Tag Archives: Alternative Ulster

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!)

Buy Sometimes It’s Better To Not

FromTheBand

Contact In For A Penny

Facebook  WebSite  YouTube  ReverbNation

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

Advertisements

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)

Buy Pog Mo Thoin

FromTheBand

Contact Alternative Ulster

Facebook  Bandcamp

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)

Buy Bring Me The Head Of John The Baptist

FromTheBand   CDbaby

(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

Facebook   Bandcamp  YouTube

(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

FromTheBand  CDbaby

Contact The Band

Facebook  ReverbNation  YouTube  Soundcloud  Bandcamp  Spotify

 

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.

%d bloggers like this: