While bands such as the Dropkick Murphys and Flogging Molly play Irish-inflected punk music, the Tossers are more of a punk influenced Irish-folk group. After one listen to their latest effort, Purgatory, this difference is axiomatic and thus needn’t be belabored here. While I wish not to disparage the Dropkicks or Flogging Molly, suffice it to say, the word “contrived” immediately comes to mind when comparing them to the Tossers.
“Tosser” is a colloquialism for a miscreant, and that is exactly what these lads are. Purgatory, like the band’s previous three albums, is the distillation of the traditions and culture of Southside Chicago – the most Irish neighborhood in America, a place notorious for its tough, working-class ethos. The themes here may be somewhat prosaic, but they are delivered with unaffected sincerity. It’s about being proud of who you are and where you’re from (“Chicago” and “Caoin”), while fighting increasingly pandemic injustices (“Squall”). There are plenty of songs that espouse the virtues of dissipation (the obligatory drinking songs, as well as a lascivious song or two about a fine looking lass), thereby corroborating the underlying notion of the band’s moniker. Juxtaposed are eloquently articulated political, social and religious criticisms that belie the connotations of their name. Occupying the space between these thematic bookends are harrowing songs of rememory, celebration and isolation. It is all set to tin whistles, banjos and mandolins that are played with the incendiary energy of the most fervent punk band; ethnocultural punk rawk, if you will.
The Tossers’s lyricism shares an undeniable semblance to the simple beauty of a Yeats poem. They are the logical link between pseudo-Irish bands like the Dropkicks and the cultural richness of their Motherland, in the tradition of Ewan MacColl, the Dubliners and even Shane MacGowan. Purgatory is raucous and haunting, at once beautiful and raunchy. In the end, it’s about raising a glass of Jameson and having a good time.
Thick Records: http://www.thickrecords.com/