Berliner celtic-folk-punk band The Rathmines debut album is superb and done with a passion and a feeling and a joy for Irish music that very few Irish bands have. A must hear album.
With Irish/ celtic music’s popularity blazing across Europe we must make a stop over in the country that has truly embraced the music like no other. For whatever reason celtic music and culture have taken off in Germany and they have produced some of the best celtic-punk bands in the scene as a result. The Rathmines are the latest in a line that includes Fiddlers Green, Mr Irish Bastard and, now sadly disbanded, Auld Corn Brigade.
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The thing that immediatly leaps out on you as you listen to this album is the degree of respect The Rathmines have for the music. This is no imperialist appropriating of the culture of others this is the joyous celebration of Irishness and inclusiveness. The boys all come from a punk rock background and was a Pogues gig in their home of Berlin that persuaded them to put away the electric instruments and get all folky. The music itself is of the kind our mam’s and dad’s use to listen to but done in such a way that the energy and spirit of punk comes shining through. The albums sixteen tracks come in at just a few seconds under a hour and its a hour well spent trust me.
The album kicks off with celtic-punk standard ‘Drunken Sailor’ and it amazes me that you can get sick of hearing a song until you hear it done in a way that brings it back to life for you. Nothing particulary different but just a great version. ‘Hot Asphalt’ the Ewan MacColl penned song, made famous by The Dubliners ,follows and again theres nothing that should stand out but what you get is a enjoyable enthusiastic romp through the story of Irish immigrants to England digging the roads.
“Well, we laid it in a hollows and we laid it in the flat
And if it doesn’t last forever, sure I swear, I’ll eat me hat
Well, I’ve wandered up and down the world and sure I never felt
Any surface that was equal to the hot asphalt”
The first of the albums self-penned tracks is the Parisian style ‘How to Steal Horses’ with accordion drifting through and percussion keeping the beat while the vocals tell a story telling you exactly how to steal a horse and why. ‘Impossible’ is yer classic celtic-punk song about drinking and how missing your love can drive to further into the drink. Another self penned number from The Rathmines and again they hit the spot. The tune moves away slightly from traditional Irish and is all the better for it as it breaks the album up from being just a hour of trad. Hadn’t heard much of ‘Johnny I Hardly Knew Ya’ since I was a kid until the Dropkick Murphys recorded it and The Rathmines give it a blast with a great version and follow it up with more songs made famous by The Dubliners ‘The Leaving of Liverpool’ and, made famous recently by its recording by The Boss, ‘Mrs. McGrath’. ‘Oró Sé do Bheatha ‘Bhaile’ is a song originally written during the Jacobite rising in 1745-6 but was re-written by the great Irish patriot and leader of the 1916 Uprising in Dublin, Patrick Pearse. It was sung by Volunteers as a fast march during the Irish War of Independence.
“Óró, sé do bheatha ‘bhaile/ Anois ar theacht an tsamhraidh
Oh-ro You’re welcome home…/ Now that summer’s coming!”
Sung in Irish by the bhoys and with guest vocals by Alexandra Arnsburg it is truly a remarkable song when you consider even how few Irish bands use their own language. Full marks for The Rathmines for this and for pulling off what is an acoustic-reggae-ska-trad Irish version that I am sure has Patrick smiling down from above.
‘Paddy’s Taksim Square’ is another Rathmines number and the albums highlight for me from the great lyrics to the catchy as hell tune.
Again it strays a little away from their usual traditional Irish sound but manages to keep within the celtic camp.
“Her yer Taksim, her yer Direniş’
Paddy has no difficulties ever understanding this
No matter if it’s Istanbul, Brazil or day or night
Everywhere is Taksim-Square and everywhere we fight”
With their love of The Pogues its perhaps a bit suprising that we get towards the end of the album before a more famous Pogues track surfaces. ‘Poor Paddy (Works On The Railway)’ yeah I know The Dubs did it first but it was The Pogues that I would say are more famous for playing it. During the mid-19th century poor Irish immigrants worked almost exclusively to build railways in the United States. Untold thousands of Irish section crews worked as track layers, gaugers, spikers, and bolters and the song begins in 1841, during the time of the famine. ‘Rocky Road to Dublin’ is another Dubs classic while ‘Sog Nischt Kejnmol’ is dedicated to
“all fighters who died in prisons, camps and on the battlefields against Fascism during the dark years when Fascists in Europe slaughtered the workers’ movement, Jews and all others”
It is an interpretation of a Yiddish partisan song written 1943 in the Vilnius ghetto by Hirsch Glik who joined the ‘Fareinikte Partisaner Organisatzije’ and participated in 1942 in an uprising in the Ghetto. He was caught by the German troops and deported to an Estonian concentration camp from where he escaped. After this he joined the fight against the German troops and died aged 22.
A worthy tribute to Hirsch.
“Sure the hour that we’re dreaming for will come/
We’ll arrive with steps pounding like a drum”
Talk of ‘The Boss’ earlier and on hearing the traitional murder ballad, Two Sisters, you can almost hear Bruce singing it. Made most famous by Clannad its truly a monstrous song not that you’d notice as its so beautifully done! ‘Whisky In The Jar’ and ‘The Wild Rover’ complete the ‘Stolen Songs of Struggle’ and the album ends with the last of The Rathmines self penned tracks ‘Years Of Depression’. Another standout song that rails agains the bankers and their kind
“All you boldholders, bankers and fuckheads in the firms”
and wishes upon them
“Years of depression will be yours”
From beginning to end this album is brilliant. Recorded, self produced, mastered and designed by the band themselves in the living room of their singer it surely deserves a wider audience and I have noticed they have began to make a few waves in the celtic-punk scene over in Europe so hopefuly that continue. The Rathmines are not trying anything particularly different but what they are doing is doing it superbly and with a passion and a feeling and a joy for Irish music that I wish more Irish bands had.
(to hear the entire album press play below)
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