The first time I came across Daniel Kahn & The Painted Bird, the American Jew based in Berlin was singing tails of Jewish revenge on the Nazis and educating me on the life of fleas. I always keep an eye out for the artist's new releases and his new release Bad Old Songs reminded me I was yet to have reviewed the previous award-winning album Lost Causes.
The band's klezmer jazz sound combined with the singers lyrics writing helps paint imagery of a deprived wartime Jewish community and brings the rough and ready characters to life. The album starts off with a poem by Mordechai Gebirtig and then starts to retell the story of Avreml The Filcher 'who robs the stingy, filthy rich who hoard it'.
The band rework numbers by well-known Jewish musicians, poets and ethnomusicologists of times gone by such as Beregovski, Gebirtig, Sutzkever, Mark Warshawsky telling songs of poverty and struggle from various eras including in particular WW2.
One of my favourite tracks is the empowering 'March of the Jobless Corps', a song to march to if ever there was one. The next track 'In Kamf' surprisingly suits the electric guitar that it adopts over a typical klezmer style. As on most tracks on this album, the singer alternates between Yiddish and English.
The tracks that are totally Daniel Kahn's works, vary in quality. I'm not overly keen on 'Sunday After the War' but 'Inner Emigration' is very similar to the style used in Partizans & Parasites and his lyrics are fantastic. It's always a joy to listen to when rhymes are made up of sophisticated words and reminds me of the genius that is Tom Lehrer. The song soon turns into telling the tales of the quandry on whether to emmigrate or not.
There are sad songs, upbeat songs and there's a lot of lyrics in two languages contained in the album. At first, I found it a little overwhelming and heavy but after a couple of listens, I grew to like it. However, I still prefer Partizans & Parasites at this moment in time.