Irish Punk, Speed Folk from Hungary !
Now I cannot imagine there is many better places for a band, especially a Celtic-Punk band, to come from than Transylvania. Forever immortalised in Western culture as the home of Count Dracula by the Dublin born writer Bram Stoker in his Gothic horror novel published in 1897. The region in Romania is bordered by the Carpathian mountains and is roughly three times the size of Wales. The name, Transylvania, translates as ‘the land beyond the forest’ in Latin and as the name suggests it has rich and diverse history that takes in the Celts, Dacia, the Roman Empire, the Hun Empire, the Gepid Kingdom and the Bulgarian Empire among others. Not bad for a place that most people think was a figment of an Irishman’s imagination! Besides Romanians the region is home to large pockets of ethnic Hungarians, Saxons and Roma and it is to the local Hungarian community (numbering well over a million) that Selfish Murphy hail from. So in a way they another in a long long line of fantastic Hungarian Celtic-Punk groups.
Founded in 2011 in Sepsiszentgyörgy they are Transylvania’s as well as Romania’s only Irish band, let alone Celtic-Punk band. Formed by Martinka, the band bassist played for many years in a famous Hungarian Irish band, and on return to Transylvania he decided to set up Selfish Murphy. Until then no one had played Irish music but the popularity of bands like The Pogues, the Dropkicks and Flogging Molly had caught on and, as in many other countries across the world, folk didn’t want to wait for the yearly visit, if they were lucky, from one of the scenes heavyweights they wanted their own band and so Selfish Murphy were born and in the words of Martinka
“To sum up: the band can be traced by: Cheerful songs + Beer + Party = Selfish Murphy”.
To date the band have release a whole bunch of EP’s and their full length album Another Fork In The Road arrived on the scene last year. Broad Jump- Reloaded is basically their 2016 EP re-recorded and released with a bunch of new songs. Where Another Fork In The Road was mostly original compositions here the album is largely popular traditional Irish and Scottish folk covers.
The album begins with Nan’s favourite ‘Molly Malone’ and is a lively and jolly rendition that brings in throbbing bass and thrashy guitars but still firmly has its feet in folk music. As is common with a lot of other Hungarian bands Selfish Murphy make great use of the flute and Pusztai’s playing is impeccable. On lead vocals is Zaza, as well as accordion, and his voice is clear and the lyrics mostly in English and very easy to understand. They breathe new life into this song and it has more than enough punk for the punks and folk for the auld folkies too.
(A short live set from Selfish Murphy beginning with ‘Molly Malone’ recorded live earlier this year at the 15th Hunsrück Highlander Festival in May)
As stated earlier its not all covers and on the next two songs the band stretch their song writing talents starting with ‘Barleycorn’ and I’m glad to hear the Bhoys sing in their native language. I understand that a band feels like they have to sing in English to get any recognition in the scene but we like it when bands sing in their own language after all the Celtic nations had their’s banned and forbidden so that today most speak a foreign language, English, in their own lands so respect to Selfish Murphy for that. The song is fast and catchy and the guitar nicely mixed so that even though Péter thrashes away it doesn’t take over but I’m sure when playing live they turn it up a bit more! On ‘Touch the Sky’ they go pop-punk with the flute and accordion flowing nicely. Another classic song next with ‘Leaving Of Liverpool’ and as with ‘Molly Malone’ they give us a great version of one of Ireland’s most treasured crowd pleasers. Played with gusto and spirit(s!) they make a great job of it and again breathe new life into a song before I wouldn’t have worried if I ever heard again! A couple more original songs with ‘Scottish Song’ Selfish Murphy they come up with one of the album’s highlights. I was never taken much with the flute in Celtic-Punk until I was lucky to see fellow Hungarians Firkin over here on these shores and fell in love with the instrument then thanks to PJ and his amazing showmanship. It seems to suit the Flogging Molly/trad folk side of Celtic-Punk a lot so is well suited to Selfish Murphy and their style. Having been to Scotland another original composition follows with ‘Ireland’s So Far Away’ and its the album standout track for me. At times both gentle and hard it sits nicely between both wings of the scene and shows Zaza can even sing a bit too.
Broad Jump ends with a run of classic Irish folk tunes all made famous by a combination of The Dubliners or The Pogues and in couple of cases both together. Starting with ‘All For Me Grog’ its an upbeat song despite the songs words which tell of a man selling everything he owns, including his wife, to pay for his rum and tobacco. Though telling of a mans ruin the song is a joyous romp and the chorus is made to be shouted from the bottom of yer lungs as loud as possible. ‘Spanish Lady’ is on of my favourites of these type of song and the song, dating from the 17th century, is perfect to be punked up a bit. What a tune.
Next up possibly the best Irish ‘pub’ song of all time- ‘The Irish Rover’ of course. Belted out at every pub sing-song in the last few decades it’s a song about a dog and a ship or something. No one is quite sure who wrote the song but whoever it was they have lost out on a fortune. Competition for ‘The Irish Rover’ as best pub song ever comes from penultimate song and Irish sports fan favourite ‘The Fields of Athenry’. Often thought of an old song it was in fact written in the 1970’s by Irish singer-songwriter Pete St. John and tells of the transportation of a young Irish rebel to Botany Bay, Australia, for stealing food for his starving family during An Gorta Mór, (the Great Irish Hunger) during 1845–1850. Selfish Murphy play it straight with as solid a version as you’ll hear and the energy is up to max and the rendition is infectious. Broad Jump comes to an end with the ultimate in Celtic-Punk covers and if I’ve heard ‘I’ll Tell Me Ma’ once I’ve heard it a thousand times but so fecking what. Its a brilliant song and well suited to be speeded up with a singalong chorus and catchy as hell beat and again its done more than justice here. The Bhoys have a bit of fun to bring the curtain down and only go to show how well they have mastered Irish music.
So eleven songs and thirty-five minutes and an album that is mostly covers that you will be very familiar with but it’s well worth getting hold of thanks to their own original songs. If you would prefer to hear their won material then I recommend obtaining their album. Packed with energy and passion but beware its contagious and will have you singing and jigging along to songs new and old ones you thought you were tired of ever hearing again. Selfish Murphy visited these shore earlier in the year to headline Góbéfest, the UK’s only Transylvanian festival of arts and culture in Manchester. Though we couldn’t make it a few of our northern readers did and reported their brought they house down so here’s hoping they make it again and a bit further south this time. In fact I’m surprised one person can remember anything at all so fond was he of pálinka, the traditional local spirit from the Carpathian region that he didn’t remember much else!
Cheers- EP (2011) * One Beer Is No Beer- Acoustic EP (2012) * With Or Without Us- EP (2014) * Dirty Bang- EP (2015) * Broad Jump- EP (2016) * Another Fork In The Road (2017) * Broad Jump ReLoaded (2018)
Buy Broad Jump. Reloaded
Contact Selfish Murphy