't have to be enemies; both "Crock of Gold" and "Valley of the Shadow of Death" show that it's possible to hold a normal person's attention throughout the length of a six-minute song, as long as you structure it well and don't lapse into self-indulgent twaddle; "No Loot, No Booze, No Fun" invokes Dee Dee Ramone in a touching but not overly sentimental way. And every single song features a melody that you'll be singing along to within one verse. Excellent.

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