Wildfire is an interesting album, one that blends good, solid punk with elements of folk. An unlikely combination, maybe, but it’s this that gives rise to some of the album’s best moments. Dance With Me and SGAF are true blue punk through and through, but The Dirty Mugs’ rendition of the classic O Death features some truly gorgeous lead guitar work and a perfectly judged vocal, and that’s the sort of thing that sets them apart and makes you sit up and take notice. It’s the mixture of no-holds-barred energy and graceful restraint that makes it special – it’s punk, but not as you know it, with a keen sense of musicality and a guiding melodic sensibility that drives it.
Woodsfolk is a particularly good example of this, beginning with another solo guitar passage and building to a riotously infectious chorus. Wildfire also makes good use of gang vocals on What Sets Us Apart, a minute-long a cappella anthem for outcasts everywhere. As Close As It Gets is sobering and unhinged by turns in a way that brings to mind moody folk-rockers Murder By Death, which is no bad thing at all. The political commentary in Ruined and Arline And Junction is maybe slightly heavy-handed, but The Dirty Mugs’ sincerity carries them through and, what’s more, doesn’t feel preachy or half-hearted.
Wildfire ends with the defiant war cry of Expect Resistance, which tops off an album characterised by great songwriting, clever arrangements and beautiful musicianship. Punk’s energy and aggression married with the intelligence and musicality of folk? It’s a winner.