A czardas is a Hungarian folk dance. The word is a corruption of the word for ‘tavern’ and Justin and the Argonauts’ debut album, ‘Orpheus’, is, in the main, a swaggering collection of kick-ass, classical, folk dance drinking songs perfectly suited to bars, taverns, hard liquor and harder dancing.
A four-piece – tuba, guitar, accordion, violin and occasional vocals – the band flirts and flies across traditional folk music with a luminous, technical brilliance.
Brahms’ ‘Hungarian Dance No. 5’ (a czardas back in its proper, less staid zone) is a sparkling, breathless affair. ‘Rachel’s Dance’ is a beautiful, slow, sad Sephardic song gently teased out into some clever, mesmerising offbeat Albanian folk (written by accordion player Alket) that makes me want to smash shot glasses and stomp my feet into whoever broke its’ early bars’ heart.
Another badass czardas, this time Vittorio Monti’s, is almost poppy thanks to a playful tuba beat, and Ástor Piazzolla’s ‘Libertango’ could have been written for them. It’s louche, legato and disciplined as a General. A Hot Club mess of delicious anticipation and contradiction, just as all good Nuevo Tango should be.
‘Lullaby of Birdland’ is jaunty and Grappellicious. ‘Love Cats’ is fun, and ‘Hit Me Baby One More Time’ sounds literal – these fellas throw a knuckle-cracking musical punch.
You can hear the hours of learning in their playing – classical backgrounds ingrained in the dust they kick up with gypsy heels – a wildness, a discipline, a riot and a danger. And man, do they know their manouche.
Quite simply, they’re one of the best things to have come out of the Medway music scene, ever. Catch them if you can.
Justin And The Argonauts will be releasing a new album in Spring 2016. For gigs and CDs, go to: www.facebook.com/justinargonauts