El Pony Pisador: Matricular una Galera

Amadeus Goes to Sea

Listening Post 277. They are zany, surreal and buoyant, bathtub mariners and virtuosos who sweep through a composition like a storm, leaving behind a perfect mosaic of disparate elements. Five guys from Barcelona who have never gone to sea, El Pony Pisador surfs the soundwaves, inspired by Lord of the Rings (they imagined their earliest gigs as playing “hobbit party music”) and the comic strip characters Asterix and Obelix. Sung mostly in English and Catalan, their second album, Matricular una Galera (Enlisting on a Galley), revolves around Irish-inflected sea shanties splashed with bluegrass and habanera. Dig in the nooks and crannies of their overflowing trunk and you’ll also discover ragtime, swing, yodeling, tarantella, heavy metal, Bulgarian dance and other delights. In Lime Scurvy, a landlubber’s idea of a shanty, the boys bounce shipboard terms off the bulkheads in exquisite harmony (video 1). Innocent and strong Obelix—the stone sculptor and deliveryman who is Asterix’s sidekick—is the honoree of La confraria del menhir (The Menhir Brotherhood, video infomercial 2). In the classic work-shanty Sam’s Gone Away the crew abandons the traditional shipboard-rank lyrics (gunner, bosun, cabin boy) for their instrumental roles (video 3). There’s mock gravity in Bartomeu el Portuguès (Bartholomew the Portuguese, video 4), the ballad of a pirate captain who harbors a secret: He can’t swim. The album’s one inland look is a stunning departure: Daglarym (Mountains, video 5), a Tuvan khoomei (throat song) gem by banjo player Guillem Codern, who in 2015 won a throat singing competition in the Siberian belly of the genre. Matricular una Galera is one of those albums that offers lots to digest and still leaves you hungry. It’s reminiscent of Peter Shaffer’s Amadeus, which portrayed Mozart as a genius with an eternally adolescent personality—except that with El Pony Pisador the youthful antics merge with the art and the result is brilliant. (Coopula)

El Pony Pisador: Matricular una Galera*
Adrià Vila: Vocals, mandolin, Irish bouzouki, spoons, lilting, yodeling, bodhran
Ramon Anglada: Vocals: guitar, lilting, acoustic bass
Guillem Codern: Vocals, tenor banjo, five-string banjo, yodeling, khoomei, mouth harp, Irish bouzouki, igil (Tuvan lute)
Martí Selga: Vocals, whistles, recorders, upright bass
Miquel Pérez: Vocals, fiddle, viola, snare drum, bass drum, bendir, darbuka, tamburello, percussions

*El Pony Pisador (The Prancing Pony) is an inn located in Tolkien’s Middle-earth village of Bree, and one of the rare places where men and hobbits mingle

 

Lime Scurvy
Elliot Crawford Finch

I’ve been a sailor since my birth/Yo ho ho and a bottle of rum
Took my home, for all it’s worth/Yo ho ho and a bottle of rum

Lime, scurvy, ambergris and marmalade/Hoist the petard, and we’ll haul away the bully boys
Lime, scurvy, ambergris and blubber, we’re…/Bound for Cincinnati

Sight the bowsprit, down the grog/Yo ho ho and a bottle of rum
Carve the turkey in the log/Yo ho ho and a bottle of rum

Lime, scurvy, ambergris and marmalade/Hoist the petard, and we’ll haul away the bully boys
Lime, scurvy, ambergris and blubber, we’re…/Bound for Cincinnati

Come the day she’s out of port/Yo ho ho and a bottle of rum
Keel the bosun o’er the thwart/Yo ho ho and a bottle of rum

Lime, scurvy, ambergris and marmalade/Hoist the petard, and we’ll haul away the bully boys
Lime, scurvy, ambergris and blubber, we’re…/Bound for Cincinnati

Through a fluke the spout did wail/Yo ho ho and a bottle of rum
And that’s the end of my scrimshaw tale/Yo ho ho and a bottle of rum

Lime, scurvy, ambergris and marmalade/Hoist the petard, and we’ll haul away the bully boys
Lime, scurvy, ambergris and blubber, we’re…/Bound for Cincinnati

 

La confraria del menhir / The Menhir Brotherhood
El Pony Pisador

(From the Catalan lyrics)
It’s a long stone you have to bury a little/So it is stands up like a spear or a spade
It’s not very useful as a float or a marble/And its function is barely explained by the song

The menhir is good for diddly daddly dom/The menhir serves for diddly daddly dom
But the best thing about the menhir is that it diddly daddly skiddly daddly diddly daddly hey!

Menhirs, menhirs, menhirs of all kinds/We are the brotherhood of the menhir
We sing, we dance, to the rhythm of the hammer/Nowhere will you find a better menhir

No matter your favorite funerary monument: Cromlech, dolmen, cenotaph or tomb
They come in all sizes: large, medium and some quite meager/With menhirs there is no rule

The menhir is good for … diddly daddly dom/The menhir serves for diddly daddly dom
But the best thing about the menhir is that it diddly daddly skiddly daddly diddly daddly hey!

Menhirs, menhirs, menhirs of all kinds … diddly daddly dom/The menhir serves for diddly daddly dom
But the best thing about the menhir is that it diddly daddly skiddly daddly diddly daddly hey!

The menhir can be small, for a bedside table/The menhir can be large, for the front porch
The menhir can be small, you can take it to school/The menhir can be gigantic, and with lights around it

Diim-di dadl-di didl-di dum/Didli diim-li dadl-di didi-li daa
Didl-di dadl-di didli-ai dum/Skidldi-dadli dom-pa dum didl-di

Diim-di adl-di dadl-di dum/Didli diim-di dadl-di didl-di daa
Lidli-ai-dom-ladl didl-di dey/Skidldi dadldi dom

The menhir can be small/Enriches the stir-fry
The menhir can be large/For an elephant to follow
The menhir can be small/It’s great for scurvy

Menhirs, menhirs of all kinds … diddly daddly dom/The menhir serves for diddly daddly dom
But the best thing about the menhir is that it diddly daddly skiddly daddly diddly daddly hey!

 

Sam’s Gone Away
Traditional

From the album notes: In the original lyrics, each stanza of Sam’s Gone Away refers to a trade or position on shipboard (cabin boy, gunner, boson, officer, captain). But it was cold and weird to us because we are not expert sailors—far from it. We felt it was better to talk about our instruments, with the certainty that we could play them better than we could navigate.

I wish I was the banjo man on board a man-o-war/Sam’s gone away, on board a man-o-war
I wish I was the banjo man on board a man-o-war/Sam’s gone away, on board a man-o-war

Pretty work, brave boys, pretty work, I say/Sam’s gone away, on board a man-o-war
Pretty work, brave boys, pretty work, I say/Sam’s gone away, on board a man-o-war

I wish I played the mandolin on board a man-o-war/Sam’s gone away, on board a man-o-war
I wish I played the mandolin on board a man-o-war/Sam’s gone away, on board a man-o-war

Pretty work, brave boys, pretty work, I say/Sam’s gone away, on board a man-o-war
Pretty work, brave boys, pretty work, I say/Sam’s gone away, on board a man-o-war

I wish I was the fiddler on board a man-o-war/Sam’s gone away, on board a man-o-war
I wish I was the fiddler on board a man-o-war/Sam’s gone away, on board a man-o-war

Pretty work, brave boys, pretty work, I say/Sam’s gone away, on board a man-o-war
Pretty work, brave boys, pretty work, I say/Sam’s gone away, on board a man-o-war

I wish I played the doubles bass on board a man-o-war/Sam’s gone away, on board a man-o-war
I wish I played the doubles bass on board a man-o-war/Sam’s gone away, on board a man-o-war

Pretty work, brave boys, pretty work, I say/Sam’s gone away, on board a man-o-war
Pretty work, brave boys, pretty work, I say/Sam’s gone away, on board a man-o-war

I wish I was the whistler on board a man-o-war/Sam’s gone away, on board a man-o-war
I wish I was the whistler on board a man-o-war/Sam’s gone away, on board a man-o-war

Pretty work, brave boys, pretty work, I say/Sam’s gone away, on board a man-o-war
Pretty work, brave boys, pretty work, I say/Sam’s gone away, on board a man-o-war

 

Bartomeu El Portuguès / Bartholomew the Portuguese
El Pony Pisador

(From the Catalan lyrics)
By a Tortuga Island pier/Amid the hustle and bustle of the street
Under an old hat he takes refuge/The taciturn visage of an aging buccaneer

He’s renowned throughout the Antilles/And they say he’s looking for a crew
But it’s whispered that when all are boarding/He avoids being seen on deck
In his cabin, to the sway of the waves/He pulls a life vest from his trunk

He comes out loaded with dagger and saber/Jumps overboard and begins the assault
He is armed to the teeth but carries his bubble/Gotta be careful in case you fall into the brine

And when it blows east and the deck is drenched by water/You have to be really careful, can’t slip
He grabs the cuffs, embarrassed/No one ever taught him to swim

He has fought in more than a thousand battles/His name resonates in taverns and bars
Grandparents will tell tales/Of the pirate who once conquered the Seven Seas

Always with a faithful parrot on his shoulder/A black flag waving on the mainmast
And the ships flee in fear/Mariners afraid of losing their lives
On seeing the stern and erect figure/With a hook, a sword… and a float

And often longing for land and trees/When he was young and chose the path
He fell for the water but didn’t think it through/You don’t always choose the right career
And save the float, thinking nostalgically: “Damn the day I went to sea”

“Damn the day I went to sea”

 

Daglarym / Mountains
Traditional

(From the Tuvan lyrics)
When I travel far, I often remember my mountains
A sweet shepherd’s song/that reminds me of my youth.

Sad sweet ballad/Childhood memories suddenly appear
As if I were again/Chasing after sheep in the mountains

 


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