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Punk’s 10 Best Accordion Players: A Tribute to Squeezebox Rockers

Posted by connor_maoil on Wednesday, December 19, 2012 at 12:18 PM (PST)

The sound of the accordion is, in my opinion, one of the best, weirdest, and most unique additions to the punk genre. For most it’s easy to see the instrument as nothing more than a novelty but the truth is there are a lot of very talented musicians whose squeezebox skills can’t be overlooked as a gimmick. As an aspiring punk rock accordionist myself, I wanted to spotlight some of the best in the field.

Check out the list here.

10. (Honorary mention): Eugene Hutz (Gogol Bordello)

Things might have ended up differently for the gypsy troubadour Eugene Hutz if he stuck with his attempt at learning the accordion. In a video interview, Hutz jokes about the difficulties he had trying to learn the instrument:

“Learning the accordion was just impossible. Have you ever tried an accordion? It’s insane. It’s f*cking nuts man, it’s like, to play accordion you must have your brain wired differently. I worship people who can play accordion. I tried for 2 years and ended up withminor scoliosis and, anxiety problem. And that’s when I picked up [guitar].

 

 9. Eric Melvin (NOFX)

While the accordion is rarely up front in the ranks of NOFX, founding guitarist Eric Melvin busts out his giant squeezebox to time to time to please the crowds. Wailing minor waltzes about sleepless nights, Melvin really puts a lot of character into the instrument.

 Listen To This:

I, Melvin (live recording)

 

 

 

8. Katie McConnell (The Mahones)

I’ve gotta admit that I’ve had a crush on this punk for a long time. McConnell really does a great job of bringing the punk style and hardcore energy to the accordion. Her style of playing seems to draw a good deal of inspiration from The Pogues (above). Seeing any performance by her with The Mahones is an awesome experience that I highly recommend to any lover of celtic punk. Watch for them in your town!

Listen To This:

A Great Night On The Lash” (from “The Black Irish,” 2011, True North Records)

 

7. Marc Orrell (Dropkick Murphys, 2000-2008)

He’s the one who brought you Shipping Up To Boston. Enough said?

 

 

 

 

6. Tim Brennan (Dropkick Murphys, 2003-present)

The current recording and touring multi-instrumentalist Tim Brennan has continued to make the accordion a more part of the band’s staple sound.

Listen To This:

The Hardest Mile (off 2011′s Going Out In Style)

 

 

 

 

5. James Fearnley (The Pogues)

One of the pioneers of the punk accordion, James Fearnley, the original and current member of The Pogues, was originally a guitar player. According to Fearnley’s memoir, “Here Comes Everybody: The Story Of The Pogues,” founding banjo member Jem Finer, desperately seeking an accordion for his new band, showed up at Fearnley’s flat with an accordion in a laundry bag and persuaded him to try and learn the instrument.

Listen to this:

Turkish Song Of The Damned“ (from “If I Should Fall From Grace Of God,” 1988, Island Records)

 

4. Seamus O’Flanahan (The Dreadnoughts)

I’ll just let Seamus speak for himself. (Off “Polka’s Not Dead”, 2010)

 

 

 

 

 

3. Matt Hensley (Flogging Molly)

Hensley, a former skateboarder, picked up accordion from guitar like so many others on this list. In addition to skillfully adding to the work of Flogging Molly with his accordion, Hensley is also frequently featured on the concertina and more traditional Irish diatonic button accordion. That’s the kind of thing that tends to really impress the geeky accordion junkies.

Listen to this:

Tomorrow Comes A Day Too Soon” (from “Within A Mile Of Home,” 2004, SideOneDummy)

 

2. Yuri Lemeshev (Gogol Bordello)

Although not a founding member of the New York gypsy punk band, Yuri Lemeshev has been a vital part of the band for over a decade. Hailing from Russia, Lemeshev has to be one of the most technically skilled members of the scene. And not only can he knock down tunes masterfully, he can also move around and have a good ol’ punk time on stage while doing it.

Listen to this:

Supertheory Of Supereverything” (from “Super Taranta!”, 2007, SidOneDummy)

 

1. Franz Nicolay (World/Inferno Friendship Society)

In addition to that moustache, Franz Nicolay brings in the background of a converted rock piano player (most notably in The Hold Steady) and has spread the use of the accordion all over the genre. Nicolay probably has the most impressive resume of them all; in addition to being a former longtime member of the punk circus collective World/Inferno Friendship Society and his own collective Anti-Social Music, Nicolay has recorded and toured with the likes of Against Me!Leftover Crack, The Dresden Dolls, The Loved Ones, and Mischief Brew. Check out a complete list of his recording and producer credits over here.

Listen to this:

“Your Younger Man” (from “Red Eyed Soul,” 2006)

Had enough yet? If not, check out some up-and-coming bands featuring the accordion.

The First Chairs (ska)

Roughneck Riot (celtic punk)

Larry And His Flask (cow punk)

The Real Mckenzies (celtic punk)

Mad Caddies (ska/swing punk)

The Mighty Regis (celtic punk)

Crash Nomada (gypsy punk)

Joey Briggs (solo from The Briggs)

Ramshackle Glory (folk punk)

Feudalism (folk punk)

Lucero (cow punk)

 

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3 Comments

  1. accordion-noir
    Accordion Noir1/9/2013 9:00 AM | Permalink

    Hey, nice list. I co-host the Accordion Noir radio show out in Vancouver, BC, Canada so I like this sort of thing.

    To add to your Celtic bands, The Cherry Cokes from Tokyo, Japan are pretty hot.

    In other genres:

    El Gran Silencio from Monterrey, Mexico play punk-ska-folk that pretty much kicks ass.

    Angel Corpus Christy was covering Richard Hell on her accordion back in 1985, when the accordion was punker than just about anything.

    Duckmandu covered the entire first album by the Dead Kennedys, “Fresh Fruit for Rotting Accordions” and teaches classes in the Bay Area. Also played with Polkacide, the original punk polka band.

    Attwenger from Austria is a duo that’s been going for decades with distorted crazy accordion edge.

    Play, Bayan! from Saint Petersburg, Russia is an out of control punk folk duo. I wish I could see them play!

    Iva Nova, also from Russia is an all-women band that’s had two great accordionists. There’s a punk-folk theme going internationally.

    For loud weirdness, The Amoebic Ensemble or whatever projects Alec K. Redfearne is part of are always off the end.

    Kimmo Pohjonen from Finland is a bit less punk, depending on if he’s playing with the Kronos Quartet, guys from King Crimson, or Japanese noise artists, but he’ll peal your ears open.

    That’s some I think of right now.

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