The new album from Sweden’s Finnegan’s Hell takes Ramones flavoured Celtic drinking songs and chucks them in the mixer with Hillbilly Country, Folk-Rock, metal, Swedish Folk and even Reggae for an intoxicating brew for St. Patrick’s week!
I first became aware of Finnegan’s Hell when I was exposed to the video for their excellent version of The Dubliners ‘The Molly Maguires‘. Dressed in pit gear and with sooty faces the boys ran threw 2:24 minutes of hyper energetic Celtic-Punk that has long sailed past 1,000,000 views. The boys nailed the song and it has become one of a handful songs that constantly pops up across the media whenever Celtic-Punk is mentioned. Formed in 2010 from members from the Swedish towns of Malmö, Lund and Gothenburg the Bhoys prepared for their debut release by getting in as many gigs as possible. The self titled EP features their YOU Tube hit as well as two traditional Irish Folk standards and a couple of self-penned songs which certainly put Finnegan’s Hell on the European Celtic-Punk map. The following year they recorded ‘The Boys In Green Will Conquer‘ for a competition on Irish TV to find a suitable anthem for the Ireland team for Euro 2012. This led to them being described brilliantly as
”They’re hard to describe, but just imagine a blend of Metallica and the Kilfenora céilí Band and you’d be about right.”
in the Irish media. The following year they again achieved a internet sensation when they released ‘Drunken Christmas’. Voted #1 ‘Christmas song of the year’ by Swedish music magazine Gaffa the video has passed 300,000 views and led to them signing for Heptown Records. Next up was their debut album and Drunk, Sick And Blue was released to great fanfare. Well received across the Celtic/Folk-Punk media as one of the best Celtic punk releases of the year its ten tracks flew past at only twenty-three minutes. The albums songs were a mix of self-penned, trad Folk covers and some re-recorded tracks including the definitive version of ‘The Molly Maguires’.
Live the band continued to gig relentlessly across Europe and was awarded with being voted “best foreign band” at the huge Woodstock Festival in Poland in 2015. They have played Ireland several times and even visited London back in 2017 unbeknown to us. The next big event in the recording history of Finnegan’s Hell wasn’t to be till four years later in 2018 with the release of their follow up album Life and Death. This time the album contained all self penned tracks based around the theme of life and death. A roller coaster ride from the cradle to the grave and those four years playing the songs live before recording showed a band that had perfected their sound. Since then they have signed for Wild Kingdom Records and this week sees the release of Finnegan’s Hell’s third album the wonderfully titled Work Is The Curse Of The Curse Of The Drinking Class.
It is the album’s title song that kicks the album off and ‘Work Is The Curse Of The Drinking Class’, modestly sub-titled “probably the best drinking anthem in the world”, is a short, fast and downright furious Celtic-Punk belter. Their sound is dominated by the banjo and accordion, a sound that has influenced bands across Europe from England’s Mick O’Toole to the Dutch band Drunken Dolly. It was the unfortunate Irish dramatist and novelist Oscar Wilde, who famously said “work is the curse of the drinking class” and here Finnegan’s Hell expand on his theory.
“My old man said to me When I was a little boy,Son, work is over-rated in work there’s little joyThen he’d pour himself a whiskey and he’d light his favorite cigarWe’d always hear him singin’ as he headed down the bar”
Over 100 years later people still find themselves in situations where their work is interfering with their alcohol consumption!
Alongside the release of Work Is The Curse Of The Drinking Class is the release of a special Finnegan’s Hell beer (a Porter of course!) in co-operation with a local brewery. The next song up was the first single from the album ‘Six Feet Under’ released in February.
“My throat is dry like the desert sandMy thirst is growing beyond my commandI know that I’m dying, my time’s running outOh Lord, won’t you buy me just one more stout”
Another drinking song and ye better get use to them as this album is for the dedicated drinker. No lightweights here. The fastest song on the album just over two minutes long and even though you might want Finnegan’s Hell to take it easy they flatly refuse to.
The video was directed by Swedish filmmaker Michael Ek, who got his inspiration from Jim Jarmusch’s zombie film The Dead Don’t Die. They take a rather odd turn next with their Shane MacGowan tribute ‘Whiskey, Rum, Gin And Wine’. Absolutely bloomin’ hilarious and catchy too. Kind of 60’s-ish but with Metal influences too it’s a great song and shows that you can veer from the Celtic-Punk path if you got the tunes and these Bhoys certainly have the tunes. Their may be no Gaelic blood running through Finnegan’s Hell’s veins but you wouldn’t know it with ‘The Promised Land’. Tin-Whistle starts proceedings and accordion drops in before the gang turn up. The most Irish of the album’s tracks and the story of an immigrant leaving home for a better life. Like the Celts the Swedes know all about the sadness of emigration. In the early 19th and 20th centuries the USA was a magnet for the rural poor all across Europe with about 1.3 million Swedes leaving for the USA and a better life. In 1890 the U.S. census reported a Swedish population of almost 1,000,000. All the songs as you would expect for a Celtic-Punk lean heavily on their Celtic instruments and a healthy dose of humour and ‘Friends And Foes’ is a great example of this. Slower than usual but no less heavy and it’s what passes for the quieter moments here where Finnegan’s Hell Metal influences come to play. ‘King Of The Bar’ is standard Celtic-Punk with tin-whistle leading and a breakneck speed while ‘The Last Dance’ has an Eastern European feel to it and while this is usually provided by fiddle and accordion here it is the banjo that does the job. A testament to their excellent banjo plucker Mick. On ‘Tokyo Town’ they slow it down again and Pabs vocals here are great. Half shouting half crooning. We heading towards the end and ‘Parasite’ tells of a relationship that comes to an end. When Finnegan’s Hell formed in 2010, the band made a vow to only sing about three things: life, death and alcohol and so they have strictly stuck to that pledge. So it is that they end with ‘When I’m Dead’. This is what passes for a Finnegan’s Hell ballad but no surprise at all it’s not yer typical one. Hard and heavy and all the subtleness of a clout round the ear though the change of tempo is great and really rounds the album off well.
Work Is The Curse Of The Drinking Class does not ‘invent the wheel’ that is true. What it is though is a fun filled half an hour of quality Celtic-Punk that is for getting pissed to and having a laugh and their ain’t enough bands around like that trust me. Music like this is best experienced with others but here the transfer to record is done astoundingly well. The production is perfect and with so many instruments competing that is some achievement.
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