Union Thugs – Folklore Ouvrier

UNION THUGS
“FOLKLORE OUVRIER”
2020
DISCOS MACHETE / DURE REALITE / FIRE AND FLAMES / KALE BORROKA / REBEL TIME RECORDS / RUDY’S BACK

“A second release for the Thugs! This time, 6 songs including War on the Workers, Les piqueteuses de la gloire, Partisan, Union Maid, La complainte des ouvriers and The Preamble of SITT-IWW with banjo accompaniment.

This worker’s folklore album is part of our continued effort to develop a revolutionary working culture. Though modern popular songs have been omitted from our selection this time in favour of certain classics like Union Maid and Partisan, you will still find yourself in this mix of folk and punk-rock ready to wake up the striker in you!

This short album we dedicate to strikers and those locked out, grassroots activists, militants and delegates, professional shit-disturbers, and to everyone for whom taking it laying down has never been an option! ”

REVIEWS

Ok, other good news from Rebel Time Records, we are talking about Union Thugs and their first EP, FOLKLORE OUVRIER (Folklore Worker).

The band formed in Montreal, Canada and they are coming from different bands punk/oi like: Action Sedition and Mayday. They are 6 workers first and then musicians that are bringing the workers condition and different problems into a folk/oi sound. The EP is a collection of covers of working class anthems in their oi/folk style.

The members are not only musicians and they have been involved in many projects and organizations like: RASH (red and anarchists skinheads), COBP ( committee opposed to police brutality) and more, this is true working class band and sound, songs in English and French, with sing along choruses and with fists in the air.

The EP is out like I said on Rebel Time Records in Canada, and other good labels around the world that promote the true and honest punk and working class culutre like: Discos Machete in Mexico, Dure Realite in Canada, Fire and Flame Music in Germany, Kale Borroka in Basque Country, Rudy’s Back in France.

Think about Angelic Upstarts, Molodoi, Brigada Flores Magon and many many others that had something to say and raise their voice on working class problems. The EP has a nice video of the classic Partisan song on youtube and we are waiting for more. SOLIDARITÉ! SOLIDARITY! Something to listen and think!

Thanks to Randy and Rebel Time for the album and also for the 20 pages zine with some history about working class movement.

(Mpty Zine)

“Montreal’s Union Thugs are a six-piece combo that are on a musical journey through the pages of the revolutionary songbook, one that on their latest release includes  Anne Feeney, Jaques  Brunet, Leonard Cohen, The Almanac Singers and Molodoi, that is delivered in seven songs of accordion fuelled revolutionary folk punk and oi. Union Thugs are active in organizations like the I. W.W., C.O.P.B and R.A.S.H and, more often than not, you’ll find them on the picket lines and the front lines firing up the workers. Union Thugs   have now issued their second release, and their debut EP, “Folklore Ouvrier”“, via an international coalition of like minded labels scattered across North America and Europe. The “Folklore Ouvrier” EP is delivered in both French and English, whilst I only possess a tenuous grasp of the French language the message from Union Thugs  comes through loud and clear, from the opening chords of ‘Intro‘ to the final notes of ‘Preamble To The I.W.W. Constitution’, a track that lays out a revolutionary manifesto.

Whilst there is a distinctly vintage feel about this EP, mainly because all but one of the songs on “Folklore Ouvrier” is an interpretation of vintage protest songs, there’s an appeal for this EP for any fan of blue collar pro-union rabble rousing punk rock from Dropkick Murphys through to Mischief Brew and Gogol Bordello, with my personal highlight being their interpretation of Anne Feeney'[s 1969 protest song ‘War On The Worker‘. This is an EP that isn’t just words, Union Thugs clearly back up their soundtrack with action and the final verse in ‘Preamble To The IWW Constitution‘ is a sentiment that is echoed within the seven tracks of “Folklore Ouvrier“. “It is the historic mission of the working class to do away with capitalism. The army of production must be organised, not only for everyday struggle with capitalists, but also to carry on production when capitalism shall have been overthrown. By organising industrially we are forming the structure of the new society within the shell of the old”. 

“Folklore Ouvrier” is now available for streaming and as a ‘name your price’ download via Discos Machete (Mexico), Dure Realite (Quebec), Fire And Flames Music (Germany), Kale Borroka Records (Basque Country), Rudy’s Back (France), Rebel Time Records (Canada) and Union Thugs‘ Bandcamp.”

(The Punk Site)

Union Thugs are a Montreal-based six-piece that play a mixture of folk and oi in the spirit of working class and revolutionary anthems. Their latest release, Folklore ouvrier (Worker’s Folklore), presents six of these anthems with a companion zine which details the history and meaning behind the songs and their importance. You can find info on Union Thugs on their Facebook, Bandcamp, and Instagram.

“This short album we dedicate to strikers and those locked out, grassroots activists, militants and delegates, professional shit-disturbers, and to everyone for whom taking it laying down has never been an option!” Folklore ouvrier is Union Thugs’ second release and first EP. The band makes it clear in their introductory track, “[W]e are not musicians, but workers that play music.”

The band sees their music as a tool for organization and the mobilization of political action. All members are active members of groups such as I.W.W. (International Workers of the World), COBP (Committee Opposed to Police Brutality), and RASH (Red And Anarchist Skinheads). To further this message, the EP is delivered with a companion zine, as well as info about anti-fascist movements today and calls to action. The tracks cover work from Anne Feeney, Woody Guthrie, and more. Union Thugs are leading the way in showing that music can not only be a tool for change, but one of revolutionary change and working class solidarity.

I was immediately blown away by the passion and energy that covers this EP from start to finish. Ouvrier is simply drenched in working class power and anti-capitalist spirit. While I wasn’t familiar with all of the songs presented, each one was performed with an infectious energy, and the bilingual zine helped give insight and context into those written for specific struggles.

Music to action
I think it is sadly too common for bands, and certainly punk bands, to make leftist platitudes of political and social change without backing it up with action. The band is active with anti-fascist and pro-worker activities and heavily promote the struggles they are involved in, and those around the world. It’s clear that Union Thugs see the need for cultural expression that represents the ideas of the proletarian, and not the ruling class. By creating art that is not just for, but by and relating to workers, we are able to actually share and communicate radical ideas while also creating platforms for organization.

As mentioned before, the album’s opener, “Intro,” is probably the most pump-in inducing song I’ve ever heard. Like a youth crew singer getting ready for gang vocals, you can’t help but start pacing around the room and throwing your fists out. It also gives the band a chance to lay the cards out on the table: they’re here, ready for a fight, and ready to unite. “We are fed up and we want change! We don’t think that this change will come from ballots. Ignoring the problem and participating obediently and quietly will not do us any good. We think it’s through organizing our workplaces, our neighbourhoods to take back control. To produce by the community for the community, without bosses to steal the fruits of our labor.” They then turn to the need for international and intersectional solidarity and really get listeners engaged to not only hear what they have to present on the album, but take action afterwards.

The rest of the album is a great lesson in historical struggles, with the zine filling in the gaps and relating their relevance today. Part of what makes this album so great is learning the history of these powerful anthems and getting them stuck in your head for days. “War on the Workers,” is an earworm that gets any picket line shimmying. The track, by activist and composer Anne Feeney, is dedicated to Jim Beals and Karen Silkwood. Beals was killed on the job and Silkwood died trying to expose toxic working conditions. Today, workers are being forced to bear the brunt of the Covid-19 crisis, dealing with increasingly unsafe workplaces and being stripped of their pandemic pay, often in minimum wage positions.

Union Maid
Another highlight is their version of “Union Maid.” While the first few tracks on the album place the musical emphasis on the group’s oi sound, “Union Maid,” goes deeper into the folk side of their repertoire. The zine gives the background to the song, something I was unfamiliar with. In 1940, The Almanac Singers (of which Guthrie was a member) were touring with Bob and Ina Wood, who ran a political bookstore in Oklahoma city where Bob was the secretary of the state’s communist party and Ina was an organizer. The group was performing a series of concerts in solidarity with striking hooverville workers. Ina spent time with Guthrie, criticizing him for putting communist women on the periphery of his songs. He took the message to heart, writing and performing the song while on the same tour.

Folklore ouvrier is working class music for the working class movement. It’s inspiring, catchy, radical, and most importantly, good. By delving deep into the revolutionary songbook and providing context for today, Union Thugs are providing a solid memory of class struggle while also proposing organization and solidarity for those fighting for change in the present. If you’re looking for some punk and folk that asks more of the listener than to simply agree with the lyrics, but one that provides you with the next steps, then Folklore ouvrier is the perfect release.

(Spring Magazine)