Kicking off a week celebrating Hungarian Celtic-Punk we have the new album from Grammy Award-winning Budapest Irish band Firkin. Having played well over six hundred concerts in seventeen countries and it’s no wonder as they are without doubt one of the best live bands on the continent.
When you think of Celtic-Punk the first countries you would think of would be the ones that the Celtic diaspora fled to in times of despair and poverty and oppression. Well maybe that was then but these days Celtic-Punk is a truly international phenomenon and of all the countries outside of the traditional homes of Celtic-Punk no country has embraced the music quite like Hungary has. I’d be hear all day if I was to list all the bands on the scene over there but rest assured that we in England would be jealous of to have but half of them! Why exactly Hungarians have embraced the music to their hearts and ears I do not know. Maybe one of Hungarian friends can let us know. For the following week we are running a special Hungarian Celtic-Punk Week with three of the scene’s best bands all releasing albums then it makes sense to follow up last years (see 2017 here) Hungarian Celtic-Punk week with another one. So stay tuned and visit again in the week for #2 and #3.
One of the things that makes the scene there so special is the bands have all found their own niche within it and the music ranges from full on traditional folk to fast and heavy hardcore punk but today we feature one of the most prominent and internationally well known- Firkin. Formed in 2008 in the Hungarian capital of Budapest by flutist PJ, Firkin have released a whole bunch of albums and toured numerous times including playing an absolutely stunning one-off show in London on New Years Eve 2015. The gig drew in equal numbers of Hungarian ex-pats and London celtic punks that raised the bloody roof off the Dublin Castle! Certainly if putting in the hard work gets you the glory then Firkin have been working overtime to get the attention they deserve. The bands original vocalist Barna left the band amicably after recording the album Finger In The Pie in 2014 but new vocalist Andy has stepped ably into his shoes and Firkin have carried on without pause or even catching breath! Firkin have played more than 600 concerts in 16 countries and not just in Europe having toured Canada in 2011. Their debut album, Firkinful Of Beer, hit the streets in May, 2009 and within a year had gone gold. Soon after the album was nominated for a Hungarian Grammy Award, Fonogram 2010, which was followed by two further nominations in 2013 for their third album Igyunk Pálinkát! and in 2014 with their fourth album Keep On Firkin. In 2016 Firkin’s song ‘Focimese’ became the official song of the Hungarian football team for the UEFA Championships which saw Hungary storm the opening group stages before being hammered, like Ireland were, by Belguim in the knock-out round. Last year saw them grace the stage at many of Europe’s leading festivals which brings us up to date with the release of We Are The Ones which will be followed by a huge European headline tour in the Summer.
We Are The Ones is Firkin’s sixth studio album and they continue their quest to take over Europe by introducing the uninitiated to quality Irish-punk rock! Beginning with ‘All Is Well’ and its a fast start from the very first beat and Andy’s great vocals fit right in. The music flits between Springsteen heartfelt rocker and the Irish punk of their early days. ‘One More Pint’ is a tale of life passing you by but there always time for one more pint. Again Andy’s vocals sit nicely. Tuneful and shouty at the same time and in absolutely crystal clear English too! Firkin have always handled a nice ballad well and just as you think ‘Those Irish Punk Girls’ is it it flies off into fast as feck Irish punk with fiddle and flute literally leaving a stream of smoke behind them. As good a song on the album as any and a real blast from Firkin’s past. Another standout track follows with the album’s title song ‘We Are The Ones’.
A great gang chorus of “OH-H-H-H-H’s” in a song where Firkin pay tribute to their fans. Catchy as hell and will grow to be a real fan favourite I am sure.
“We are the ones who will go insane,go mad when we are in pain.We are the ones who might be exiled,we’ll feel at home and smile”
Next up is ‘Lily Of The West’ and believe it or not a song that I could imagine leaving Christy Moore’s lips this one. An old song and not your typical cover version it has a real authentic Irish feel to it with the music at times bordering on trad as well as country. One for your Ma’s this one. Now its ‘Your Odyssey’ and I can’t imagine Christy singing this one! Proper Celtic-Punk with thrashy guitars maybe a little understated but still giving the song plenty of oompf. I was never a fan of the flute to be honest. That was until I saw Firkin live in concert and I was immediately converted. PJ is such an amazing musician and has an incredible stage presence that its hard to stand in awe of Firkin when they let fly. We are back in the pun now with ‘Hold My Beer’ and like a lot of bands Firkin make music to be enjoyed with a jar or two and I’m reliably informed that Hungarians like their beer so a band named after a beer measure ought to have a couple of alcohol friendly songs at least!
As we head towards the end of the album and it’s time for Firkin to dust off a few covers which they begin with the famous Dubliners trad song ‘Nancy Whisky’. A perfect song for Celtic-Punk bands to cover and Firkin serve up a great version and follow this up with perhaps the greatest (and saddest) song ever written about Irish emigration, ‘Spancil Hill’. A real tear-jerker this one and again delivered with style and given an upbeat treatment. Time for an original and Firkin have always dipped their toes into folk-metal while never quite getting their heads wet and ‘Awaken The Iron’ is as far as they venture on We Are The Ones. A great metal-folk-punk song with Andy never sounding more like a pirate in his life.
“Show a leg!Pirates aboard! Prepare your swordsPull out the guns and shoot a full loadRelease your wrath ‘n aim the mainmastFight for the glory till the last breathRemember the days, the years we fought togetherSteered between waves through days and nightsThis is the moment we all been living forAwaken the iron, rats quake in their boots”
The albums fastest song gives way to ‘Galway Girl’ and this song I am sure is played hundreds of times every night on every continent on the planet and I am sure Steve Earle never imagined the hit he had had on his hands but the song is now up there at the very top of popular Irish songs. Nevertheless Firkin don’t do sloppy covers and they stamp the Firkin brand on it and mange the seemingly impossible to make it their own. We Are The Ones comes to an end with the beautiful Irish trad number ‘Flowers’ featuring the absolutely stunning voice of Hungarian folk singer Agi Szaloki. Originally called ‘The Flower Of Magherally’ it dates from 1928 and was most famously covered by Altan.
“I met my love near Banbridge Town,My charming blooming Sally, OAnd she is the crown of County Down,The Flower of Magherally, O”
Andy shows he can really sing and what a pair of lungs he has as together they belt out a real folkie number that brings down the curtain perfectly.
So another classic Firkin album ends and with twelve songs and seven originals it’s a good balance of their own material and covers too while it steams along at such a nice pace I was surprised it was forty minutes long as it seemed to be over far too quickly. The auld Irish influence may have subsided a wee bit in favour of more typical Celtic sound but theirs no denying that Firkin are at the top of the tree when it comes to Celtic-Punk on this fair continent and long may they continue and they surely will if they continue to put out such great material.
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( A whole Firkin concert from 10th June, 2017 – Open-Air Theatre Budapest)
Don’t forget to check back in a couple of days for the rest of Hungarian Celtic-Punk Week. Part 2 here
Don’t forget to check back in a couple of days for Part 2 of Hungarian Celtic-Punk Week. If you are interested in finding out more about the great celtic-punk scene in Hungary (and you better be) the best place to visit is the ‘Celtic Punk/ Irish Folk Hungary’ group on Facebook here
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