Anyone up for the history of Celtic Punk in 42 pages? We’re not kidding 🙂 We review a lot of albums, but sometimes books come our way too. This one is for die-hard fans, by a die-hard fan. Add in a dose of Judaism and Latin America, and you’ve got a unique take on Celtic punk. Check this out!
Celtic Punk Superfan is a neatly presented little chapbook (i.e. about 40 pages), and the title describes the author accurately ☘️ Though Michael started out writing about Flogging Molly and the Dropkick Murphys for his college newspaper, the book’s preface carries a dedication to Neck – an early sign that Michael doesn’t just discuss the big names. “Every day’s St. Patrick’s Day”, the band once said. And if you’re Irish at heart, with an understanding and respect for the music, then the door’s open for you to discover more.
Celtic Punk Superfan starts by looking at the role Celtic punk has played in representing the Irish as a group of people. Shane and the Pogues get an early mention, and we’re happy to announce that a few webzines do too – including yours truly, London Celtic Punks 🙂☘️ So thanks for that, Michael!
The author explains how and why bands like Flogging Molly and the Dropkicks originated in the US, rather than in Ireland and Scotland. Their roots in the British Isles are obvious, but then so is the Irishness of Boston, for example. We’re reminded of how Celtic people throughout the world have put their voices and feelings into music. Plus, a lot of references from other literature are included here, proof that the author has definitely done his homework 👍
Foundation: The Two Heavyweights
Back in 2002, Michael was a student at Carnegie Mellon uni. He was as keen on writing Celtic punk articles as he was on writing assignments ☘️ He interviewed Bridget from Flogging Molly, and went to see the band live. The result was two articles that make up half of chapter 1. We look at Dave King’s exile from Ireland, the impact this had on Flogging Molly’s early music, and we’re treated to a quote by the man himself:
“Anyone who has a beating heart in their chest can relate to what I’m singing.”– Dave King
We then move on to the Dropkick Murphys. Michael sees these guys as a different beast, one fuelled by working class pride and sport, e.g. the Boston Bruins (pictured below). The author was there in 2004 when the Murphys played to a sold-out Pittsburgh crowd, one that didn’t hesitate to rush the stage, if they weren’t just invited up by the band anyway.
It’s always good to read about gigs where you can feel the energy coming off the page. Chapter 1 gives us plenty of that, and it reminds me fondly of the heart and soul I poured into Folk Springs Eternal. Now we move on to chapter 2…
JewIrish: Connections as a Jew
Now we all know that a book about Celtic punk is anything but boring. But chapter 2 gives us an angle that most people wouldn’t think of. Michael is Jewish, and he talks about the holy Yom Kippur and Purim holidays. But what about Celtic punk? Michael asked himself, “is there such thing as a Jewish-Irish music connection?”
Well, klezmer punk exists, so maybe yes. Michael looks at bands who’ve tried to blend the two influences. There’s Josh Lederman y Los Diablos and the White Shabbos, to name two examples. The Shabbos only recorded one album as far as I’m aware (2004’s Shabbos Holy Shabbos), and the production quality could have been a bit better. But these bands were capable of making a noise as good as any Celtic punk band, make no mistake about that.
Somehow, Celtic music seems to attract Jewish people. And if there really is a common thread, then two words sum it up: tradition and persecution. The former is something that both Jews and Celtic punks carry with them. The latter, sadly, is something that both have been victims of. And if they survived, they were often displaced, longing for their homelands.
But Saints and Tzadiks are another good example of a band who tried it. So are Black ’47 actually, with their song “Izzy’s Irish Rose” (see below). These guys aimed to mix klezmer with Irish folk. While it’s not quite Celtic punk, it does sometimes feature singing in both Yiddish and Irish. And it’s mixing the old with the new, which is exactly what Celtic punk does! Finally, Jem Finer from the Pogues (Jewish on his dad’s side) gets a mention as the chapter rounds out.
This is a groundbreaking chapter by Michael, and one that I feel has postgraduate potential to it. Ian Prowse did a Master’s in Irish Studies, so why not? ☘️ But now for the rest of the book…
Ethnic Punk, Celtic Punk
The remaining chapters are a wee bit shorter, as we arrive at Michael’s blog. Michael ultimately draws the conclusion that he likes Celtic punk for its own sake, although there might be an aspect of his Jewish pride to it as well. He continues to discuss the different takes on the music, whether it’s Yidcore (punk first, Jewish second) or Golem (Jewish first, punk second).
Finally, we arrive in the year 2021, in the midst of that pesky COVID-19 pandemic. St. Patrick’s week is underway, bringing us livestreams across different continents, with the Dropkicks, Flogging Molly, the Real McKenzies, Flatfoot 56 and the Fighting Jamesons all checkin’ in. There was an online Latin American festival too, with South American bands using a lot of the instruments we’re used to seeing in Celtic punk. If the music has made it around the world, then so has the dress sense, clearly 😊
The last 2022 postscript brings us right up to date. Now people are starting to go to gigs again. Alas, some shows are still getting cancelled, and some people are still hesitant to go until we get further out of the woods. But the only way is up from here! Michael has the final word with a wee poem he penned for the Celtic punk fan. It contains tributes to various Celtic punk acts, including Vanilla Ice (okay I’m joking, but he does get a mention!)
All in all, it was never just about The Pogues, or Flogging Molly, or the Dropkicks. Celtic punk has reached far and wide, and the scene remains healthy with different bands and fans springing up all over the world. Michael has put his heart and soul into a book about his love of the genre, and his own personal take on it. The book is also well edited and presented; as such, we wish Michael the best of luck with it!
Get your copy of Celtic Punk Superfan by Michael Croland from the author HERE.
Sláinte and l’chaim!