This is another edition of 'music I'm listening to' that you're welcome to ignore, judge me for, or find some new tunes to listen to. Last night I was called out on my people pleasing BS (thanks Royce <3) because I over thought a car trip playlist and decided to put on the least offensive music I could think of (a Samurai Champloo/Nujabes tribute). After this we started to dive into my more niche musical tastes and the subject of Steampunk came up. This is a conversation I've had before with other people and it gets confusing/weird, so I decided to write it up and share it. Now this isn't a full run down on the steampunk genre of music, just my own personal exploration and tastes.
Snap on your goggles, clip on your belts, and put on your fanciest hat. We're going down the rabbit hole.
This is the steampunk band for me. I came across them in the late 90s and have been a fan ever since. They tick all the boxes of what makes 'steampunk music': the costumes, the steampunk instruments, the fictional backstory (they're skypirates), and their music talks of their adventures in a steampunk world.
If you're new to Abney Park I would highly recomend listening to their 2008 album Lost Horizons. It's my personal favourate, with stand out songs: Airship Pirate, Sleep Isabella, and a cover of I Am Stretched On Your Grave. Their disography is impressive averaging a new album almost every year. Other favourates of mine include Evil Man, and Walls which often find themselves on playlists.
Recently they released an album of 'technoshanties' and honestly I'm here for it. But they also have covers that those of the swing dance persuasion might enjoy including Minnie The Moocher, I Wanna Be Like You, and Bei Mir Bist Du Shoen.
Moving on from 'pure' steampunk, the Professor straddles the realms of steampunk and chap hop (more on that later). Moving away from the grungy rock sounds of Abney Park, Elemental leans towards hip hop style lyrics, while still retaining the steampunk costuming, backstory, and lyrics (mostly about tea). Professor Elemental often talks about his wild adventures with the help of his monkey butler, Geoffrey. His most popular songs would be Fighting Trousers, and Cup of Brown Joy.
I enjoy his work mostly because it manages to combine steampunk aesthetics, British sensibility, and modern sounds. He does well to not lean too hard into the colonialism. For a while he also had a feud with fellow chap hop artist Mr B. which is what Fighting Trousers is about. I believe they are now friends and sometimes work together. Speaking of, due to the nature of his sound the Professor often guests on other's songs, like The Swinghoppers, and The Gastlight Troubadours.
Mr B: The Gentleman Rhymer
Mr B. is the furthest along the branch of steampunk musicians, being completely in the realm of 'chap hop'. I'm going to take this directly from his Wikipeadia page:
...hip hop delivered in a Received Pronunciation accent. Mr.B raps, or "rhymes", about good manners, dressing with style and dignity, sophisticated society, pipe smoking and cricket while playing the banjolele. The character is described as having grown up in Cheam and attending Sutton Grammar School for Boys.
While I can listen to a complete album of Abney Park and to an extent Professor Elemental, Mr B, for me at least, is a selected listen. I first enjoyed his history of Chap Hop, but it does get a little tired after a while. One of his latest releases is a parody of MIA's Paper Planes and I'm quite here for it.
Thanks I Hate It
This isn't an exhaustive list and there are other more famous steampunk artists out there, but these are the ones I enjoy. I could include similar acts like The Gaslight Troubadours, Unwoman, Rapskallion, Tape Five, and Beats Antique, but they only have slight similarities with steampunk. I might do a follow up post at some stage looking at the likes of Beats Antique (more electronic sounds) as they are some of my favourite artists for listening quietly with headphones on.
Lesson learnt for next time I carpool with people, I'm going to pop on any old random playlist and make sure it's something I enjoy. Let my freak flag fly and be more of my authentic self, and I encourage you all to do the same.