Tag Archives: Alternative Ulster

ALBUM REVIEW: ALTERNATIVE ULSTER- ‘Boobies, Bagpipes, Banjos & Beer’ (2018)

Back again with their third album it’s New York’s Alternative Ulster with another, lucky for us, thirteen songs of punk rock driven energetic Celtic pride, humor and downright defiance.

Almost six months to the day that previous album, Pog Mo Thoin, hit the streets New York’s Alternative Ulster are back again with another album of rough’n’ready Irish-American Celtic-Punk to stir the spirits and drink them too! Boobies, Bagpipes, Banjos & Beer follows on from that album with more of the same humour, politics and fun that made Pog Mo Thoin such a hit.

Alternative Ulster left to right- Jay Andersen (Guitar, Bass, Backing Vocals) * Todd Henry (Vocals, Drums) * John McGovern (Bagpipes, Bass, Banjo, Tin-Whistle, Backing Vocals)

Alternative Ulster sprung into action in March 2015 in New York State’s Catskill’s region releasing their debut album, Rebellion, in February 2016. That album received unanimous praise from across the worlds Celtic-Punk media but sadly soon after the band split into two factions with one continuing as Alternative Ulster and the other becoming the excellent Templars Of Doom. Both bands can be best described in the words of band bagpiper John as ‘1916 meets 1977’ and tread similar paths in the Celtic-Punk scene.

So have Alternative Ulster changed at all in the six months since their last album? Well the answer is a resounding NO! Why change a winning formula and while it may still be a tad too punky for some traditional Celtic-Punk fans it still sits nicely within the scene. Todd is again bashing bloody hell out of the drums while barking the lyrics over Jay’s fantastic guitar work and the superb bagpipes of scene celebrity John McGovern drones loud and proud. The album kicks off with the punk rebel song ‘No Queen, No Crown’ and is in defence of the kilt and its history.

“Don’t call it a dress,
or you’ll be a mess.

You call it a kilt,
to honor blood spilt”.

These Bhoys take their Celticness very seriously!

Yeah its more of the same and ‘Boobies, Bagpipes, Banjos & Beer’ kicks off with a ‘Duelling Banjos’ style intro between bagpipes and banjo before breaking off into a song celebrating the things that real men love! If anything the music has gotten even more punk rock than previously. Its the sound of UK punk from around 1977. Think Sex Pistols rather than The Clash. On ‘The Sheep Pretend’ John also weighs in with a thundering bass that gives the song a post-punk feel while Todd still shouts the words in a eighty cigarettes a day rasp. Next up is the song that inspired their name all that time ago. On St. Paddy’s Day 2015, original guitarist Jerry came up with the idea inspired by The Stiff Little Finger’s classic song. Their version of ‘Alternative Ulster’ is straight up two fingers in the air punk rock. Played at breakneck speed and with bagpipes its a class song.

‘Sail Home British Soldiers’ is up next and is a American civil war rebel song. The first time the British Empire ever had its arse kicked was by the Americans and feelings still run high even though Alternative Ulsters ancestors were still living in Ireland at the time. The song has a real bite that makes The Wolfe Tones sound like Foster And Allen and a thumping beat that’s a sure fire mosh pit filler.

“Neither collar nor crown,
shall this patriot wear.
You can’t have my musket,
You’ll die if you dare.
So fuck off you fucking fucks,
and fuck you as well.
Before I bow once,
I’ll see you in hell”.

In part inspired by Ted Nugent’s ‘Homebound’ and if you like that then you’ll recognise the beginning of ‘Bonnie Little Scott’ up next. The song is a tribute to Bon Scott of every punk rockers favourite Heavy Metal band AC/CD and borrows heavily from their hit ‘Thunderstruck’. The story of Bon’s short life is told in song by Jay and with Alternative Ulsters usual humour. More of that next in ‘Dudelsack’ and while I don’t know what a dudelsack is I resisted the urge to look it up and can only assume it is part of a Bagpipe. Next is my album highlight and you’d have to be a right misery not to find ‘Spilt Upon Me Kilt’ absolutely hilarious. Set on St. Patrrick’s Day or actually the aftermath of St. Paddy’s Day and where the stains on their kilts tell the story of debauchery, alcohol and many bad decisions. All set to the traditional Christmas Carol tune ‘Twelve Days of Christmas’. Catchy and a song to really involve the crowd it made me spit my tea out when I first heard it.

‘Chuck It In The Fuck-It Bucket’ and ‘Counting Other’s Sins’ show Alternative Ulster at two different angles with the straight punk morphing into a punky-reggae tune while both songs are still dominated by the pipes of John. Another album standout is up next with the autobiographical ‘McGoverns Bar And Grill’ telling of John’s Mam and Dad and the working class Irish pub they ran in Tolentine Hill. Opened by John’s Grandad when he arrived in the States from America the pub was by the Tolentine cathedral at the heart of the big Irish parish in the Bronx.

“While on the bar sat a can for NorAid,
not to buy books, but guns and grenade.
My pint of black stuff was really just Coke,
all the old men laughed, it was a fine joke”.

The McGovern Clan with John in the red.

The song gives just a sense of what it means to be Irish-American and for this album at least is as close to a ballad as they come. A tremendous song full of passion and if  ‘McGoverns Bar And Grill’ showed the trio have got more in them than just rowdy punk rock then the album’s second version of ‘Alternative Ulster’ proves it. With John joining in with Todd’s shouty growl with banjo, shuttle pipes and tin-whistle while mate of the band Scott Benson rocks up with the bodhran. The album comes to an end with ‘Crawl Back In Your Shithole’ and the boot is suck firmly into President Trump and his ilk. Seemingly over in a flash its a great way to end the album and bring things to an end.

Boobies, Bagpipes, Banjos & Beer came out last week and was recorded, mixed and mastered by band maestro Jay Andersen at Operation-Audio/ Bohemosphere in Saugerties, NY. The amazing album cover art was by the talented Gail Benson. Now it would be absolutely pointless telling you that this album will appeal to everyone as it quite obviously won’t. My Mammy may love most forms of music but I guarantee that she’d think this is one Unholy mess!! Still I don’t think that will matter much to the Alternative Ulster bhoys. The music keeps flowing out of them as they take their rightful place on the punkier side of Celtic-Punk. Alternative Ulster are happy to keep it lit and as they say somewhere on here

“When the day is done, we just want to have fun,
And we will for year after year”.

Buy Boobies, Bagpipes, Banjos & Beer

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EP REVIEW: THE GRINNING BARRETTS- ‘The Riot EP’ (2018)

 The second EP release in less than six months from the beer and whisky fuelled bagpipe Celtic punk rockers The Grinning Barretts. Delivering more of the same with a range of floor stompin’, table poundin’ trad Irish folk originals, to catchy, ‘waketheFup’ Irish punk anthems that will sure blow the cobwebs out your ears!

Though formed in 2015 this year has been a very busy one for Vancouver Island Celt-Punk upstarts The Grinning Barretts with the release of The Riot EP quickly following their debut EP from last St. Patrick’s Day. To say we rated it highly is a bit of an understatement and we are also pleased to report that The Riot hits the high spots too.
Grinning Barretts

The Grinning Barrett’s left to right: Bern- Bass * Aaron- Bagpipes, Whistles, Vocals * Dylan-Guitar, Banjo, Vocals * Jeremy- Drums * Lydia- Riot Brewing bartender * Jimmy- badass fan * Pat- Guitar, Mandolin, Lead Vocals. Not in the pic: Kevin- Bagpipes

Hailing from the small ex-mining town of Ladysmith in British Columbia, Canada that debut release saw seven song, including two covers, of pounding anthemic Irish influenced punk rock. Simply played but with a passion missing from many a signed band The Grinning Barretts have a pride in their ancestry as well as their class which shone through in songs like ‘UFS’ (-Union Fight Song) and covers like ‘Wild Mountain Thyme’. Rather than repeat ourselves head over to our review of The St. Padraigs EP here and find out a bit more about the rich (not in money!) history of where The Grinning Barretts ancestors washed up and the individuals involved in the group.

The Riot EP was released last week and is another step in the right direction for this class band. Kicking off with ‘Armstrong Ave’ and with two pipers they waste no time in getting them involved in a Real McKenzies-ish, who even get a mention,  fast paced punk rocker.

“I hear evolution, Fire get’s passed along,  I hear the tried and true.

Who still soldier on Good Riddance, McKenzies, Strung Out, NoFX. I listen to Rancid.

I will until I’m deaf”

Punk lives on and each band carries the torch and whose to say there’s not a group of young guns out there listening to The Grinning Barrett’s who will take the torch from them… but not just yet. ‘At The Altar Of Saint Ayn’ is more Irish with vocalist Pat Barrett’s mandolin getting a good work out. The music is fast and punky with the occasional break for some trad folk and it’s all done with a style you wouldn’t often associate with a straight forward punk band. The song is interspersed throughout with chat from England’s own Christopher Hitchens. Look him up if you like and make your own minds up on what he says is all I will say. The song is about the Russian-American philosopher Ayn Rand.

“The apostles of St Ayn. Blue blooded time and time again profess the virtues of toil and sacrifice. From offices so high. Bestowed as a birthright and baptized on the altar of St Ayn”

Next up is ‘Last Call’ and is that most dreaded words for any Celtic-Punk fan. We may hate it but what about the poor bar staff trying to shoe horn us out the bleeding door! This song is for them. We have our first and only cover next up with the old and beloved ‘The Rising Of The Moon’. Picked up and sung on occasion by Celtic-Punk bands but by no means common i can only remember it played by US band The Kilmaine Saints and Ukrainians ShamRocks it’s played to the max here and coming in at under two minutes its fast and most unlike any version you ever heard before. Pat’s voice is harsh and gruff and adds plenty punk rock bite to the rest of the proceedings. Aaron and Kevin’s pipes are out again in force and it takes us nicely into ‘IBLD’ a straight up punk number with a nice guitar break from Dylan. No Celticness to admire here just a catchy as hell punk rock number. We are nearing the end and again The Grinning Barrett’s mine (!) their local history for its rich source of material and ‘King Of Scabs’ is without doubt the #1 song on The Riot EP for me. Beginning with the pipes and one hell of a catchy tune and Pat reins in his voice a little and even sings along at times. Its a cracker of a song and for those that don’t know a Scab is the word used to describe a ‘person’ who betrays his brothers and sisters and crosses a picket line. Take some advice from The Grinning Barrett’s and London Celtic Punks- Don’t ever cross a picket line. The song tells the story of miners strike and is important enough I’ll reprint it all here.

“Across a picket line a man with no loyalty walked. Into the mines because his honor had been bought and over bodies he would step to line his bank account. While other men’s families learned to go without.

1887 at Nanaimo #1 an explosion killed 148 Men. Condemned to die by conditions in the mines trying to put food on their plates. On broken strikes and broken backs the King built his castle and he paid a pittance for the lives lost deep down below. The men got locked out of the mines for talk of a better wage.

Roberts greed and Roberts pride would see them all as spaces. He hired thugs and police to harass picket lines until men accepted starvation wages in collapsing mines

(Chorus) Halfway to hell at the morning bell into the mines for coal. While the king of scabs clawed wages back from high in his castle”

The King of scabs in the song is Robert Dunsmuir, a Scottish immigrant to Vancouver island. He was a union coal miner, but crossed a picket line to scab his fellow workers becoming a wealthy coal baron as a result. He exploited Chinese workers willing to work for less to drive down wages, and was active in keeping safety laws lax. He built Craigdarroch Castle in Victoria that is still there today. The Riot EP ends, appropriately, with ‘Riot Crew’ and its all over in sixty-five seconds of fast Oi!/Streetpunk and we can finally catch our breath. The EP was recorded at the Riot Brewing Co. in Chemainus British Columbia and while it may not be everyone’s cup of tea it sure is mine! Fast and agressive Celtic-Punk with the emphasis on PUNK that is played with passion and pride. A great EP and now all they need to do is knock out a Long Player otherwise they going to dominate the Best Of Year EP charts for 2018!

(listen to The Riot EP for free before you buy here on Bandcamp)

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EP REVIEW: THE GRINNING BARRETTS- ‘The St. Padraig’s’ (2018)

 Beer and Whisky fuelled bagpipe Celtic punk rock from Vancouver Island 5 piece The Grinning Barretts who deliver a range of originals from floor stompin’, table poundin’ trad Irish folk, to catchy, ‘waketheFup’ Irish punk anthems!

The Grinning Barretts hail from the town of Ladysmith on the east coast of Vancouver Island, British Columbia, Canada. The area was renowned for coal mining in the early decades of the twentieth century. As would seem to be the way with industrial workers it is coal-miners who have been traditionally the most militant and the area was famed for it’s militancy with many strikes and unrest as the areas miners battled the mine owners in an area at the time thought to be the most dangerous in the entire world. As around the world the bosses realised it is cheaper to import coal dug by children and modern day slaves and so the mines eventually closed but the ides that were forged miles underground by those miners still live on in the closely knit town where Pamela Anderson was born! The band formed in 2015 and after going through several line up changes have finally settled upon a steady line up. The St. Padraigs EP saw the light of day on St. Patrick’s Day just passed and the Bhoys already have a follow up release planned any day soon and a third release for later in the year. Out of the ashes of local ska bands The Kiltlifters and Street Prophets Union, Scot and Pat decided after a decade away from playing live music that the time was ripe and the area was in need of a kick-arse Celtic-Punk band so after roping in recruits from the local Pacific Gael Pipes and Drums corp. as well as from the local rock scene The Grinning Barretts hit the stages around Ladysmith and the rest is history!

The Grinning Barrettts left to right: Jeremy Fiddy- Drums * Bern Kinnear- Bass * Aaron Bergen- Bagpipes/Whistles * Dylan Wickham- Guitar/Banjo/Vocals * Pat Westmacott- Guitar/Mandolin/Vocals * Kevin Dougan- Bagpipes/Whistles

The EP begins with the pounding blue-collar working class anthem ‘Plutocrass’ and it’s hard and fast bagpipe punk from the get go. The sound is in the same vein as Yank bands Templars Of Doom and Alternative Ulster. Yer basic standard catchy as hell punk rock played with superb bagpipes as an integral part of the music rather than just tacked on as an afterthought. The band call it “A shot at the rich bastards who own news outlets, and pay them to lie so they can get richer.”  

“Billionaires paying millionaires to tell the middle class to blame the poor
To keep them from our guillotines, torches and pitchforks
Billionaires paying millionaires to lie right thru their teeth
Filling empty heads with ignorance to justify their greed”

I likes it a lot! ‘W&B’ carries on in the same vein with a story of friendship but told in The Grinning Barretts own indeterminable way

“When the pot is getting hotter or you’re only treading water
I’ll be a life boat and ferry you home
Fuck your fair-weather friends I’ll be there till the end
Drinking whisky and pissing on their bones”

It’s great stuff and again catchy as hell and with a real foot slappin’ beat to it. There are no namby-pamby lyrics or feelings here just words as normal working folk would speak them. This is NOT a safe space!! Pat’s growl fits the bill and the chugging guitar accompanies the pipes perfectly here. Next is ‘Kudatah’ and there’s the slightest ever tinge of a ska beat going on. Obviously these guys can’t leave it all behind. It works as well as it so often does in Celtic-Punk.

The only Celtic instrument on display are the pipes but these Grinning Barretts are definitely an Celtic-Punk band. The use of the pipes is so entwined with the music how could they be anything else. Check out their full concert video at the end of the review for further proof. Another great example is their first cover with ‘The Wild Mountain Thyme’ as it’s never been played before. Something about this traditional Scots folk ballad just lends itself to Celtic-Punk and quite a few bands have covered it but The Grinning Barretts give it the full on punk rock treatment. They follow this up with a visit to Ireland and another, perhaps overdone, Celtic-punk standard with ‘Black Velvet Band’. The Bhoys adapt it to their own home and give it plenty of oompf and you may suspect a ballad is coming till the cobwebs are well and truly blown away and the song almost veers into metal but its the unmistakable tune of the original that shines through. We coming up to the final bend and its time for my favourite song and its an anthem dedicated to workers everywhere. A union song that would give The Dropkick Murphys a run for their money! ‘UFS’ is not just a union song though its a Join Your Union song. I come from a long line of militant trade unionists myself so love the sentiments here. If only we as workers understood our power is when we are together and that being in a union is a necessity these days. When you buy home insurance you don’t think your house is going to burn down and the same with joining the union you may think the bosses will always treat you fairly but history says your wrong. Do as The Grinning Beggars say and join a trade union today. Beers and cheers go from the band to Brooks Jamison for the superb guitar solo who delivered the goods in only three takes and asked only for beers for the pleasure. Finally The St Padraig’s EP ends with ‘To Your Name’. It’s the longest song here due mainly in part to Aaron Bergen’s fantastic bagpipe solo at the end of a classy punk rock number about always remembering you lost friends and comrades. 

“To your name, we raise a glass
To the miles that we walked together”

As I stated these are words from the heart and from the street not the coddled university’s where the pampered offspring of the middle classes turn their fury away from the real enemies and onto the working class who have never profited from anything but have always lost everything.

All together we have seven songs with five originals and some novel takes on a couple of standards that you will never have heard played like that! Not a band for the faint hearted folkie but if you love your Celtic-Punk played with passion and pride in their class and their music then this EP is for you. The Grinning Barretts will drink your beer, and you will like it.

(listen to the whole of The St. Padraigs EP below on the Bandcamp link)

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(full concert from last year at Logans in Victoria B.C. and as they say “Apologies for poor sound and dark lightning but it is a punk bar”)

EP REVIEW : IN FOR A PENNY ‘Sometimes It’s Better To Not’ (2018)

We called In For A Penny the hottest new Celtic-punk band of 2017 and with their new EP that came out for St. Patrick’s week they only cement that view in our eyes!

One of the highlights of 2017 amongst all the album releases from the ‘superstars’ of celtic-punk was the discovery of a new band out of Savannah in Georgia in the USA. In For A Penny hadn’t been going very long and both their releases of 2017 both featured high in the upper echelons of our Best Of Albums and EP’s of the year.

So it was then could they keep it up? Well on the evidence of their EP which hit the streets of Georgia last week then the answer is a resounding yes. With their previous release they have trodden a similar path with sometimes an equal amount of Irish standards and self -penned songs. Needless to say I much prefer their own songs. While they do play the standards in their indomitable way I much prefer to hear bands play and record their own material. A perfect example is their last album One More Last Hurrah! which has the perfect mix of covers and originals. You can still download the album for free or as the lads put it

“Don’t wanna pay nuthin? Cool, download it and enjoy. Think you wanna toss us a couple of bucks to help support our Irish punk habit, great. Want to give us one million dollars… well, you get the idea”.

A fantastic album recorded in just 7 (seven!) hours in in the back room of The Sand Bar on Tybee Island, GA. Not that you’d notice mind as the sound is fantastic and if you need to know anything just think that in a year of album release from the Murphys, Mollys, Flatfoot, Tossers, McKenzies and many more established and well known bands we placed it as #8 in the years album releases.

Here on Sometimes It’s Better To Not the band do not disappoint and all the songs are written by the band themselves. Irish-American Sean McNally is both songwriter and lyricist for In For A Penny and in him they have found someone who has his finger right on the nations Irish-American community. Hard to believe he first picked up a mandolin in anger in 2014 but after only a few open mic performances Sean soon realised that the response he was getting to stripped down cover’s of The Dubliners and The Dropkick Murphys on just mandolin and vocals was so great then the next step must be to form a band. Roping in old friends in Henny ‘da butcha’ on drums and Jeremy Riddle on guitar and Sean’s son Bryce on bass In For A Penny took their home state by storm and judging by the wider celtic-punk media they have taken everywhere else by storm too.

This EP, Sometimes It’s Better To Not, is only four tracks long but sails in at nearly twenty minutes long. In For A Penny while they don’t go in for short songs they also know when to bring the curtain down so the EP never drags on. Sean’s gravelly yet distinctive voice again shines through and it’s incredible to think that the whole thing started off as just a jam but within a few days the band had taken Sean’s melodies and turned them into what we have here. The EP begins with ‘Before The Devil’ and it’s unmistakable In For A Penny. For a band with such a short time span they have really nailed their sound. With Bryce, bassist and Sean’s son, having moved to Colorado Matthew Price has been filling in and opens the EP off nicely before the band join in and it’s a fast, danceable number catchy as hell and as pretty the template for celtic-punk to these big ears. A story of redemption and trying to steer clear of you know.

(the bands submission for last years The Salty Dog Cruise)

On ‘Broken’ Bryce returns for a song with him recording his bass bits at home and then sending it on to Sean to mix. Bryce played their recent St. Patrick’s shows so maybe they could go all Ned’S Atomic Dustbin and have two bassists! With a opening that sounds like a Irish rebel song it soon changes to into a track telling the tale of ‘every man’. The homeless, lost and broken in society. A brilliant track that ends on a positive note of hope. Great words and music. The EP’s epic is ‘Dancing With The Stars’ at not far off six minutes! A slower song than usual but with an intensity that makes it seem faster. The song builds and builds and amazing to think theirs only four fella’s playing here. A real foot-tapper and at times could veer off in metal but they keep it subdued and in my opinion just right.

The EP ends with the standout track next ‘Your Claddagh Heart’. Johnny Piper of London Celtic Punks faves Alternative Ulster guests on bagpipes on this one and really makes the song shine. Sending his pipe track over to Sean from New York like Bryce did making this EP certainly wasn’t a easy process.  Dedicated to Sean’s Mrs it’s a lovely song and though it’s sentimental as feck it’s not gushing and I reckon the kind of song we’d all secretly like to write for our loved ones.

“when I said I love you, I meant forever”.

Johnny’s pipes are perfect and again it’s a fairly lengthy (for celtic-punk anyway) song at just a few seconds under five minutes but still the only thing i got left to say is the EP ends all to quickly. So there you go, yet another contender for our Best Of charts from these extremely talented Bhoys from Georgia. Sadly Sean is working away from home for a few months after St Patrick’s is over so this will be the last we hear of them for a while but plenty of plans are afoot on their return so don’t let this great band slip from your thoughts. They will be back!

(you can listen to the whole of Sometimes It’s Better To Not before you buy on the Bandcamp player player before you buy. G’wan it’s only 5 bucks!)

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The Bhoys over at Mersey Celt Punks beat everyone to the first review of Sometimes It’s Better To Not and is well worth looking at for another opinion. It’s a great site and well worth subscribing to so check it out here

ALBUM REVIEW: ALTERNATIVE ULSTER- ‘Pog Mo Thoin’ (2018)

The second full length album from New York’s Alternative Ulster is thirteen songs of Celtic pride, humor and defiance. Powerful and raw and driven by Great Highland Pipes!

The roots of Alternative Ulster begin in March 2015 in NY State’s Catskill’s region. Their debut album, Rebellion, came out in February 2016 and our review ended with

an excellent first attempt by Alternative Ulster. With almost fifty minutes of raw bagpipe punk you won’t be disappointed. I have no doubt that we will be hearing much more from these guys in the future”.

After the release of Rebellion the band sadly split with the excellent Templars Of Doom forming on one side and a new version of Alternative Ulster emerging on the other. The sound of both bands is not too different and can be best described in the words of band bagpiper John McGovern when he said “1916 meets 1977” a reference to both the Irish Uprising and the year Punk Rock exploded onto the streets of London. While it is sad to see bands split at least we now have two excellent celtic-punk bands now instead of one.

Alternative Ulster left to right- Jay Andersen (Guitar, Bass, Backing Vocals) * Todd Henry (Vocals, Drums) * John McGovern (Bagpipes, Bass, Backing Vocals)

Pog Mo Thoin begins with the title track and for many of us that only know the wee snippet of our native language I’d like to bet that this phrase is one of them. Originally chosen by Shane MacGowan as the name for The Pogues he was forced to change it when it became known it was the Irish for Kiss My Arse! The song begins with rousing (what other word could apply?) bagpipes filling the air while Todd spits out a angry and defiant ‘Pog Mo Thoin’ to the Vikings, the Brits, the Yanks and anyone else who crossed the Irish over the years. A thundering bass line kicks in for ‘Drunk As Fuck’ a ramshackle punk rocker with Alternative Ulster paying homage to their mates in the celtic-punk scene with The Go-Set, The Mahones and several others encountered on a pub crawl around their home town. ‘This We Will Defend’ is straight up punk rock with bagpipes and the album is starting to take shape. So far all the songs have come in under two minutes and while the songs aren’t particularly fast they certainly have a punk rock edge to them. The first of the album’s two covers is up next and it happens to be one of my favourites. ‘Paddy’s Green Shamrock Shore’ tells the common story of a Irishman forced to leave Ireland and seek a better life in Amerikay. The origin’s of the song are unclear but it’s popularity struck a chord  amongst the Irish diaspora. Here it is played slow and Todd’s haunting slightly off-key vocals giving it the Alternative Ulster stamp. Now over here I doubt many had heard of the Krampus until the recent movie but in the States, thanks to Eastern European immigration, he’s much more wildly known.

A horned, half-goat, half-demon who, during the Christmas season, punishes children who have misbehaved. Here in ‘Krampus’ Alternative Ulster take us back to their childhood

“If you’ve been a little prick,
you’ll get no gifts from Old St. Nick.
If all you do is bitch and fuss,
best beware of old Krampus”

We back in more trad territory next with ‘Ghetto Piper’. Beginning with the pipes belting out the Irish football tune ‘Olé, Olé, Olé’ while Todd sings

“I am the ghetto piper
I’m loud, I’m proud, I’m drunk
my mighty drones will rock your bones
when I play Irish punk”

in a tribute to the man who taught John the bagpipes who made no bones about his style of piping. Anyone who has ever been to an Irish funeral will recognise the events in ‘Irish Wake’. It is of course the send off that all Irish people would want and while globalisation wipes out many of our customs some will defiantly survive, the ‘wake’ being one. Funerals in Ireland and in Irish communities abroad tend to be huge social events and it’s not unusual for people to joke and laugh and hug and slap backs. Life goes on. We have wept. We have prayed. We have laid our friend and loved one in the ground. Now we eat. We keep up our strength. We go on. In essence, that is the Irish wake.

The drone of the pipes starts ‘Free Beer Tomorrow’ and the title will be familiar to any barflys out there and celebrates the times we seized upon something too good to be true, and it was. We’re steering towards the end and time for a Scots tune in ‘Haggis’ celebrating that most wondrous of their grub and their resistance to English tyranny. In a album often interspersed with near the knuckle humour it don’t get any nearer than on ‘Self Appointed Kilt Inspector’ on which Jay and Todd tell of the trials and tribulations of wearing a kilt and that the lassie most likely to check if you’re regimental is actually the last one you’d want checking if you’re regimental. ‘Stairway To Reason’ is a Irish punk rock bagpipe racket inspired by the Led Zeppelin song ‘Stairway to Heaven’ and the references in it to The Piper. Almost at the end and ‘Ladies From Hell’ is a rousing memorial to the Highland regiments of World War One. The German soldiers were so terrified of kilted soldiers that they christened them ‘ladies from Hell’ or ‘devils in skirts’. The song begins with a pipe and drum tune over the sound of mortars. Pog Mo Thoin comes to an end with the album’s second cover, ‘Sgt. McKenzie’ and is sung in honour of all first responders and defenders of freedom that will bring a chill to the bone. Joseph MacKenzie wrote the haunting lament in memory of his great-grandfather, Charles Stuart MacKenzie who along with hundreds more from the Elgin-Rothes area went to fight in World War I. Sergeant MacKenzie was bayoneted to death at age 33, while defending one of his badly injured fellow soldiers during hand-to-hand trench warfare.

So we have an album of thirteen tracks that clocks in at just over half an hour and it has to be said this ain’t yer average celtic-punk release. It’s heart is firmly within the Irish/Celtic community of the USA but whether it will appeal to many of them is debatable. While it’s heart may be green its body is firmly punk rock and their unique punk sound is the result of Jay running his guitars through effects pedals of his own design and manufacture. At its core I think this is music designed for the pub and for those looking for a good night out to raise the rafters and their voices. Its raw and ready and maybe a bit rough round the edges but it’s overflowing with a passion I wish a few more celtic-punk bands could reproduce.

Slainte and Pog Mo Thoin!

(treat yourselves to a free listen to Pog Mo Thoin by simply pressing play on the Alternative Ulster Bandcamp player below)

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ALBUM REVIEW: THE TEMPLARS OF DOOM- ‘Bring Me The Head Of John The Baptist’ (2017)

Drinking Guinness from the Holy Grail!

These lads are as Irish as they fecking come so check out the new album of mighty celtic-punk rock from The Templars of Doom coming out of Ulster county, New York.

The Templars of Doom hail from the aptly named Ulster County in upstate New York and play punked-up Irish music inspired more by the Sex Pistols and the Ramones than by The Dubliners. Originally formed as Alternative Ulster they released an album, Rebellion,  in 2016. A raucous celebration of the 100th anniversary of the 1916 Easter Rising with a total of sixteen tunes, including six covers of the like of ‘Blitzkrieg Bop’ (The Ramones), ‘Supernaut’ (Black Sabbath) and ‘Seventeen’ (The Sex Pistols) all of which have been blended with bagpipes to give them a new and exciting celtic punk edge. Sadly the band met with some trouble and a year later they emerged with pretty much the same line up and a new name- The Templars Of Doom. While they may sound like a death metal band rest assured it’s still very much “1977-meets-1916″ with traditional Irish ballads and themes played at punk speed with bagpipes and kilts.

Michael (Bass/Vocals ) Josie (Pipes)

The album begins pretty much where Alternative Ulster left off with ‘The Oliver Cromwell Twist’ and as the band say themselves

“hits the English overlord and executioner of the Irish with a Chubby Checker-esque slam dance”

Marty Shane (Mandolin)

Rory Quinn (Guitarist, Co-Lead Vocals)

and indeed they give it to the murderous scourge of the Irish with both barrels. The Last four words, Drogheda, Wexford, Waterford, Kilkenny are the four cities in order Cromwell sacked and gave no quarter to the Irish Catholic inhabitants. At Drogheda and Wexford at least 4,000 were massacred mainly women and children. The music may be standard 70’s punk rock with bagpipes but to say it is catchy and infectious at the same time would be a massive understatement. Within a few seconds of playing my mind had gone to wild punk rock nights in New York with Irish-Americans bashing each other up on the while sliding about on a beer drenched dance floor. There though lies the rub with a band like The Templars Of Doom. They are very much a live act and though they have done a great job at capturing that here on disc they are still very much a band to be experienced live. A look down the album song titles reveals these lads are very much an Irish band and when people say that Irish-Americans aren’t Irish then get this album and shove it down their throat. At the moment, as there has always been but perhaps not as great, their is a tendency to deny ‘Irishness’ to those children of Ireland if they were born in America.  More often its from people who never left Ireland except for expensive holidays and gap years and find Irish traditions of music, dance, family and faith embarrassing and wish for Ireland a sort of globalisation where these thing are left in the past. Thank God for Irish communities around the globe who keep Irish culture alive.

The album continues with ‘Saint Patrick Saved Ireland’ and follows in much the same vein and aye you could be listening to a live track here with it’s wild abandon! The bagpipes start before the band kicks in with gang vocals and a tune, and vocals, straight out of late 70’s London. Classic rough and ready tuneful and tuneless at the same time celtic-PUNK to shake the cob-webs away with chants, reels and a punk rock mosh in the middle. 

Left to right: Rory Quinn (guitar, vocals), Eric Pomarico (drums), Michael X. Rose (Bass,Vocals), Josie Rose (Pipes), Brendan Merrit in hat(sitting in on gang vocals, pub style) at Snug Harbor, New Paltz, NY

Next up we have a song that is another embarrassment to those millennials who seem to care more about what happens on a distant shore 1000’s of miles away than just ninety miles from their parents swanky homes in Dublin. ‘A Nation Once Again’ is one of the most famous Irish rebel songs and even went so far as winning a 2002 BBC World Service poll of listeners to be crowned the world’s most popular song of all time, as performed by the kings of Irish rebel music the wonderful Wolfe Tones. Written in 1844 by the great Thomas Davis who proclaimed

“Music is the first faculty of the Irish… we will endeavour to teach the people to sing the songs of their country that they may keep alive in their minds the love of the fatherland”

So there you have it straight from Thomas mouth and I doubt very much whether or not he would care much that a band of Irish-Americans would adapt the tune and speed it up into a Irish punk rock jig  just as long as it was being played and past down to the younger generations. I swear I think trapped between the ‘West Brit’ millennials and the trad Irish folk snobs I think both would rather songs like this not be played rather than have a band of Irish descended punk rockers have a go on them! The song dreams of a time when Ireland will be a free land, and exhorts Irishmen and women to stand up and fight for their land.

“And righteous men must make our land a nation once again”

The Templars Of Doom’s version starts with bagpipe and sneering punky vocals and while its much slower than previous songs its still very much in the punk vein. It reminds me of drunken nights in Mannions in Tottenham belting out this classic with a bunch of 2nd generation Irish losers and boozers before annoying the neighbours on the way home! The album takes an unusual turn next with ‘Eyes’ and it’s a bit of country’n’western tinged Irish folk that peaks our interest. The beautiful sound of uilleann pipes as played by Scott Benson takes this song to another level and shows these Bhoys can play their instruments and belt out as good a song as anyone on the Irish circuit. ‘The Minstrel Boy’ is the shortest song here, just tipping over two minutes, and as you would expect it’s played at breakneck speed and has more in common with The Ramones than Planxty. Turn it up to 11 and get your Doc’s on, it don’t get wilder than this! The album’s title song follows and ‘Bring Me The Head Of John The Baptist’ doesn’t disappoint with more of the ramshackle UK 70’s punk rock sound that has served them well so far.

‘The Templars Erupt’ has the feel of The Pogues all over it with the setting of a bar and barroom chatter in the background while bodhrán and tin whistle fill the air. To me it sounds like it escaped from Hell’s Ditch and rightly deserved it’s place as the longest track here. We are nearing the end and they not going out gracefully and ‘Suicide Bomb’ is one of my favourites here harking back to London bands like Alternative TV and Menace while the album draws the curtains with ‘Michael Collins Ghost’ and just a couple of weeks after his birthday The Big Fellow must be looking down with pride that he still evokes such passion among the Irish and their friends. Sung and co-written by Mike O’Leary, along with Rory Quinn, the song is the highlight of the album and we will indeed

“Raise a glass to Michael Collins ghost”

The band come together perfectly here and it may have veered away slightly from celtic-punk into celtic-rock territory but who cares about that wee thing. The song is a masterpiece and great words and performance ends the album on the highest note possible.

The band have release Bring Me The Head Of St John The Baptist on their own label Poe Records which has also released CD’s from the side project of bassist and band artist Michael X. Rose, The Wild Irish Roses, which is Michael his Mrs and their 8 (eight!!) kids. Yep a true family band and also well worth checking out. This album may not get them on the bill at Get Shamrocked or even the local Celtic or Irish festival as it may induce heart attacks and fainting spells on some of the more lily livered members of our community. The Bhoys could have called it a day after Alternative Ulster but they have persevered and kept at it so if you want fast, punky, tuneful/tuneless Irish music that you can mosh pit down to with songs about the Templars, Ireland, the Holy Grail, saints and ghosts then The Templars Of Doom are your band and also the band for legions of green, spiky haired, young Paddys and Biddies across the United States!

( have a free listen to Bring Me The Head Of John The Baptist on Bandcamp before you buy on the player below)

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(For a week from now. Yes for the following seven days you can download the album for *FREE* as a special gift for all London Celtic Punks readers. Just follow this link here and download away but be quick. Where it says ‘Name Your Price’ simply put 0.00 or if you feeling generous send them a few bucks for Guinness. It will end soon but feel free to tell your mates!)

Contact The Templars Of Doom

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(Vocalist and guitarist Michael made a movie about St. Patrick versus the Druid overlords. It’s called Bloodlust of the Druid Overlords and here for your delight is the trailer. Watch this space for the full movie coming soon!

please support this film by pledging to the Kickstarter fundraising here)

ALBUM REVIEW: ALTERNATIVE ULSTER- ‘Rebellion!’ (2016)

1916 meets 1977!

Alternative Ulster- 'Rebellion'

Alternative Ulster are a new group from New York state.

Whether you call it Paddyrock, celtic-punk, Irish punk or kilt rock, makes no odds.

I was really looking forward to receiving this album after hearing some snippets of Alternative Ulster on the internet. Have to say I was a little surprised to get a call from my local pub to say the CD had been delivered there instead of my house. Still a bit baffled about how it ended up there but luckily my sister works in the pub so it ended up in safe hands.

Alternative Ulster are a newly formed 4 piece Celtic punk band from Ulster county, New York. Their recently released debut album Rebellion! is a celebration of the 100th anniversary of the 1916 Easter Rising. With a total of 16 tunes (including 6 covers) this is a pretty impressive debut from the guys. The cover songs include ‘Blitzkrieg Bop’ (The Ramones), ‘Supernaut’ (Black Sabbath) and ‘Seventeen’ (The Sex Pistols) which have been blended with bagpipes to give them a new and exciting celtic punk edge.

The album contains a number of songs which have been written about the bands local city, Kingston. ‘The British are Burning Kingston’ is a recollection of the events of 1777 when the British troops (who then occupied NY city) set fire to the city of Kingston after the battle of Saratoga. ‘Ulster County Jailbreak’ and ‘Ten Guns of Kingston’ have also been penned with local and historical influences while ‘Bannerman Island Ghost Wench’ tells the story of a haunted island in the Hudson River that is home to a crumbling castle best seen from Newburgh, NY.

Overall this is an excellent first attempt by Alternative Ulster. With almost fifty minutes of raw bagpipe punk you won’t be disappointed. I have no doubt that we will be hearing much more from these guys in the future.

By Shane O’Neill

(you can listen to the whole of ‘Rebellion’ for free before buying bu pressing play on the Bandcamp player below)

Alternative UlsterBuy The Album

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the artwork for Rebellion! and all Alternative Ulster releases was made by the singer Michael X.Rose and yopu can check more of his artwork here at his Facebook page.

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