Love, life, death and lots of alcohol! Yeah the sort of themes you expect to hear on a Celtic-Punk album but in the hands of German band Tir Nan Og on their new album Sing, Ye Bastards! these traditional themes are anything but traditional!
Fifteen years and hundreds of gigs later sees the the sixth album from the Bavarian based Tir Nan Og. Germany is the epicenter for all things Celtic-Punk in Europe and if any North American bands are reading this forget about touring anywhere else if you want to actually play to more than 2 men and a dog! We’ve touched on the various reasons for why they love the music before so no need to go into it again suffice to say the mutual love of alcohol between the Irish and the Germany plays a large part in it. Tir Nan Og play a mean drinking song but by no means is that all they’ve got in their cannon and they are as likely to delve into Irish mythology as dive into a public house.
The album begins with ‘Fear Gorta’ and a story about the Great Irish ‘famine’ of 1845–1852. I say ‘famine’ because their was plenty of food available in Ireland at the time but it was being escorted by large military force outside the island while the Irish literally starved by the roadside. Numbers vary but millions died and many more were forced to flee overseas to escape death (sadly for many this wasn’t possible as the ships that took them across the Atlantic ocean were later to be called ‘coffin ships’).
There are many legends about the time, one being the story of the Hungerman (Gaelic: Fear Gorta). A ghost that would collect the souls of the starving.
“God Almighty have mercy on our souls.Save us from Fear Gorta and please fill our bowls.”
The song is fast paced and with great dual male/female vocals with a multitude of instruments smoking away. The best Irish Folk music tells a story and Tir Nan Og put many Irish bands to shame with this little known story. Robert sings in that very distinctive German way. Hard to explain but it is very clear and absolutely no need of a lyric sheet as every word is crystal clear and without even a hint of a German accent too! Most of the album is original material without any of the Irish standards beloved by most German bands. Maybe they got them out of their system in their previous albums but its original material that impresses us and here we have plenty to be impressed by. The quality of the music here is superb and on ‘Last Order’ a combination of piping and ‘poppy-country-ish’ Folk works well but the Celtic-Punk tag is maybe a tad too much for them as they are in essence a trad Folk band and no better on this album is that proved on the fiddle led ‘Maelstrom’, the upbeat ‘The Wanderings Of Oisin’ (a poem by William Butler Yeats) and ‘Green Pill’. Three songs which showcase the bands range from fast as hell right through to fast and then just catchy. Through all the songs different instruments are given the lead and used to perfection but no matter which is leading the songs still have that Tir Nan Og trademark sound. The first inkling of the band’s Celtic-Punk roots is the short (but sweet) ‘We’ve Been Everywhere’ and again Sarah and Robert work brilliantly together on vocals on a tongue in cheek song about dragons! I was thinking this may have been the start of the album turning in a heavier direction but ‘Sláinte’ is a bit too jolly for this gnarley faced old Punk rocker! Work on Sing, Ye Bastards! took two and a half years from beginning to end product and right when they might be thinking of a release date Covid lockdown appeared and everything was postponed or cancelled. Tir Nan Og rose to the challenge as drummer Volker said.
This album was created in difficult times and that’s why we were particularly able to empathize with the Irish attitude towards life, to stick together despite difficult times and to make the best of it.“
‘I Sold My Soul’ introduces a slight Ska beat to the bands repertoire with great bagpiping from Andreas. A song that would not be out of place in a Irish pub with the album’s title as the song’s chorus it’s a song to be played as fast as you can and shouted as loud as you can. It was often said that The Pogues were louder with their acoustic instruments than many Punk bands and this song shows that you don’t even need to pay particularly fast or manic to achieve that Punk ‘feel’ while playing what is in reality trad Irish Folk music. Sarah takes the vocal duties on ‘Stone Cold Heart’ and it kind of reminds me of the type of rock ballad (with a Celtic edge though) that Springsteen would have sung in his hey day. The second single to be released from Sing, Ye Bastards! was the ballad ‘Sea Of Sorrow’. The song was written about migrants crossing the Mediterranean sea.
A topic not too dissimilar to the ‘coffin ships’ mentioned earlier. The song completes the cycle for Tir Nan Og. Listening to the album so far the only thing is was missing was a hard hitting ballad and both lyrically and musically it delivers.
“You’re asking me, to sing a happy songBut how could I when happiness is gone?See the tears and the world is going by,Sing a happy song when all I want is cry”
We down to the last three songs and Sarahs voice is as strong and powerful as ever on ‘The Song Remains’. It’s the last of the Tir Nan Og compositions with the final two numbers covers from the Dutch Harmony Glen and fellow Germans The O’Reillys And The Paddyhats. ‘O’Hanlan’s Last Words’ is magnificent banjo led tune about a convicted criminal with one hell of a bagpipe solo and the album ends with a superb version of the Paddyhats ‘The Firestorm’.
So love, life, death and plenty of alcohol. It’s all here on an album that sees Tir Nan Og’s progression into a band that could oh so easily fall into the Irish Folk category. The quality of the music, songs, lyrics all point to a band that has outgrown the Celtic-Punk tag but we’ll hang onto them for a bit longer yet! Thirteen songs and eleven original Tir Nan Og compositions that come in just short of fifty minutes long. Songs that uplift in parts and make you think in others. The gloom sometimes descends but is soon followed by something to raise your spirits whether in anger or joy. Another great album from Tir Nan Og and considering the circumstances of its release a massive achievement. Well done folks.