Greenland Whalefishers,
The Mainstreet Sword
(Patchwork, 1996)

The comparison to Shane MacGowan and the Pogues is unavoidable. The band blends Irish traditional music with a vigorous punk-rock bent, and Arvid Grov's vocals are without question an echo of MacGowan at his peak.

But Greenland Whalefishers are certainly their own band. Based in Bergen, Norway (where, if memory serves, the drizzle is perpetual), the band slams out a sound full of piss and whiskey, with energy and attitude to spare. Grov, besides being the gravel-voiced singer, is also the pen behind a majority of the songs on The Mainstreet Sword, their first album. The songs are great fun, and as soon as you figure out the words you can expect to be slamming pints and singing along with every ounce of your Guinness-soaked gusto.

Also in the band are Gunnar "Two Sheds" Grov (mandolin and 4-string banjo), Agnes Skollevoll (tin whistle and harmonica), Kristian Malmo (fiddle), Tron Eikemo (drums and percussion), Tommy BŚrdsen (bass), Stig Blindheim (guitar) and Kjellaug Borten (banjo).

Their instrumental chops are very good, although the musicians seem content to lurk in the background and give the spotlight to Grov. The band only breaks out into a musical jam once, and it had me looking for more.

If you like the Pogues, you'll like this a lot. But, no fears, the Greenland Whalers aren't just a retread band; the original material and the fun-filled approach to their music earns them a spotlight all on their own.

[ by Tom Knapp ]
Rambles: 19 January 2002