Tag Archives: Flogging Molly

ALBUM REVIEW: FLOGGING MOLLY- ‘Life Is Good’ (2017)

“The one thing we are is a positive band. When people come and see our shows, it’s a celebration of life, of the good and of the bad. And we have to take the good and the bad for it to be a life”- Dave King

Life is Good!

It certainly is good for Celtic Punk fans around the globe. Here we have the release of yet another quality album in 2017. It comes from the third branch of the Holy Trinity of Celtic Punk, Flogging Molly. It follows on from outstanding albums from the other two branches this year, namely The Dropkick Murphys and Flatfoot 56. We really have been spoiled this year, especially when you consider that we’ve also had new albums from The Tossers, Damien Dempsey, Paddy and the Rats and so many more Celtic bands. Too many to mention here, especially as this meant to be a review of Flogging Molly’s Life is Good. So maybe just take a minute to think how lucky we all are to be part of such a dynamic and productive “scene”!!

Life is Good is the eighth album to have been released by Celtic Punk premier leaguers, Flogging Molly, and its class! That’s one of the things that went through my mind while I was listening to it, the class just stands out! It’s made up of 12 tracks and runs for three quarters of an hour.

That “class” is evident throughout all the tracks here, it shows how well the band works as a unit, complimenting each other. I suppose twenty years of performing together is going to give us that polished sound. Their last album “The Speed of Darkness” consisted of a, what some people might claim, more mainstream rock sound. I must admit it was one that grew on me, rather than hit me straight away, although now it is one of my favourites. Life is Good definitely sounds more Celtic influenced, with some beautiful fiddle work from Bridget and some rousing banjo from Bob. It is not as raw as Drunken Lullabies or Swagger, but the same feeling is still there, it’s just a bit more professionally produced.

It kicks off with There’s Nothing Left, setting a jaunty pace that is kept up throughout. The Hand of John L Sullivan is next. Many of you will have heard this one as it was a video released a few months ago. It shows how Dave King still has the knack for writing punchy and interesting songs to go along with his ballads and anthem like offerings. Welcome to Adamstown incorporates a great brass section to give some “oomph” to the baseline. It’s a tale of unfinished suburbia in King’s native Dublin. Next comes Reptiles (We Woke Up). Now this is one of those aforementioned anthems, I can picture the crowd at The Forum, at the end of June, having a great time with this one. A bit like the All of Our Boys / Oliver Boy singalong from Speed of Darkness.

Here it is:

The Days We’ve Yet To Meet is the next track, a good up tempo rock number. Then we have the title track, Life is Good. A bittersweet song dealing with death and illness, but also impressing upon us to live our lives and enjoy them. The Last Serenade comes next, it’s one that resonates with me, dealing with ailing fisheries that most of us who live on the coast have witnessed. It’s a slow tempoed ballad and might not really sit well with a Punk audience, but I love it! The slow pace continues with the intro to The Guns of Jericho which soon livens up to a foot stomper though!

Crushed (Hostile Nations) also starts slowly with some lovely pipes accompanying Dave’s opening lines, but it soon turns into a deep almost hypnotic heavy beat. There’s electric guitar solos and a pounding rhythm, I’m reminded of Horslips, but different! There seems to be a darkness to it, probably part of the “Hostility”. A great track!!After the angst of Crushed, we move into the optimism of Hope! Another one that will have the fans up and singing along to the chorus. The Bride Wore Black is a fine pacy tune that you could dance to. I don’t know who it’s about, but she sounds like a bit of craic anyway!! We finish with Until We Meet Again, another ballad with some lovely fiddle and accordion playing, that rounds off the album perfectly.

Flogging Molly have been together for twenty years now, having formed in 1997. Dave King, Bridget Regan, Bob Schmit, Denis Casey, Nathan Maxwell, Matt Hensley and Mike Alonso have combined to bring us six exceptional studio albums and two sublime live recordings. They have played some of the best live gigs that I’ve been to and I hope to see many more! What they bring to the music scene in general and the Celtic Punk scene in particular is an authenticity and intelligence. Let’s hope they (and me!) are around in another twenty years! Slainte.

Ger Mellon 2017.

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  • On Thursday you lucky folk Flogging Molly play at The Forum in Kentish Town, north London. Ticket information here.

ALBUM REVIEW: CELKILT- ‘Stand’ (2017)

” …Then the Great Alchemist gathered Water, Air, Earth and Fire around the Muse.
He gave them the High Voltage Energy of Rock and the cheerful power of the Irish Jigs, gave them fiddle, drums, guitar, bass, whistles and bagpipes, and then told them:
” You shall be embodied, you shall live, you shall play and you shall discover the great power of the Kilt.”
And it was so, and so was CelKilt born, serving a bouncy, joyful and energetic music.
The Alchemist contemplated the Greatness of his Work and thought “This kicks ass “, then he went to the pub for a good old pint of Guinness”

Celkilt are a bloody brilliant five piece celtic-punk band from Roanne, near to Lyon, which is almost splat bang in the middle of France and have been together for it would seem about seven years. I say it would seem as all their web site is in French so if you speak French then good for you. I have come across them before but to be honest hadn’t given them much of a chance. Various YouTube videos and the odd song but until their On The Table album that was it and even then it had to be squeezed in as part of our end of year review round up’s. Silly really as on listening to Stand I have really been missing out on something good.

Stand is Celkilt’s sixth release and their third studio album but they began their recording history with a self-titled mini-album back in 2011 and have had pretty much a record release per year ever since. They followed Celkilt with another mini-album called Hey What’s Under your Kilt? in 2012, then their debut full lengther, Everyday’s St Patrick’s Day in 2013 and it’s follow up, On The Table in 2014. A year off in 2015 and their last release was the ten track Kiltmas Songs of spoofed up celtic-punk versions of Christmas carols and Christmas themed originals. In common with all their releases it was served up in only twenty five minutes. Fast, frantic and furious Celkilt are the ultimate good time band but, and I am glad to say, here they have taken a slightly more relaxed approach and have put out a record that, amazingly for them, even has two songs that last over five minutes!

Celkilt left to right: Ana- Fiddle * Titou- Guitar/Vocals * Loic- Bagpipes/Whistles * Rems- Drums * Drik- Bass

Stand begins with ‘Sometimes I Care’ and is as good an album kick-off as I have heard in years. The sound of pipes blasts straight out the speakers at you. First impression is of the legendary AC/DC track ‘Thunderstruck’ but is followed up with a great tune with an absolutely wonderful arrangement. Superb! This is a loud album and designed to be played LOUD so kick up the sound and get right into it. ‘Kilt Up!’ follows with more great piping and some fast paced melodic punk packed with celtic fiddle and pipes.

One thing we reviewers don’t like to be short of in any review is good videos and Celkilt have tonnes of them. Be sure to subscribe to their You Tube channel and put a hour or two away to one side to check them out you won’t be disappointed. ‘I Don’t Have a Brain’ is another celtic-pop punk blast with Titou’s voice leading us through. He may be French but sounds almost perfect American and is completely clear. You can make out everything he is singing despite the punky background to it. As we said before Celkilt are not a band for hanging about. Usually they like to get through things super fast but it’s good they have decided to take their time even if it didn’t mean slowing down. ‘Fall in Place’ may be five minutes plus but  certainly never drags and brings in plenty of Celkilt’s famous Breton influences. Here they also sound like one of my all-time favourite bands Seven Nations and believe me that is only a compliment.

So just as you are all relaxed and settling in they then bring out ‘Lost and Found’ and they step completely away from what we are expecting. A slow rock ballad number with a small fiddle part until the end when it begins to sound more like the Celkilt we know. Fear not though as we are back in classic celtic territory next with the amazing instrumental ‘Gavotte Party / Whipping Reel / Motherjigger’. Three tunes combined that show simply what top musicians they are. While I was expecting them to keep it trad’ they couldn’t help themselves and its more of the fast, frantic and furious style that they are famous for. Completely respectful of the tune but updated for the modern era. If anyone ever thought folk music was boring then play them this bugger and they will soon change their minds! A real change of pace next with the acapello sea shanty ‘All the Way’. All the band share vocals and the gang chorus makes this a good choice of song despite its brevity. My album highlight is up next and ‘I Gotta Run’ has it all. Fast, tuneful, celtic-punk that is so catchy you’ll be humming it for days I warns you. My only complaint is it’s too bloody short!!

The album’s second and last instrumental is up next and ‘Hornjig’ is done trad style this time. Nothing added, just the music of our forefathers. The song leads into ‘Superpower’ and has a much more traditional Irish punk sound to my ears. We back in Cali next and some more of their trademark celtic-pop-punk sound with ‘Better’. Catchy as hell and a real foot stomper. It may not sound exactly like a celtic version Of Green Day or NOFX but Celkilt have this sound absolutely nailed. We are coming up to the final bend and ‘The Last Day of My Life’ returns the LP to a more traditional folky sound. Stepping away from their usual style it still doesn’t sound out of place at all. Another great song.

The album ends with the outstanding ‘Stand’. Plenty of gang vocal “Woo Hooo Hooo’s” bring to mind the best tracks of the new Murphys album but once again Celkilt know exactly when to step it up and take their songs to another level. The fantastic production here manages to capture perfectly the various musicians at their best and though it is certainly well polished it is never overdone at all.

So there you go and I have to say on listening to Stand I’ve had to promote Celkilt up to the Premier League of top celtic-punk bands. As one of only a handful of European bands to tour the United States they surely deserve that place at the top table and this stunning album easily gives the likes of the Murphys, Mollys, Flatfoot, Tossers, Mahones, MacKenzies a run for their money. This album has it all. Both the folk and the punk sides of Celkilts music are good enough to keep either sides purists happy and the combination of the two will I am sure be converting many of them to celtic-punk. An absolute stunner of an album that I cannot recommend enough. Don’t be a fool like me and let this band pass you by for a moment longer.

Buy Stand

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  • you can check out Celtic Folk Punk And More’s review of Stand here which also links you to reviews of all Celkilt’s previous releases.

ALBUM REVIEW: THE TOSSERS- ‘Smash The Windows’ (2017)

From the predominantly Irish neighborhoods of Southside Chicago The Tossers have been expanding the boundaries of contemporary Irish music since before much better known bands had even begun and have become one of the most popular and successful bands in the worldwide celtic-punk scene.

By Shane O’Neill

tossers

Only a few weeks into 2017 and we have already seen a whole host of fantastic album’s being released onto the scene. The Tossers are celtic-punk heavyweights and they hail from Chicago, Illinois. To be exact they hail from the South of Chicago. This is the part of Chicago that has housed the cities Irish Catholic community ever since they first started arriving from the ‘auld country’. The immigrant history of Chicago is rooted among untold amount of countries and people whose struggles and adversities have led them to the Midwest and to Chicago. From the cities founding in the 1830’s, Chicago has been the final destination for people journeying from all over the world looking for the famed land of opportunity that is the US of A.  It may surprise people to know that in a city known as ‘Chicago Polonia’, and also ‘Poletown’, that it is the Irish that constitute the city’s biggest ethnic community. While most Irish-American families in Chicago are three or four generations deep, plenty of Chicago’s Irish have landed fairly recently. Ireland’s economy in the 1980’s and 1990’s prompted many of its young people to go where many others had gone before them and Chicago with it’s strong Irish links was if not top of the list then very close to it.

tossers-erin

It’s hard to believe that the self-proclaimed ‘World’s Loudest Folk Band’ have been around for twenty-four years now, forming as they did in July, 1993. The six piece from south Chicago have been unleashing their brand of Celtic folk punk even before Dropkick Murphy’s (1996) and Flogging Molly (1997) hit the scene. Steeped in Irish tradition, The Tossers take their place as one of the finest Celtic punk bands on the planet. Like most bands of this genre you can clearly hear the influences of The Pogues and Tony Duggins style of delivering the vocals is frighteningly close to Shane McGowan. That said, The Tossers are not a tribute act – far from it. They have a very unique way of delivering a fine but hooligan like take on folk music. The band’s name though for us here in Britland is an unusual one and would I think effect their t-shirt sales here. Saying that one of the blog editor’s wears his Tossers t-shirt with pride and I must say it suits him fine! Rest assured though it’s not the rude meaning you lot think it is as it actually dates back to Shakespeare, and depending who you ask it also means commode, drunk, to agitate, disturb, or disquiet but the band chose their name for its meaning to “throw away”.

tossers-band

Smash The Windows is due for release early March 2017 and comes four years after their last album hit the streets, the astounding The Emerald City back in March 2013. You can read our review of The Emerald City here and I suggest you do as it is a fantastic album that i still play regularly. Smash The Windows is certainly value for money with a total of seventeen songs that clock in at just under one hour in length. That is definitely a well packed album and there’s something in there for everyone. The album pays tribute to the bands Irish roots and what it meant to be an Irish American.

The album begins with ‘Erin Ga Bragh’ which is of course Irish for Ireland For Ever and The Tossers nail their colours to the mast from the very off. Fast and furious Irish punk rock played on mainly acoustic instruments that would equally please the most devout punk or folky! ‘Smash The Windows’ and ‘The Horses’ are both full of energy and I can imagine them being a real hit live. There is a cracking cover of ‘The Foggy Dew’ which is always a crowd pleaser. I have never really been a fan of the song ‘Danny Boy’ (not sure why) but I must say I really like The Tossers version. Of course, it wouldn’t be a Celtic Punk without a tribute to our beloved alcohol. ‘Drinking All The Day’, ‘Whiskey’ and ‘Lots Of Drops Of Brandy’ ticks this box on the new album. ‘1969’ brings us back to a darker time in Ireland’s history during the Civil Rights campaign and serves as a reminder that we should never forget what the brave people of the time fought for on our behalf. In today’s world, we take too much for granted and forget that without the sacrifices of many back in the 60’s and 70’s things could have been very different today. There are too many good tunes on this album to pick a favourite. Not one of them have disappointed. The album is being released by Victory Records and will be a big hit.

The Tossers Logo

Again on this album one of the things that amazes me is the way that The Tossers can change tempo and go from a raucous Irish punk rock number to a solemn reflective Irish ballad or a full on trad folk piece without you even noticing. The Tossers are more than just a band to their fans. They inspire and promote a love in your roots that is sadly missing for most people. They tell the tale of both Chicago and America’s Irish communities. Serious and piss-taking and joyful and sad and upbeat and maudlin The Tossers do it all and yes we Irish are all of these things… and The Tossers celebrate it all.

Discography

The Pint of No Return (1994) * We’ll Never Be Sober Again (1996) * The Tossers/The Arrivals- split (1998) * Long Dim Road (2000) * Citizen Fish/The Tossers- split (2001) * The First League Out From Land-EP (2001) * Communication & Conviction: Last Seven Years (2001) * Purgatory (2003) * Live At The Metro ’04 (2004) * The Valley of the Shadow of Death (2005) * Agony (2007) Gloatin’ and Showboatin’: Live on St. Patrick’s Day (2008) On a Fine Spring Evening (2008) The Emerald City (2013)

Buy The Album

Here directs to several sites where the pre-order is available or VictoryRecords

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ALBUM REVIEW: BLACK WATER COUNTY- ‘Taking Chances’ (2017)

Dorset based six-piece celtic-punk band Black Water County’s debut album for this reviewer is as good as ANYTHING to be released this year.  Music to proper “beat up the floor to” !!

bwc-chances

Sandwiched between album releases by such celtic-punk greats such as the Dropkick Murphys, The Real McKenzies, The Tossers and Flatfoot 56 is this wonderful album by one of the best bands in the English scene Black Water County. Truly it’s no exaggeration to say that Taking Chances will be neck and neck with the aforementioned bands come the end of the year Best Of poll’s. Formed in Dorset, on the English south-coast, back on St Patrick’s Day in 2013 they celebrate only their 4th anniversary this year and in that time they have the folk/celtic-punk scene here alight and with this album hopefully their popularity will spread beyond these shores. Dorset and the surrounding area has been a mecca for celtic style punk bands for well over a decade with a whole host of bands plying their trade. People may think that London is some hot bed of celtic-punk activity but truth be told the real powerhouse is down there on the south coast of England! Most of them are gone now but several fantastic bands are still playing in each others backyards and all support each other with a friendly rivalry that most music scene’s could only dream of.

(debut EP Welcome To The Black County)

With basically the same line up since day one it’s not just the music that holds these Bhoys and Ghirl together but also the bonds of friendship. Famed for their energetic live show and their stout quaffing, banjo breaking, tin whistle mangling music Black Water County ‘s busy schedule seems them gigging away all over the south of England and building up an army of fans that sees many sold out and packed out shows along the way. They have two releases under their belts thus far with their debut EP Welcome To The Black Water County coming out in 2013 and following it up in 2014 with The Fellowship Of The Craic. Both achieved a high level of critical success from the celtic-punk media and around Dorset and has left us all eagerly awaiting Taking Chances to see if it’s as good as we are hoping.

(follow up EP The Fellowship Of The Craic)

The album kicks off with ‘Start Something New’ and right from the very first seconds you know it’s Black Water County. Released as the second single from the album a couple of weeks ago it’s fast, it’s furious, it’s fun and it’s f’ing brilliant as well. Everyone in the band gets a chance to showcase what they do and they do in every single song. Tim’s vocals suit the music perfectly with a voice that can easily switch between the punkier tunes to the more subtle celtic songs with ease.

(video filmed and edited by Marriane Harris)

Andy’s drumming is loud but not obtrusive and keeps the music flowing while the rest of the band swirl around and in between it. ‘The Painful Truth’ is slower but still the drumming gives it that punky edge without being over the top. A track that on the face of it owes much to Flogging Molly but when i really listened to it sounds nothing like them but a whole lot like Black Water County. They definitely inhabit the Molly’s side of celtic-punk rather than the Dropkick Murphys but they have managed to carve out a sound of their own within a scene that does sometimes lack in originality. What have been the Irish musical influences that have seen them get here is a question for another day but BWC haven’t just downed the Flogging Molly songbook and regurgitated it that’s for sure. Shan gets her first chance on the album to shine vocally sharing vocals with Tim on ‘Way Down Low’ and Gavin’s mandolin is the other star of this song. Expertly played and one of the features of this band live is watching his fingers as he plays with steam coming off them!

They don’t let the speed drop off for a second and I can attest that they are like this live as well. No time to breathe as they sweep through. On ‘If Only You Were Here’ Shan sings alone while Bradley and Tim hammer their guitar and bass in the album’s punkest song. Well you think they gonna follow this up with a ballad but the slow start is just a con and before long their thrashing away again with tin whistle dominating ‘Rise and Fall’. We at the half way point now and no sign of ‘The Irish Rover’ either. ‘One More Beer Won’t Hurt’ was the first song to be released from Taking Chances and quite rightly takes it’s place as the standout track of the whole album. Not to say there is much in it as every song here could take that title at one time or another.

Again this is classic Black Water County and they are doing in without sounding like anyone else. Tim’s voice again stands out in this joyful song and the bands lyrics are told in that story telling way we love here in London Celtic Punks. The right mix of humour and seriousness certainly belies Tim’s youth though that beard does make him look older! Re-recorded from the single version I do think it misses Shan on backing vocals but that’s only a minor gripe. Finally we get a ballad with ‘Memories from Another Life’ and it’s long been established that the older celtic-punk fans get the more we like the ballads! Shan is back on lead vocals on the longest song here of five and a half minutes. A country tinged ballad of love and pain and loss. They can’t help themselves and the song speeds up at the end making it something you could imagine Bruce Springsteen 2017 singing. We get a brass section on following song ‘Rambling Johnny’ which chucks in an unexpected ska beat and we are away with what must be a live favourite I’m sure. Had me nodding the head listening to it anyway! ‘No Regrets’ continues with the brass section and the album is getting more and more rockier with a song that could easily get in the set of ska-punk legend’s the Voodoo Glow Skulls.

(not the album version but still great)

We are nearing the end of Taking Chances and it’s been one hell of a ride I can tells you. Penultimate song ‘Under Skies of Black and Blue’ slows it down for about five seconds and they seem to determined to go out fighting with another fast as hell country tinged celtic-punk song. The only band member here who so far hasn’t received a mention is fiddle player Russell and I hope I don’t embarrass him now by heaping ten tonnes of praise onto his shoulders. Simply fantastic playing all the way through this album. Where required the fiddle comes through loud and clear and those other times when it needs to step back again and let other instruments and voices shine it is just perfect. Taking Chances ends with ‘Seeing Is Believing’ and finally the auld fogies among us get that ballad we awaiting. Just Tim and acoustic guitar and some great positive lyrics about picking yourself up and carrying on. Some tin-whistle and understated fiddle joins in but its Tim here who leads.

BWC

Well what to say. Eleven songs that comes in at a very healthy forty-three minutes of original tunes played by a band who haven’t copied or aped anyone to get where they are. Coupled with the fact that these are some of the nicest people I have ever met through the music scene what we have here is the first installment of a band set to go onto legendary status. Yes this album is that good. From beginning to end not a bum note or a tiresome song. Each track is superb and shows a band that works together to achieve such a great sound. There are no leaders here just a bunch of friends working together to bring some of the best Irish/celtic-punk rock to your ears as is possible, despite that competition, in 2017!

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ALBUM REVIEW: THE O’REILLYS AND THE PADDYHATS- ‘Seven Hearts One Soul’ (2016)

Imagine the foggy streets of long ago Dublin, crowded pubs ringing with laughter and singing, a time of sailing fishermen and people with stalwart beliefs. The past wrapped up in songs that make you want to dance and sing along till your throat demands another pint. This is what it’s like to listen to The O’Reillys And The Paddyhats!

oreillys-and-the-paddyhats

The O’Reillys and the Paddyhats played their debut gig at a wedding near Dortmund back in only June 2011 and since then have quickly shot to the top branches of the European celtic-punk tree. Germany has has always had a big love affair with Ireland. As a child it never ceased to amaze me that when i was over in the ‘auld country’ on my school holidays every other person seemed to be a German and their love of Ireland was clear. I remember well a conversation with some German tourist at a train station about The Wolfe Tones as a young teen while getting disapproving looks from my Grandad who though special branch were listening to every word anyone said! These Bhoys and Ghirl from the small town of Gevelsberg, just down the road from the city of Dortmund, are no different. Their love of Ireland is palpable and you can can feel it throughout this wonderful album that is sure to only improve their standing. The German celtic-punk scene is among the best in the world with bands such as Mr. Irish Bastard, Fiddler’s Green, The Porters, In Search of A Rose, The Ceili Family and the sadly deceased Auld Corn Brigade entertaining the world!

the oreillysThis is the bands follow up to their debut album Sound of Narrow Streets from September 2012 and they raised the funds for the release of Seven Hearts One Soul themselves and with the help of their loyal fans raised an incredible E8000 on crowdfunding to pay for its production in full. Recording the album in the famed Principal Studios home of legendary German punk band Die Toten Hosen just up the road from them the album is not simply your typical Irish folk punk record. All the elements are there sure and they straddle nicely the middle ground between scene giants The Murphys and the Mollys between the more folky and the more punky sides of celtic-punk but The O’Reillys And The Paddyhats have found their own niche within the scene and boy does it work well.

Seven Hearts One Soul begins with a short intro set aboard a sailing ship before ‘Black Sails’ bursts into your eardrums and we are off. Chugging guitar and great fiddle work with touches of country but firmly within the pirate tradition with a outstandingly catchy chorus. One of the things that the German celtic-punk bands don’t shy away from is Irish republicanism and I would even go so far as to say it’s one of the reasons why the Germans love us so much. ‘We All Know’ is not your standard rebel but the band give it plenty of oompf and its drives along at a great auld pace. Next is ‘Black and White’ and the banjo stands out here with a slightly slower song without losing any of the bands power. They return to pirate territory with ‘Chief of the Sea’ which starts slow before turning into a real thigh slapper. A solid backline accompanying the celtic instruments in this song about wanting rum!

The video is not the version from the album but if anything I much prefer it. Next up is the fantastic song ‘Barrels of Whiskey’ for which The Paddyhats put out a fecking brilliant video, below. Amazing fiddle here in this song, about illegally making whiskey, as throughout the album.

Follows is ‘Hey You’ and catchy as hell until the chorus kicks in and it manages to get a whole lot better and even has the tiniest bit of a ska beat chucked in there too. ‘Fair Old Lady’ is an ode to their home town of Gevelsberg and begins with acoustic guitar and has some great lyrics. ‘What I Am’ shows The O’Reillys And The Paddyhats in reflective mood with a slow ballad start that soon speeds up but could still be classed as a ballad. They have managed to record an album that captures their live sound well and if I ever get to see this band I expect to be on the receiving end of a sore throat screaming for an encore. ‘Hang By the Neck’ continues the catchyness of this album with more than a wee trace of country. The album ends with the only cover version here and ‘Black and Tans’ is a faithful version of the Dominic Behan penned Irish rebel song that is sure to get anyone’s blood pumping every time you hear it coming on!

“I was born on a Dublin street where the Royal drums do beat
And the loving English feet they tramped all over us,
And each and every night when me father’d come home tight
He’d invite the neighbors outside with this chorus

Oh, come out you black and tans,
Come out and fight me like a man
Show your wives how you won medals down in Flanders
Tell them how the IRA made you run like hell away,
From the green and lovely lanes in Killashandra”

Tin whistle leads us into this song tells of the brutal paramilitary force the British government sent to Ireland in 1919 to smash resistance and the quell the rebellion that sought to end British rule and links that fight for freedom to others around the world. The nickname ‘Black and Tans’ came from the colours of their hastily put together uniform of mixed khaki of the British Army and rifle green from the Police. With the Irish leading the way and providing inspiration others took up the mantle and fought the British Empire across the world for their own independence. Due to their murderous activities and the atrocities they committed, feelings continue to run high and a ‘Black and Tan’ or just simply a ‘Tan’ remains a term of abuse and their very mention shows they are still despised by many in Ireland. It rocks out and has the best shouty chorus of any rebel song ever written.

paddyhats

left to right: Fitzgerald O’Brien (Bass) ; Sean O’Reilly (Acoustic Guitar, Flutes, Lead Vocals) ; Emily O’Farrel (Fiddle) ; Dr. Bones (Drums) ; Ian Mac Fannigan (Backing Vocals, Washboard, Chain) ; Dwight O’Reilly (Banjo, Mandolin, Accordion, Backing Vocals) ; Ryan O Leary (Step Dancer) ; Connor O’Sullivan (Electric Guitar)

Released on the 9th of April earlier this year it has been slow in reaching us and then we were a bit late in getting this review done but it has been well worth the wait. Of the eleven songs all have been written by the band with the only exception that one excellently played cover. The CD comes with an excellent 16 page booklet with all song lyrics and any other information you could possibly need. The CD also comes in a special limited edition box-set with a whole host of goodies so check out the band web-site for that. Clocking in at 35 minutes the album is a quick and highly enjoyable blast that simply bursts with energy and atmosphere. Transporting you out of your living room and into the one place this kind of music was supposed to be heard. Yes, the pub! The O’Reillys And The Paddyhats play with an passion and pride in Irish music and culture that is a joy to behold. They take us on a journey (by sea of course!) full of tales of love and loss, of rebellion and comrades and friendship and, of course, drinking. The Paddyhats show what is possible in the celtic-punk scene. That it is still possible to come up with something fresh and unique and entertaining from beginning to end.

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ALBUM REVIEW: CLEAR THE BATTLE FIELD- ‘Set Me Free’ (2016)

Armagh born multi instrumentalist Dominic Cromie and crew with a modern take on traditional Irish music that has something for bloody everyone!

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When talking about celtic-punk people sometimes think of a narrow genre situated somewhere between the two most famous bands to come out of it, The Pogues and The Dropkick Murphys, but when you also throw in Flogging Molly you begin to have a genre that stretches from traditional Irish folk all the way to hardcore punk. I also tend to think of other such diverse artists as Johnny Cash, Tom Waits and even Social Distortion as being an large influence on what we call celtic-punk today in 2016. Clear The Battlefield are no different. Taking Irish and celtic music and mixing it with all sorts of traditions, some old and some modern, all the while putting their own spin on it.

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Clear The Battlefield’s main instrumentalist, vocalist and lyricist is Dominic Cromie. Born in county Armagh in the north of Ireland he first began playing guitar at the age of ten and by eleven had written his first song. He played his first gig at fourteen with his sister Aine who was by then becoming a well know singer on the Irish show band scene. After touring Ireland, England, Scotland, Wales and Holland, Dominic left Ireland for the United States in 1991 to pursue his dream as a singer songwriter. Dominic formed Raglan Road, a Celtic rock band and has toured throughout the States performing with many of the nations best Irish-American bands. After these he formed Clear The Battlefield in 2008 and has been gigging solidly since leading up to this their debut album, Set Me Free.

dominic2The album begins, significantly perhaps, with the only cover on the album,’I Roved Out’. A old traditional folk song covered by all the great and the good in Irish musical history. Confusingly there are two versions of ‘I Roved Out’ but this is the one as popularised by Christy Moore telling the rather common tale of a young woman who is seduced by a soldier, only to find that he has abandoned her the next morning. The album kicks off with a sort of dancey backbeat and my first worry is that it is going to be like those awful techno rebel song medleys that get released every now and then and are used to whip up the drunks in nightclubs across the Irish diaspora. I need not have worried though as its not intrusive and (can I hear myself actually saying this) sounds pretty good.

Anyway pretty soon in the Irish instruments take over and expertly played tin whistle comes in and later the glorious sound of uileann pipes.

“With me too-ry-ay Fol-de-diddle-day
Di-rah fol-de-diddle, dai-rie oh”

Next up is ‘The Valley’ and a slow song but with Dominic’s voice bursting with emotion. He is blessed with a voice that sounds like those old crackly records our Grandparents owned but with the modern touches it easily straddles both worlds of old and new. ‘You’ follows and is a nice love song done as alternative sounding country while ‘Mary’ is back to more folkier territory. We are back next with ‘Set Me Free’. The instrument count rises as Dominic and crew rattle through a somewhat tribal tune. At any second we expect it to fly into complete trad but its just reined back enough. Accompanied by a great video that leaves us in no doubt where Dominic’s heart and passion lies.

The album’s longest track is the instrumental ‘The Rights Of Man’ at over six minutes and begins with an instrument we do not hear enough of in celtic punk those uileann pipes. With Black 47 no more and a long long time since Stephen Gara packed his bags for NYC and left London Irish rockers Neck only Italian band Uncle Bard And The Dirty Bastards are giving us what we want. More pipes! The following songs follow a similar path in that they start off as just guitar and voice before flying off into something else. ‘Get Up’ benefits from a Irish ending while ‘Go’ returns the album to the unconventional country sound we heard earlier.

We even dip into ‘C86’ sounding indie with ‘Even After The Drugs’ that takes in bands like The La’s or Teenage Fanclub. Finally Set Me Free comes to an end with ‘Days Days Days’ a short blast of upbeat jazzyness that is a way cool way to bring the curtain down.

The ten songs clock in at just under forty minutes and if I had a slight, and I mean slight, criticism with Set Me Free it would be that their is perhaps some unnecessary flourishes that don’t really add much to the music. It’s not your typical celtic-punk and sometimes it feels like the most un-celtic-punk celtic-punk album we have ever reviewed here. Nevertheless I thoroughly enjoyed it. The playing here is truly to be marvelled at and regardless of whether it is punk or not will strike a chord with anyone with a love of traditionally played Irish music.

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ALBUM REVIEW: RUSTY NAIL- ‘Bitter Ale, Bitter Heart’ (2016)

If Liam Clancy grew up listening to Nirvana, it would sound like Rusty Nail.

St.Louis based Celtic-infused celtic-rock originals and traditional Irish Pub songs.

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Rusty Nail will be a name new to the vast majority I am sure but with this their new album they deserve a much wider audience and this just may be the one to get them it. Born and bred in the second biggest city of Missouri, St. Louis and when you find out the biggest city in Missouri is Kansas City you begin to realise exactly whereabouts in America you are. Famed through cinema history as the epi-centre of just about any decent cowboy film St Louis was a city founded by the French that transformed into a booming nineteenth-century industrial mecca. Experiencing a massive influx of people beginning in the 1840’s especially from Ireland and also from Germany, in forty years the population grew from 20,000 to 160,00 in 1860. Today the US Census Bureau gives the population of St. Louis as 318,416. Militant societies were formed, and an Irish nationalist rally at the Old Courthouse over 110 years ago filled the place to the rafters. Sadly in recent years the economy of the city has declined and St Louis has the highest percentage loss of residents of any city in the USA losing 62.7% since the 1950 census. It also has one of the highest murder rates in the USA (happily on the decline since 1993) but don’t despair as gentrification has given the business area lots of shiny new buildings for everyone to look at from across the city. Though as usual statistics don’t take into account the heart of a city and St. Louis has plenty of that. The city has also acknowledged their roots with those famine Irish who arrived all that time ago by twinning with both Galway and Donegal and while many of the Catholic churches those Irish built are gone and new residents live where they once lived the Irish community is still vibrant and strong with gaelic games and culture and tradition flourishing. The story of the St. Louis Irish is fascinating and I spent many a late night reading about them for this review. A great place to start is Bob Corbett’s Dogtown Homepage here. Dogtown is the Irish part of St. Louis and the name stems from the time of the St. Louis World’s Fair in 1904 when poor Irish squatters, living in makeshift shanties in Forest Park, were forced by the fair to move southward to the neighboring hill. As Bob himself says

“When they had to give up their squatters’ rights in the park, many of them moved over here. Most of them had space, so they kept hunting dogs. Quite a few of the people living over here descend from them”

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So out of this imperfect (tell me where is?) city comes the latest in a long line of Irish infused celtic-punk bands. Rusty Nail are a seven piece group formed in the winter of 2005 that plays music inspired by the likes of the ususal suspects of The Pogues, The Tossers and Flogging Molly but also of the Clancy Brothers, The Wolfe Tones and even Tom Waits. Their debut album, Ounce And A Half Of Whiskey, released in 2006 showed a band a long way from today’s incarnation. Played as a straight up four piece acoustic band the album stands up extremely well with its mix of mostly self penned ballads and a few trad covers and all with some surprisingly good country’n’western touches. They followed that up in 2011 with the release of Boozers, Bastards, and Bards. It saw the band move away from the acoustic more folkier music they had been playing. As Rusty Nail co-founder Alvan Caby says

“We always wanted to be a full rock band. So about a year into the band’s run, we added drum, bass and guitar slots to make a bigger sound”

With this ‘full sound’, as they put it, the album brought some great reviews and gained them massive exposure and they very soon became firm favourites among the St Louis Irish community and its friends. The album is again a  collection of mostly self penned tunes about drunks, unsavory characters and Irish poets chucked into a blender and mixed up with traditional folk sounds, rock and punk. The band take their name from an old-timey alcoholic beverage made with Whiskey and Drambuie Liqueur that gives a nod to the past while keeping it modern and helping along the booze-fueled festivity!

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Rusty Nail left to right: Pete McAvity- Electric Guitar * Chris Otto- Tin Whistle, Native American Flute * Dennis Frentzel- Drums * Kelly LaRussa- Violin * Alvan Caby- Mandolin, Guitar, Vocals * Chad Ross- Guitar, Banjo, Dulcimer, Accordion, Bouzouki, EBow, Organ * Mark Hochberg- Bass

So in the 10th anniversary year of the band they have come up trumps again with Bitter Ale, Bitter Heart. The album begins with ‘The Magician’ and fiddle and from the outset sets the tone. You can hear influence from The Tossers here but Rusty Nail are their own band and within the first few bars you can tell this band is something special. Alvan’s lyrics sound like they are ripped straight out from his heart and laid bare for us. He said in a recent interview that

“There’s lots of silly lyrics in our older songs. But for now it’s about the idea of honesty and true-story kind of stuff. I’m a big fan of sad lyrics with happy-sounding music. There are a lot of artists who do a similar sort of thing. It’s about being honest. I don’t know if it will mean as much to the next person as it does to me, but maybe it will. It helps me deal with feelings of failure, feelings of loneliness and feelings of disappointment. But there’s also feelings of love and hope. As dark as the songs get, then there’s still hope”

That thing Alvan said about sad lyrics with happy-sounding music nails the Rusty Nail sound perfectly. ‘Return To The Start’ the next track up gives off an triumphant air with the jolly sound of fiddle and this time the mandolin to the fore but again there’s much more to it.

(not the album version but I like it even more)

Alvan’s voice is not yer perfect croon, that much is true but I very much doubt it could be done any other way and it fits in like no ‘crooner’ ever could. ‘Giving Up’ gives it over to the tin whistle to shine and more lyrics maybe best not to listen to in the dark on your lonesome but by Christ it’d be enough to get you out yer chair and leaping around. As has been said before here on this blog the level of musicianship of some of these celtic-punk bands is incredible.

‘Less Than Angels’ is the first slower song of the album and tells of the Irish that left in those so called ‘famine’ years. Again a real and honest heartfelt song that tells the story in a way I have never quite heard before.

“The hunger drives you to do incredible things

To travel across oceans and cut off all our wings

And be less than angels with sin in our heart

Abandoning our nature, destroying all our art

 

They say that the famine was the cause for all of this

It’s a hell of a gamble, a swing and a miss

A perishable future amongst gravel and soot

The dust of our harvest is trampled under foot

 

Will the poor be poor always?

Zero hope and dream is killed

Will the classes and divisions

Become narrower still

No belief in myself

Erasing all our goals

The grave-digging starts tomorrow

Better start digging your hole

 

The hunger drives you to do unspeakable acts

To lie to your brother, exaggerate the facts

And be less than angels with blood on our hands

The hourglass is emptied of the last grains of sand

 

I’ll do anything for a job, anything for a life

I’ll suffer for the scraps, for child and for wife

Bill collectors have all taken the dignity I have left

Politicians and the banks are all guilty of theft”

The band are back rocking out with ‘It’s A Shame I Did Nothing’ and gives them the chance to show off their rock credentials but also chucks in a flute to keep it celtic and an acoustic guitar that shines through the rocking loud and clear. ‘Another Story of Unreturned Love’ is by far and away the catchiest song on this album of catchy songs. Telling of a failed relationship and its aftermath.

“I couldn’t talk to you

Standing in front of you

Holding my feelings and biting my tongue

And our “Little Ireland” is what we decided on

Things that I wish that I said when I’m young”

All the band come together in celtic-punk perfection and a wee mention for the superb drumming here too. ‘Hardscrabble Road’ is the tale of a loser told in a slow ballad that speeds up towards the end and the accordion drives it along till Alvan’s voice takes the lead.

Coming to the end and celtic-punks favourite subject pops up in ‘Liquid Miracles’ again telling of a loser who, like many, knows exactly what he’s doing but can’t help himself.

“the disease of the mind that I have caught”

Another slower song ‘Central West End’ and more misery and the common theme seems to be that the loser in Rusty Nail songs is trapped by addiction despite knowing all too well what he’s doing. Another catchy as feck number that is a great example of the excellent production here. All the instruments, electric and folk, are clear as them bells (what does that mean??) and despite the tune speeding right up in parts doesn’t lose that clarity so hats off to Chad for the excellent recording and mixing. Chad plays guitar, banjo, dulcimer, accordion, bouzouki, EBow and organ on the album so surely knows what he is doing! Next is the album’s longest song at well over five minutes.

‘Mad As Birds’ another standout track and evokes sadness upon sadness here as the song builds up and up and swirls round and round before ending on, for them, a rather positive note before coming to an end with ‘The Nightmare Will Prevail’

“It’s only fair, that you buy another round for all your friends

They’ve stuck around and stuck up for you

When the rest of us could not pretend

This bitter divide that you’ve caused for us is one that’s hard to defend

But I have faith in you,

Even though it may be hard for anyone to comprehend”

This is pure infectious dance music (proper dance music that is!) with enough fist in the air moments going on here to give you a bad shoulder in the morning! Like the best in celtic-punk its a roller coaster of emotions and the joyous music belies the seriousness of the words and though Alvin’s (and Chris) lyrics often inhabit a dark place it’s the story of Irish-America. It’s not all shamrocks and shenanigans you know. So whether you are looking for a band to get you off your feet and move and shout and scream and spill your drink to or just kick back and sit and listen to with a glass of the pure to warm you and take in every road these bhoys and ghirl have travelled then Rusty Nail are the band for you and whichever you choose you are guaranteed to find a great time.

(you can listen to Bitter Ale, Bitter Heart for free before you buy it by clicking play on the Bandcamp player above)

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  • for another view of the album check out Celtic Folk Punk And More here

(great video with music and band interviews)

THE POGUES AND IRISH CULTURAL CONTINUITY

BY PÁDRAIC GRANT

Shane MacGowan’s awareness and adaptation of trends in the literary world, along with the narrative quality and structural experimentation of his work, should cement his status as both a musical and literary figure.

The Pogues Continuity Splash

The Pogues (formerly Pogue Mahone, Irish Gaelic for ‘kiss my arse’) were formed in 1982 by a group of London Irish musicians eager to drag Irish folk into a musical world that had been changed and redefined by the advent of punk. This mission was to be marked by success and failure, but by 1996 when they officially disbanded, they had permanently left their mark on both folk and mainstream music.

One of the most fascinating aspects of the band through those years was the extensive influence literature had on their lyrics. Rather than simply drawing on certain works for inspiration, almost every lyric in the Pogues extensive repertoire can be traced to a certain area of the written word.

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Leading this literary charge was main songwriter and ideologue Shane MacGowan, who’d come through punk emboldened by its ideals, but distraught by its mainstream assimilation. The catalogue of songs penned by MacGowan regularly evokes previous writers and styles, often twisted and placed in new frameworks. Indeed, most of his lyrics are as intellectually stimulating when read as poems and stories as when performed as full songs.

From the moment he began penning songs, MacGowan was artistically indebted to his Irish homeland, a fact reflected in both music and lyrics. Literary touchstones spanned the Irish spectrum—Brendan Behan, James Joyce, Edna O’Brien, Flann O’Brien, Sean O’Casey, Frank O’Connor, and James Stephens were drawn from and their influence incorporated into his burgeoning songbook. While the idea of the songwriter-as-poet is often evoked in a clichéd (even insulting) manner to give certain artists ‘credibility’, MacGowan’s awareness and adaptation of trends in the literary world, along with the narrative quality and structural experimentation of his work, should cement his status as both a musical and literary figure.

As the band gained further success and the other members began to substantially contribute to the lyrics, concerted attempts were made to avoid stagnancy. Eventually, the collective focus fundamentally changed in ways that would have massive effects on the group. Extraneous reference points began to dominate, with the music switching to a menagerie of world music styles, and the lyrics drawing from non-Irish, less literary sources. This fragmentation would afterwards be cited by MacGowan as one of the biggest reasons for his estrangement from the other members of the band.

TRADITION REANIMATED

Going back to the band’s formative years, an important reason for the band’s very existence was a fervent desire to reiterate the aspects of Irish folk music that ran contrary to the sophisticate persona espoused by the dominant elements of ‘80s music. From the stale by-products of 70’s AOR who had somehow got through the post-punk safety net (Phil Collins, Peter Gabriel) to the New Romantics with their synthetic music and lifestyle, the Pogues sought to challenge the status quo by injecting a sense of danger into Irish folk, thereby returning Irish folk to the mainstream. This was to be achieved through a heady mix of punk and folk, filtered through a coarse, unrefined aesthetic. And with virtually no electric instruments (Cait O’Riordan’s bass guitar was a notable exception) and a minimalist bass/snare drum kit, the contrast with mainstream instrumentation was glaring.

Despite this, perhaps the freshest aspect of the re-named Pogues was the literary quality of their original songs. Amongst volatile renditions of traditional standards nestled originals composed in the same style, infused with a punk-derived radicalism that brought the band beyond mere rehashed folk. The London-Irish composition of the group meant that its Irish influences were viewed through the lens of cosmopolitan London, and the city would go on to be the focus of numerous songs by the band.

Red Roses For Me

Gaining a reputation through relentless touring, they signed to the independent Stiff Records in 1984. The first album, ‘Red Roses For Me’, was released in October of that year, and was an underground success despite its poor mainstream showing. Critical attention focused on the burgeoning lyrical talents of Shane MacGowan as much as on the music. Taking its title from a late-era Sean O’Casey play, the album offered a demonstration of MacGowan’s continuity with Irish writers past. The Irish identification was even carried onto the album art: A portrait of the band members seated around a painting of John F. Kennedy, a symbol of solidarity with the Irish diaspora across the world.

O’CASEY AND SOCIALISM

Aside from bestowing the album with a name, O’Casey was influential stylistically. The lyrics on ‘Red Roses for Me’ focused on the lives of the 1980s working class in the same way O’Casey portrayed the proletariat of the early 1900’s. A lifelong communist and Republican dissident, his portrayals were combined with his socialist beliefs to demonstrate the inherently political nature of working class life. Similarly, the debut Pogues LP illustrates the impact of wider political processes on mundane reality.

Sean O'Casey

Sean O’Casey

While avoiding overt left-wing sloganeering, the anti-authoritarian approach evident in certain tracks was intensified by the experience of Thatcherite Britain, where harsh monetarism had led to the working class feeling persecuted by the ruling Conservative Party. This sense of injustice was given credence by the Miner’s Strike occurring the same year the album was released, an event that embodied opposition to the implementation of profit-driven neo-liberalism. Under such circumstances, the sense of anger present in ‘Red Roses for Me’ is easily read as a reflection of the labour class’s embittered undercurrent, manifesting itself in several songs on the album.

The opening song, ‘Transmetropolitan’, is a conspicuous example of this attitude. Both tribute to and attack on the city of London, the composition is a contradiction. The music is frenetically gleeful, while the lyrics veer from a celebration of London life to a bitter attack on the pillars of the British establishment:

There’s leechers up in Whitehall
And queers in the GLC
And when we’ve done those bastards in
We’ll storm the BBC.

Whitehall (the home of the British government, the GLC (Greater London Council), and the BBC (British Broadcasting Corporation) represented the stale powers-that-be, a focus for bitter resentment. That the enemy was the suitably vague “establishment” was a by-product of the band’s punk roots, a recurring and pervasive influence that sat comfortably alongside the anti-authority stance of the writers inspiring the group.

BEHAN AND BLACK COMEDY

Brendan Behan

Brendan Behan

Despite the O’Casey reference in the title and the similarities shared in the portrayal of working class existence, it is clear that Brendan Behan is the dominant influence on ‘Red Roses for Me’. ‘The Auld Triangle’, an Irish standard adapted from the introduction to the Behan play ‘The Quare Fellow’, is the third track on the album and a marked contrast to the rest of what is an ultimately raucous record.  It’s stark, skeletal, and relies primarily on MacGowan’s vocals. The mood is despondent and the lyrics wistful, but lightened by occasionally humourous lines (a literary technique MacGowan adopted in his own writing, which often includes comedic moments in the midst of squalor). This aspect of his songcraft would later be explored and refined on ‘Rum, Sodomy & the Lash’.

‘The Boys from the County Hell’ is the most precise example of punk’s influence on the album. Upping the ante on ‘Transmetropolitan’, it’s a vicious exploration of the alcohol-fuelled violence of the urban London lifestyle (the city termed ‘County Hell’ in a translation bearing the mark of Irish geographical terminology), and a further fleshing out of MacGowan’s songwriting, recalling the unflinching portrayal of violence in Irish tradition. Coming from that lineage, it contains one of his most blackly humourous couplets:

My daddy was a Blueshirt and my mother a madam.
My brother earned his medals at My Lai in Vietnam.

‘Streams of Whiskey’ carries the Behan obsession to new heights, encapsulating MacGowan’s adoration of the man in one song. The lyrics depict a conversation held with Behan in a dream. When asked about his views on the “crux of life’s philosophies”, he answers: “I am going where streams of whiskey are flowing”. This ‘philosophy’ manages to make alcoholism sound almost idealistic—after all, it concerns a person who once quipped

“I’m a drinker with a writing problem”

Flann O'Brien

Flann O’Brien

‘Streams of Whiskey’ is also a buried reference to Flann O’Brien—a pseudonym for Brian O’Nolan, who MacGowan cited as one of his favourite authors in ‘A Drink with Shane MacGowan’.  O’Brien’s ‘The Poor Mouth’ (originally published in Gaelic as ‘An Beal Bocht’) includes a story regarding a mountain with two streams of whiskey flowing at its summit. A brilliant satire of Ireland’s victim mentality, the novel is built on, as with most of O’Brien’s works, an absurdly funny plot and writing style that Shane MacGowan emulated throughout his time in the Pogues.

NEW STRUCTURES

‘Red Roses for Me’ may have received praise for its literate lyrics, but the following year’s ‘Rum, Sodomy And the Lash’ was the moment where the Pogues songcraft truly blossomed. From post-modern character realignment to minutely-detailed narratives, the many facets of Irish literature are explored and amalgamated into a work that reads like an overview of the canon.

Depiction of Cúchulainn by John Duncan

Depiction of Cúchulainn by John Duncan

As the opening track for the album, ‘Sickbed of Cúchulainn’ is a significant song in more than one respect. Not only does it demonstrate the cleaner production and more thought-out arrangements of the record as a whole, but most importantly the progression of MacGowan’s songwriting. As a character, Cúchulainn (a legendary Celtic warrior and son of the god Lugh) was a towering figure in Irish storytelling, regularly recurring in stories up to and including the Celtic Revival of the late 19th century. While The Pogues stick to this tradition, the song that bears his name is a sober modernisation of the monolith; a demonstration of the continuity held with preceding Irish literature, but a strong statement of realist rather than mythic characterisation.

This approach to the protagonist is similar to the proto-postmodernism of Flann O’Brien in novels such as ‘The Third Policeman’ and ‘At Swim-Two-Birds’, which dragged characters such as the mythic Fionn MacCumhaill into a contemporary setting. Thus ‘Sickbed of Cúchulainn’ styles the character not as a demi-god, but in the flawed guise of the socialist IRA leader Frank Ryan. Appearing alongside the singers John McCormack and Richard Tauber, Cuchulainn is an unacknowledged hero, a participant on the losing side of the Spanish Civil War (as was Frank Ryan in reality.) Cuchulainn’s illustrious status in Celtic folklore is contrasted with the more human heroism of the unacknowledged Ryan, an anti-fascist who later faced the ignominy of death in a Nazi submarine. “You decked some fucking blackshirt who was cursing all the Yids” and “We’ll sing a song of liberty for blacks and paks and jocks” serve as MacGowan’s tribute to a man whose heroism was to stand against the fascist tide in an Irish nation still in thrall to the Catholic Church.

That this depiction is in complete contrast to the Cúchulainn of William Butler Yeats may not be coincidental. MacGowan’s opinion of Yeats is derisory at best: “[Yeats wrote] a few classics…but there’s a mammoth amount of work…there’s like books and books and books of his stuff, and there’s about three or four good poems.” (A Drink with Shane MacGowan) The negative sentiments might also be inspired by Yeats’s championing of aristocratic ideas and (later retracted, as the Second World War approached) support for Irish and European fascism, something that was later also criticised by George Orwell.

FIRST PERSON NARRATIVE

Eerily slow-burning after the preceding frenzy, ‘The Old Main Drag’ is a torrid narrative recounting the struggles of a male prostitute in seedy London. MacGowan’s evolution as a lyricist may have been obvious on ‘The Sickbed of Cúchulainn’, but only a truly adept wordsmith could forge the themes of drugs, prostitution, and police brutality into such an easily engrossing story. Accompanied by almost hypnotic musical repetitions, ‘The Old Main Drag’ is replete with characteristic attention to detail:

One evening as I was lying down by Leicester Square
I was picked up by the coppers and kicked in the balls
Between the metal doors at Vine Street I was beaten and mauled
And they ruined my good looks for the old main drag.

In later years, this song would be offered as ‘evidence’ that MacGowan had worked as a hustler. Although it may be a common assumption that realist first person narratives must be based on something experienced by the author, in MacGowan’s case the supposition could have been caused by the debt his style owed to writers like Frank O’Connor. A short story author of great magnitude, O’Connor wrote essentially autobiographical stories in the guise of characters like Larry Delaney, recounting childhood events rich in detail and evocative of the conservative Ireland of the early 20th century.

Frank O'Connor

Frank O’Connor

MacGowan similarly recounted stories heavy on minutia, but as far removed from bucolic rural Ireland as could be possible. When people read the lyrics of songs like “The Old Main Drag”, the easy interpretation was that due to the attention to detail inherited from writers like O’Connor, MacGowan was channelling his real life experiences through the characters in his writing. As with many issues surrounding the Pogues, though, there is no firm answer regarding the truth of these rumours. The sheer number of contradictions is similar to the fog around MacGowan’s eventual dismissal by the group.

BUILDING AN IDENTITY

Another highlight from the album is the quixotic ballad ‘A Pair of Brown Eyes’, one of the more sentimental songs performed by the band. However, like everything MacGowan wrote in this period, it is laced with the typical dark elements that prevent it from becoming merely saccharine. Therefore, while the song laments the “streams, the rolling hills, where his brown eyes were waiting” or “The birds whistling in the trees / Where the wind was gently laughing”, the protagonist is also “drunk to hell”, the setting filled with men who “prayed, cursed, and bled some more”.

In this moment, Shane MacGowan established an identity—one adapted from past writers (the contrast between sweet sentimentality and darker elements, humour intercepting both, a hallmark of Irish writing from Behan to Beckett), but an identity nonetheless. This proved a blessing and a curse, for while the positive comparisons were no doubt welcome, others were beginning to wonder if the Pogues, and Shane MacGowan in particular, had inherited the predisposition for alcohol held by the writers they admired. Press attention would lead to the stereotyping of the band as alcoholic Irishmen (particularly in an infamous Sounds’ article written around the release of ‘A Pair of Brown Eyes’ as a single), a perception made even more believable by other songs, including ‘Sally MacLennane’.  Similar to older folk songs about the return of a person to their hometown (a theme also touched upon in ‘The Boys Are Back in Town’, written by the Irish literature-influenced Phil Lynott), the song is an ode to the joys of alcohol with nearly every verse containing a reference to drinking.

Much of the band’s catalogue is the same, and with their love for writers who also enjoyed a drink (not forgetting their Irish background), it was inevitable that they would be included in the ‘drunken Irish artist’ stratum. In the ‘Sounds’ article mentioned above, Spider Stacy remarked, “I drink to blot out drunkenness”. A quick retort to an over-bearing journalist it may have been, but in the years to come such excesses would prove to be the undoing of the band. But before that point, there was much glory and still more ignominy to come.

‘Rum, Sodomy And The Lash’ was a crucial step forward for the group. Moving on from the lyrically-constrained ‘Red Roses for Me’, which had been somewhat straightforward in its subject matter, the incorporation of differing stylistic approaches made this album a milestone for the incorporation of literary methods into modern Irish folk music. Over the coming years, the subjects would become more expansive, the music more extravagant. Here, the Pogues would achieve the perfect balance of tradition and innovation in their songwriting, the democratic ideal prominent since the beginning would finally flourish, and commercial success would be assured.

NEW DEPARTURES

This phase began with the release of the ‘Poguetry in Motion’ EP in 1986. Comprised of four wildly varying tracks, the EP worked as a bridge between the boisterous folk of before and a new, heavily-orchestrated style embodied by ‘A Rainy Night in Soho’ (significantly, in all respects a masterpiece). Both styles would be followed up on proceeding albums, but the EP is interesting as a microcosm of the band’s musical past and future, and their sense of humour, with the instrumental ‘Planxty Noel Hill’ a swipe at the eponymous musician and member of the folk aristocracy in Ireland.

Taking part in a radio debate with the Pogues, Hill had referred to their music as a “terrible abortion” and as disrespectful to traditional norms. The ‘planxty’ in the title is a traditionally honourific prefix dating back to the 1600s, and serves as a rejoinder to Hill, a tongue-in-cheek espousal of the ultimate traditionalist form. ‘London Girl’ and ‘Body Of An American’ rounded off the release and are notable because of their respective connotations of ‘Red Roses For Me’ and ‘Rum, Sodomy And The Lash’-era material. Clamorous, intelligent, romantic, iconoclastic, the EP was a bookend for what had come before, and a torch-bearer for what was to come next.

Two years later, 1988 saw the release of ‘If I Should Fall from Grace with God’, a new departure in several areas. The lyrics are more far-reaching than ‘Rum, Sodomy And The Lash’, yet remain within the realms of Irish tradition. From the pleasures of a win at the dog tracks to the laments of the Irish diaspora in America, and even the first overtly political songs of the band’s discography, the subjects expand far beyond the character studies and narratives of the first two releases. It even sounds more sprawling, the appearance of a full drum kit and session accompaniment seeming like sheer opulence compared to the thriftiness of before. Two new members make their debuts: multi-instrumentalist Terry Woods (formerly of the legendary folk-rock bands Sweeney’s Men and Steeleye Span) and Daryl Hunt (replacing the outgoing Cait O’Riordan). The inclusion of jazz and indigenous Spanish and Middle-Eastern folk would sound more shocking had they not been woven so brilliantly into Irish music forms, the mock-sitars of ‘Turkish Song of the Damned’ countered by ‘The Lark in the Morning’, a traditional jig that ended the song, and the faux-jazz ‘Metropolis’ and its prominent horns disarmed by mid-tempo folk verses.

J.P. Donleavy

J.P. Donleavy

Commercial success was confirmed with the release of ‘Fairytale of New York’. Written by MacGowan and Jem Finer, it shares both a title and subject with J.P. Donleavy’s novel ‘A Fairytale of New York’, both works regarding the pursuit of the American dream and, tentatively, the experiences of the Irish diaspora. The merits of the song lie in its exploration of relationships and their intricacies, how they span place and era and how external bickering can mask deep affection. MacGowan is accompanied on the track by Kirsty MacColl, in the guise of a woman whose hopes for a life of prosperity lie dead, shattered by the very person who embodied them. The duet examines the dreams, the shattering, and finally the redemption, like a short story where a monumental topic is condensed, and benefits as a result. A technicolour version of ‘A Pair of Brown Eyes’, a romantic song that remains solidly realist (as the input of MacGowan ensured), the song was only kept off the top spot by the poor ‘Always on My Mind’ cover by the Pet Shop Boys. It has since become a Christmas standard, and the most well-known demonstration of the Pogues’ songwriting skill.

POLITICAL MILITANCY

The subject of Irish Republicanism and the conflict in Ireland was a popular focus for folk groups during the ‘80s, a contemporary issue of great importance socially and culturally. The Pogues explicitly explored this for the first time on ‘If I Should Fall’. Grounded in personal conviction and a long literary tradition, the Pogues were unashamedly Republican, and indeed at an early stage held the moniker the New Republicans. These beliefs manifest themselves in the medley ‘Streets of Sorrow/Birmingham Six’. Musically, little links the two songs, but the subject matter is related through its exploration of the ongoing war between the IRA and British forces in Ireland.

‘Streets of Sorrow’, a stark, emotional lament for the war-torn streets of cities like Belfast and Derry, urban areas scarred by the trauma of ongoing war, is immediately followed by the passionate anger of ‘Birmingham Six’, despondency exploding into rage against a Government viewed as oppressive and racist:

There were six men in Birmingham
In Guildford there’s four,
They were picked up and tortured
And framed by the law.
And the filth got promotion,
But they’re still doing time
For being Irish in the wrong place
And at the wrong time.

The Loughgall Martyrs

The Loughgall Martyrs

Naturally enough, the song was banned by the BBC, continuing a torrid relationship between the band and the corporation. As a medley, the song works perfectly: A distillation of the anguish caused by the Irish conflict and the unbridled anger at a British Government the Republicans viewed as the cause of their problems. That the Pogues held controversial opinions was not in doubt. At the time, the only mainstream voices were those of outright condemnation of the IRA on the one hand, or outright silence on the other. In that spirit, there is more than mere protest in ‘Birmingham Six’, with the final verse containing a reference to the Loughgall Martyrs, eight IRA volunteers killed while attacking a Royal Ulster Constabulary police barracks:

May the whores of the empire lie awake in their beds
And sweat as they count out the sins on their heads,
While over in Ireland eight more men lie dead
Kicked down and shot in the back of the head.

Again, there was a literary precedent for the group’s political views, with Brendan Behan, Frank O’Connor, and Ernie O’Malley among the writers who had actively participated in the IRA and expounded upon their views in writing. The theme would be taken up again in later songs like ‘Young Ned of the Hill’ and ‘Rainbow Man’.

POSTMODERN MYTHOLOGY

Another new topic for the band was the role of mythology in Irish life. ‘Sit Down by the Fire’ is a comic take on this tradition:

Sit down by the fire, and I’ll tell you a story
To send you away to your bed.
Of the things you hear creeping
When everyone’s sleeping
And you wish you were out here instead.

The Riders of the Sidhe, by John Duncan

‘The Riders of the Sidhe’ by John Duncan

Lyrically, the focus is on the fairies, or ‘sidhe’, that haunted Irish imagination for centuries, and still persist in popular superstition. MacGowan has long found the idea of parents telling these terrifying stories to children at bedtime as comical, an absurdity built into Irish life for centuries.

The song’s subject matter is interesting because it shows the group exploring the area of folklore (despite its monolithic status pre-20th century, folklore had never been a big concern for the band) while also stepping back from it. This separates such an exploration from the misty-eyed renderings of other more literal folk-rock acts like The Horslips, who had created concept albums based around Celtic mythology. It also continues the motif of postmodernism from MacGowan, the song being a meta-narrative about the telling of a folk tale rather than a simple rendition.

BEYOND IRELAND

While it may have been expected that the band would bask in the critical acclaim of ‘If I Should Fall from Grace with God’, this wasn’t to be the case. MacGowan’s alcoholism had progressed beyond being a mere nuisance, and the other members were becoming disgruntled. Worried that MacGowan was hitting the gutter, just as Behan had before, and more willing to take advantage of the democratic songwriting ideals the band had been founded upon, the songwriting representation from the rest of the band would increase on future albums.

This process was immediately visible on 1989’s ‘Peace And Love’. MacGowan’s declining influence was indicated by the (comparatively) paltry six songs he contributed to the 14-track record. The new songwriting arrangements made for instant change, the first surprise coming with the introductory instrumental ‘Gridlock’. An exploration of hard bop jazz and an uncompromising repudiation of folk, the song differs thematically from anything performed by the band before. However, the song that defines the negative side of this experimentation best is the bizarre Celtic-Caribbean fusion of ‘Blue Heaven’, a reprehensible song with the Calypso pretensions suffocating any melodic inventiveness; a situation that occurs with saddening periodicity in the band’s later catalogue. Even the Irish folk songs sound bland and enervated, an alarming regression from the band’s original desire to invigorate the style.

Despite portraying himself as the arch traditionalist during this era, Shane MacGowan was not, in fact, conducting a one man crusade against the pretentious designs of his fellow band members. He had likewise introduced extraneous influences into the pure folk of before. As noted by Simon Reynolds in ‘Generation Ecstasy’, rumours abound that, having become immersed in the acid house scene, he wished to include a 20-minute appropriation of the genre (titled ‘You’ve Got to Contact Yourself’) onto ‘Peace And Love’. Whether there is any truth to this is again unknown, but what is audible fact is the bizarre Motown stomp of ‘Yeah Yeah Yeah Yeah Yeah’, released as an EP following ‘Peace And Love. While two collaborations with the legendary Dubliners are included, this appears to be an almost apologetic move. Unfortunately, the cover of ‘Honky Tonk Women’ would require much greater atonement than that.

ENGROSSED IN EUROPE

‘Hell’s Ditch’ seemed like the final break with the Pogues of before. Although containing some fine songs grounded in the same folk stylings (‘Sunnyside of the Street’, ‘Hell’s Ditch’), it sounds uninspiring and even conventional in parts—as pedestrian as the ‘celtic fusion’ peddled by acts like the Saw Doctors or The Waterboys, and not helped by the sterile production courtesy of Joe Strummer. Most substantially, the Irish element was downplayed massively; it was simply another amongst the other myriad styles of ‘world music’.

Jean Genet

Jean Genet

Jean Genet

This extended to the lyrical elements, too, but in a vastly more positive way. MacGowan’s contributions were fresh and informed by a different aesthetic from the Irish folk of before, transporting the narrative style to exotic characters and locales from further afield on the European continent. The title track’s debt to Jean Genet manifested itself in a snapshot narrative, stark prison imagery wrapped in an overtly-sexual veneer:

The killer’s hands are bound with chains
At six o’clock it starts to rain
He’ll never see the dawn again
Our lady of the flowers

Verses describing death and squalor (like those above) are juxtaposed with others like:

Genet’s feeling Ramon’s dick
The guy in the bunk above gets sick

This is a structural trick that jars the listener and underlines the debt to the novel ‘Our Lady Of The Flowers’. In common with the Irish influences of before, Genet celebrated the lowlife, the disenfranchised, and those who refused to conform to societal norms, but in a more explicit manner that questioned the values society encouraged and celebrated.

Federico Garcia Lorca

Federico Garcia Lorca

Aside from Jean Genet, the spectre of Federico Garcia Lorca also informed the album. Like ‘Sickbed of Cuchulainn’, ‘Lorca’s Novena’ deals with modern heroism against the backdrop of the Spanish Civil War. Backed by an eerie, dread-inducing combination of heavy bass and martial drums, the song tells of how the homosexual poet met his death at the hands of Franco’s nationalists. It’s not only the horrific circumstances of the poet’s death that justify the sinister vibes, but the wider context of a fascist victory that would ensure the legitimisation of such reprehensible deeds.

The final song of ‘Hell’s Ditch’, ‘Six to Go’, is an aural tombstone to the MacGowan Pogues, a condensed form of all the musical and conceptual contradictions that would contribute to its demise. Concerned with the six counties of Ireland which remain under the political control of Britain, it includes what sounds alarmingly like clichéd tribal chanting, an Africa found by way of ‘The Lion King’ rather than anti-colonial solidarity. In common with other songs of this era (‘Blue Heaven’, ‘Summer in Siam’, ‘Five Green Queens And Jean’), the solid core ends up ruined rather than enhanced by its exotic trappings.

The positive impact of the international influences on ‘Hell’s Ditch’ is confined solely to the lyrics, which flourish and give the Hibernian focus of the first three albums a sense of context, placing Ireland amongst the other great literary nations of the world, rather than resorting to the Irish chauvinism jokingly played up (particularly by MacGowan) in interviews. If the music had gone the same way, perhaps the culmination of stylistic disparity and substance abuse wouldn’t have led to the decision to kick MacGowan from the band as a whole.

After the disintegration of the original line up, the remaining members regrouped to make two further albums: 1993’s ‘Waiting for Herb’ and 1996’s ‘Pogue Mahone’). Yet without MacGowan at the lyrical helm, the collective lacked the cutting edge they had once possessed. Hence, while the two discs have their moments, they lack charisma and the sense of energy that defines the earlier albums, not to mention that they continue the terrible world music flirtations that marred the last two MacGowan albums. However, by the time of the band’s official demise in 1996, their influence was beginning to be felt in a big way.

LANGUAGE AND CLASS

When evaluating their overall influence, the Pogues use of language cannot be ignored, and it betrayed more than a small debt to Irish literature. In his essay regarding Yeats, George Orwell points out the difficulty of equating ideology with a writer’s style. He notes that Yeats’s attempts at simplistic writing appear convoluted, giving the example of the following verse from ‘An Acre of Grass’

Grant me an old man’s frenzy,
Myself must I remake
Till I am Timon and Lear
Or that William Blake
Who beat upon the wall
Till Truth obeyed his call.

William Butler Yeats

William Butler Yeats

Orwell calls attention to the word ‘that’ before William Blake’s name as an attempt at conveying familiarity by utilising forced prosody, a co-option of the language of the lower classes negated by the poet’s aristocratic tendencies. When the Pogues lyrics are analysed in a similar way, the opposite conclusion is clear: the lyrics are unforced and authentic, intelligent but unpretentious. ‘Dark Streets of London’ is an effortlessly figurative example of this

“I like to walk in the summer breeze
Down Dalling Road by the dead old trees
And drink with my friends
In the Hammersmith Broadway
Dear dirty delightful old drunken old days”

The quality of such writing is that it makes the quotidian seem otherworldly through common poetic methods like alliteration. The tongue-twisting last line reads like something written by Gerard Manley Hopkins rather than an extract from a popular music song. Coming at the dawn of their career, such examples would become commonplace for the band, a musical fulfilment of Orwell’s proletarian artistic vision.

IRISH POST-COLONIALISM

Interpreted through the lens of post-colonialism, the band offer an intriguing range of interpretations, and indeed contradictions. Firstly, the very fact that they were composed primarily of London-born musicians would seem to render their status as Irish music icons quite hollow, an easy target as ‘musical imperialists’ plundering the vaults of a rich tradition. This allegation is easily refuted, however, the band’s members were all of Irish heritage, some even born there and with strong connections to the island.

In a more elaborate sense, the very foundations of the group immunise them from such attacks. By attempting to modernise folk, adhering to its roots but emphasising areas neglected by other artists, such as attitude and literary merit, the Pogues (in their early stages at least) helped save Irish folk from becoming a marginal strand of the ‘world music’ scene. This was in marked contrast to other groups, such as Moving Hearts, who from the beginning merged folk with jazz and rock styles. If this interpretation is accepted, then consequently Shane MacGowan’s criticism of the post-‘If I Should Fall’ immersion in world music becomes easier to accept as well. After all, when the theoretical grounding they had started with began to dissolve, the songs became less distinguished and more conventional, consumed within the quagmire of the cultural buffet of world music and generic folk-rock.

The Pogues And The Dubliners

The Pogues And The Dubliners

Another barrier against such attacks is to take the opposite conclusion: the Pogues as the products of an Ireland that has throughout its history assimilated invaders and immigrants into the native society. While historically there had been fierce resistance to such absorption, at certain points the cultures of the native and colonial Irish inevitably coalesced. The greatest manifestation of this was in the Celtic dawn of the late 19th century, when a vast re-discovery of Gaelic Ireland was expressed through modern literary and performance techniques. Writers like Yeats and Lady Augusta Gregory (despite the mockery afforded them from MacGowan) worked to create a distinctly Irish literature, not dependant on wider developments within Britain for inspiration.

Important as an explicitly nationalist rejection of cultural imperialism, the Irish literary revival’s reverberations continued throughout the 20th century. As the 21st century approached, there were intimations that the cultural dependency had been reversed to a certain extent. The post-colonial literary theorist Declan Kiberd writes:

“When Daniel Day-Lewis pronounced his win at the Oscars [for his portrayal of Christy Brown in ‘My Left Foot’] a triumph for Ireland, he effectively dismantled the English-when-they-win, Irish-when-they-lose equation. But he chose Irishness just as much as the Anglo-Normans did before him: in neither case was it forced upon a hapless victim”

This was but one example of the increasing prevalence of Irish (or faux-Irish) content in popular culture in the late ‘80s and into the ‘90s, alongside films like ‘The Commitments’ and productions including ‘Riverdance’. The Pogues’ role in this reversal is interesting, because while in terms of location they were primarily English, they were possibly the most fervent purveyors of ‘Irishness’ amongst their Celtic cultural contemporaries, musically and in content. That it took a band located in England to re-assert Irish music’s place in popular music (rather than confined to the folk sidelines) says a lot about Ireland’s unusual place along the path of post-colonialism, the mass emigration that occurred mainly as a consequence of colonial exploitation has rendered its culture stronger in areas other than its origin. Following their artistic forebears, the Pogues contribution to post-colonialism has been to re-establish Irish identity (in the form of music and text) as having something to offer beyond novelty or the margins, as a vibrant player on the international stage.

CELTIC PUNK AND A WIDER INFLUENCE

Flogging Molly

Flogging Molly

The mid-90’s saw the emergence of a host of (primarily American) bands largely influenced by The Pogues musical, lyrical and conceptual qualities. The fact that this scene has grown so vast as to require an article (or a book) of its own is testament to the inspiration legions of acts have taken from the band, but the two most popular acts, critically and commercially, are undoubtedly Flogging Molly and The Dropkick Murphys.

The former takes their cue from all eras of the Pogues, while including conventional instrumentation like the electric guitar (‘Another Bag of Bricks’ even usurps the Middle-Eastern influences of ‘Turkish Song of the Damned’ in a garishly conspicuous way.) Albums including ‘Swagger’ and ‘Drunken Lullabies’ share thematic subjects with the Pogues, abundant in references to Irish history and politics, including the important role of the Catholic Church. Dropkick Murphys differ from Flogging Molly by mixing their folk with prominent ‘Oi!’ influences. This has led to a blatant espousal of working class socialism more explicit than that ever referred to in Pogues songs. Making visible their debt to the Pogues, the band even had MacGowan appear as a guest vocalist on ‘Good Rats’ from 2001’s ‘Sing Loud, Sing Proud’.

Dropkick Murphys

Dropkick Murphys

While Flogging Molly and Dropkick Murphys may be the most important bands deriving stylistic influences from the Pogues, they’re only the tip of the iceberg. The celtic punk scene has spread from its main base in America all around the world, a common motif of the hybrid being Pogues covers, homages, and references, a musical movement equivalent to the Irish diaspora’s diffusion on a global scale. Beyond this scene, the group’s influence has extended to areas more mainstream than the largely underground punk circuit.

On a global level, Irish folk became a visible presence in popular culture by the early 90’s, albeit in watered-down forms like ‘Riverdance’ and ‘The Corrs’, which bore scant relation to the music or ethos of the Pogues. It’s hard to say whether such acts can even be considered as musically influenced by the Pogues, but it is certain that the Pogues chart success the laid the foundations for mainstream assimilation of Celtic music by popularising it in the first place. So while songs like ‘Fairytale of New York’ and ‘The Irish Rover’ can’t be counted as direct influences upon mainstream exports, they can be considered torch bearers for their cultural phenomena.

MacGOWAN’S CURRENT STANDING

So where do the Pogues stand today? While other members of the band made vast contributions to the group and Irish folk, it is MacGowan who remains famous in the mainstream. Portrayed in the press as a stereotypical drunken Irish poet, a boozed-up bohemian associated with other artists known for their excesses (especially Pete Doherty of the Libertines and Babyshambles), he is also increasingly lauded as a genius songwriter by sources as mainstream as the NME and The Guardian.

Since the full reformation of the band in 2001, these laudatory sentiments have only increased, a result of the now-legendary status afforded to the band’s performances. Inevitably, the media has commented on the continuity between his ‘literary drunk’ status and artists of the same vintage who preceded him. MacGowan even doggedly champions Coleridge over Wordsworth, believing the latter’s work to be inferior on an artistic level, but his fondness for Coleridge also lies in the Romantic’s famous use of opium.

It’s a pattern that remains a constant through all the Pogues albums, the championing of the underdog cast aside by society, and that is the role MacGowan has taken for himself. Whether writing in the guise of a person experiencing the euphoria of winning a bet, the solitary child terrified by ghouls of their parent’s making, or the railway workers toiling and dying without recognition, he imparts a personal touch that is ultimately the real affinity he shares with the writers he admires. Frank O’Connor, Brendan Behan, Flann O’Brien, Edna O’Brien, Mannix Flynn, authors MacGowan maintains have lived; the same underclass he immortalises in his own writing. Ultimately, he has emulated them in his own life and gained similar recognition, hailed not only as a musician, but as a legitimate and important contributor to the continuing evolution of Irish writing.

PopMatters

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*originally published on the marvellous Pop Matters web site.

PopMatters is an international magazine of cultural criticism. Our scope is broadly cast on all things pop culture, and our content is updated daily. We provide intelligent reviews, engaging interviews, and in-depth essays on most cultural products and expressions in areas such as music, television, films, books, video games, sports, theatre, the visual arts, travel, and the Internet.

* if you’re interested in The Pogues we have a stack of great articles on them-

‘From Oppression To Celebration- The Pogues And The Dropkick Murphys And Celtic Punk’ here 

‘A Wee Biography Of Shane MacGowan’  here 

‘30492-London Celtic Punks Top Twenty Celtic-Punk Albums Of All Time’ here

‘Film Review: If I Should Fall From Grace With God- The Shane MacGowan Story’  here

‘Book Review: Irish Blood, English Heart- Second Generation Irish Musicians In England’  here

‘Red Roses For Me And Me’  here

‘Film Review: I’m A Man You Don’t Meet Every Day’  here

‘Book Review: Rum, Sodomy And The Lash’ by Jeffrey T. Roesgen’  here

‘The Pogues On Mastermind- The Questions’  here

ALBUM REVIEW: 13KRAUSS- TheEnd Is Nigh’ (2016)

Part Dropkicks, a wee part Molly’s but always 100% celtic-folk-punk!

13Krauss

The End is Nigh is the follow up album from 13Krauss  to their excellent debut album, Seguir En Pie, which was released to great acclaim back in 2014. For our review of that grand album then check out here. Originally forming up as a straight up, no frills punk rock band but after a Real McKenzies show in their home town they were inspired to change direction and take the celtic-punk high road. So the boys went on to add an accordion player and a bagpiper and 13Krauss the celtic punk band were born! Hailing from Zaragoza in what is basically the dead centre of Spain they have become firm favourites on the Spanish scene, and further afield as well, and on the basis of these two albums it is no surprise why either.

The album begins with ‘Reza Por Tu Vida’ and the sound of an ocean and a toiling bell adds some nice touches to this blistering slab of fast and furious celtic-punk. One of only three songs sung in Spanish, the rest are in English, except for the one instrumental. Its a brilliant start with shouty gang vocals atop of acoustic guitar and bagpipes and its very Dropkicks sounding indeed. ‘Doomsday’ follows and reminds me of my current scene fave’s Ferocious Dog with the fiddle looming large and cranked up electric guitar and mandolin. Bodi vocal style is excellent. Shouty and strained but never unintelligible and you know that if pushed he could give it a real ‘croon’ with the best of them. The bagpipes are back out for ‘Flying Broken Chairs’, a catchy as hell track telling of a wicked and wild night down the boozer. They literally just released the video for ‘Flying Broken Chairs’ just yesterday featuring footage from this years St Patrick’s Day gig in Sala López in their home town of Zaragoza.

The best celtic-punk bands have the ability to slow it down and with the aptly named ‘Slow Down’ 13Krauss prove they can do it too. The story is of looking for leprauchauns and has quite the polka sound to it. Much like The Dreadnoughts use to play. Another thing a lot of non-celtic in origin celtic-punk bands are very good at is bringing new sounds and influences into their music and again ‘En Mi Ataúd’ has a sort of polka /Russian thing going on and its great. ‘Don’t Feed The Goblin’ is the only instrumental here and instrumental by name MENTAL by nature. A fast as hell ride through Dropkick Murphy’s style bagpipe punk rock. 13Krauss switch it up again and ‘Miserable Bridges’ has a skate-punk feel to it while again David’s bagpiping is absolutely superb. We are nearing the end now and ‘The Smitting Blow’ changes it up again with a country folk punk number that is unlike anything else here but equally as good and then finally we have ‘El Mañana No Espera’ and the end of the album. The bagpipes are loud and proud and the curtain comes down on this fantastic album with another piece of Murphy’s influenced celtic-punk rock.

The album was recorded and mixed in their home town and the nine tracks clock in at a very healthy thirty minutes. It was released just after St Patrick’s Day earlier in the year and is available for download as ‘name your price’ and only €9 for the actual physical compact disc which comes in a rather nice jewel case with all the song lyrics, credits and pictures in a extensive twelve page booklet. That there’s not a single cover version here is the first thing that struck me on hearing The End is Nigh. Just nine great slabs of celtic-punk that show the influence of other bands in the scene but always with the 13Krauss stamp of individuality on it. They have a great knack of switching it up and just as you feel your in for a ride of Dropkick Murphys expectations your off in another completely different direction. There are some outstanding celtic-punk bands from the region with Catalan bands The Drink Hunters and Sigelpa due to release new albums very soon, Bastards from Galicia still touring Europe relentlessly and The Fatty Farmers having also recently released a excellent new album too. 13Krauss deserve to be heard beyond Spain but also beyond Dropkick Murphys fans too as this album will appeal to all fans of the genre whether you prefer the punky or the folkier side of celtic-punk. 

(You can have a free listen to The End Is Nigh by pressing play on the Bandcamp player below. Follow the link below to buy)

13Krauss logo (2)

Buy The Album

FromTheBand

Contact The Band

Bandcamp  Facebook  Twitter   MySpace   YouTube

* the guys from 13Krauss have also set up the ZARAGOZA CELTIC PUNKS group on Facebook so trot along there and join up here

(Check out this full concert from 13Krauss. a unusual camera angle but you can see how much the crowd gets into as the gig goes along. Brilliant!)

ALBUM REVIEW: LUGH- ‘Histórias Do Mar’ (2016)

Football, carnival, the Amazon, the ladies and samba music. Well add to that list celtic-punk as Brazil is coming for us!!

Lugh

Well who would have thought a Brazilian celtic-punk band? Well we would! For a start we loved their debut album ‘Quandos Os Canecos Batem’ so much it was voted in at #12 in the London Celtic Punks Best Of Poll of 2014. A short, fast and bombastic debut album that left all of us who heard it reeling. A great LP that has much in common with their recently released full lengther ‘Histórias Do Mar’. Formed in 2008 Lugh started off as a Bad Religion covers band but when they heard the Dropkick Murphys it was all to change suddenly. So it was with the addition of Leo, who had been playing accordion since he was five years old, and a set list of covers from our old friends, and yours, The Murphy’s and The Molly’s they began writing their own material. Before too long the new stuff outweighed the old and a new force in celtic-punk had been born. Hailing from Rio Grande Do Sul in the southernmost state in Brazil Lugh are following in the Brazilian celtic-punk footsteps of bands like Ketamina and The Leprachauns and there’s a small but thriving (and growing) celtic-punk scene in the country.

Lugh3

As I have said ‘Histórias Do Mar’ has much in common with that debut album the main thing being the absolute speed at which Lugh plough through it. Ten songs in just over twenty five minutes with the average song lasting just a wee bit over two minutes. Lugh are very much on the Dropkick Murphys wing of celtic-punk and their folky punk rock blasts make a refreshing change at the moment as it seems to be that the folkier side of celtic-punk is in the ascendency at the moment.

Lugh4

The album starts with ‘Marujo Perdido’ and the sound of an ocean and then the music jumps in and we’re away. Accordion led celtic-punk with the emphasis on punk is the best way I can describe it. I can’t add much more about the songs as Lugh sing entirely in Portuguese, the national language of Brazil. The various ten songs veer from straight forward celtic-punk with Latin influences to also influences from the likes of Rancid and Bad Religion as well as ska, metal or punky-country sounds like that of Social Distortion. Overall the length of the songs works perfectly for ‘Histórias Do Mar’ and even though it flies by so fast it never ever drags even on a slower (though not by much at all) track like ‘Nova Fase’. ‘Lutando em Vão’ and the final track ‘Todos por Um’ are probably my favourite tracks both with fantastic shouty vocals and pumped up electric guitar and some absolutely amazing accordion from Leo.

Lugh2

With their original vocalist Biaque ‘Pincel’ Santos back at the microphone backed up by Daniel ‘Makako’ Jardim, Lucas Bala, George Polidoro and Leo, on that accordion,then one listen is enough to confirm that Lugh have delivered an album equally as good, if not better, than their debut. Lugh take their name from an Irish deity represented in mythology as a hero and an ancient High King honoured for his skills and gifts as a craftsman. Love and respect for Irish culture and Irish music shines through everything that Lugh do. In  a time when its oh-so-trendy to bang on about ‘cultural appropriation’ I personally think its absolutely brilliant that bands like Lugh and others across the world take inspiration from the fights and lives and struggles and (occasional) wins and defeats of the Irish race. That my Grandad would still be around to see how across the globe how popular Irish music, and the Irish, has become would be as pleased as punch!

 

(have a listen to ‘Histórias do Mar’ by pressing play on the Bandcamp player below before you buy…go on its only $5!)

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* For an alternative view of the album go here and check out the review posted on the Celtic Folk Punk And More web-site.
* There is an excellent Facebook group we can’t recommend enough so hightail it over to Irish Punk Brazil here and join the clan!

ALBUM REVIEW: THE CLOVES AND THE TOBACCO- ‘Across The Horizon’ (2016)

 Indonesian Paddy punk since 2006

Cloves

To those new to the celtic-punk scene or those that think there’s only two (maybe three) bands in the entire world worth bothering about it may come as a surprise to say that one of the biggest (and best!) scenes around is in Indonesia but that sadly most people don’t even know it exists. With bands and followers that live and breathe celtic-punk and play some of the worlds most authentic sounding celtic music. Indonesia has a thriving underground punk scene in general but I am at a loss to explain why they would embrace celtic music and take to it so much… and play it so well!

Indonesia is out there in the Indian ocean and a thousand or two miles from Australia and gained independence from Holland pretty much straight after the second world war. The country itself has a population of over 230 million and comprises nearly 13,500 different islands and is 87.2% muslim. Hugely diverse ethnically it is has more than 300 local languages but the main language is Indonesian. The Cloves And The Tobacco formed in 2006 in Yogyakarta and being inspired after hearing Flogging Molly a group of friends decided to get a band together and now ten years later that band is still together and getting stronger all the time. Yogyakarta is renowned for education and is a centre for Indonesian culture such as batik, ballet, drama, music and poetry. Taking their name from a kind of cigarette The Cloves And The Tobacco have been major players on the international celtic punk scene now for a good few years despite purely existing on word of mouth and good reviews on the internet.

Cloves First Album

click here for a FREE download of ‘The Day With No Sun’

They released their first studio album ‘Day With No Sun’ in 2012 which went down an absolute storm with the critics and you can own a copy now for free as the band have made it available as a free download. So click on the album sleeve on the left and get your free copy now.

The Cloves And The Tobacco are Adit Tongseng (Accoustic Guitar and Vocal), Pizzt (Fiddle and Backing Vocal), Abiyoga Fazri (Electric Guitar and Backing Vocal), Koro (Drum), Kojack Blues (Banjo), Fani Black (Tin Whistle) and Kahfi (Electric Bass) and they steer a path very similar to celtic-punk legends Flogging Molly. Pumped up, raucous, fast, energetic, traditional Irish music interspersed with the occasional ballad. The opening track of Across The Horizon is ‘Too Much Trouble’ and starts with electric guitar, banjo and fiddle and tin whistle blaring out loud but also crystal clear over words written by infamous celtic punk DJ, driver, poet and general all round celtic punk figure and knowitall Andrew Watts, known to many as Spider Mahone from his years in the scene in Germany.

‘You’ll Never Know’ is typical territory for the Bhoys with simply amazing musicianship going on. It’s one thing to be good musicians but you also need decent songs and The Cloves And The Tobacco have got them and have got plenty of them too. The energy is never ending even on a slower track like ‘When the War is Over’ which has a Pogues feel to it. They definitely come from the folkier/traditional side of celtic-punk but that doesn’t stop them rocking out as well and plenty of good punky influences here too. Superb banjo playing on ‘Sally O’Riordan’ where the band pick up the pace again and inject the song with a country feel while still keeping it celtic. ‘The Whiskey Tales’ is possibly the ultimate celtic-punk song on Across The Horizon. All the boxes are ticked off and for me this is the album stand out track. Shared vocal duties and gang vocals give it an amazing sound and we’re only halfway through and I’m a firm fan already. ‘Pure & Innocent’ sees them return to a ballad and again it has a Poguesy feel to it. Friend of the band Nana Nofi guesting on vocals and her lovely voice slots in perfectly with this great tune. The band sing in English throughout and the vocals are clear and easy to understand and  ‘And the Rain Will Fall’ is another class song. One of the best things here is the only hint of a cover version is a few seconds of ‘The Fields of Athenry’ during ‘The Town that We Loved so Much’ that is over almost as soon as it starts. ‘The Old Harbor’ is a song about emigration and something Indonesians know only too well about. The album comes to an end with the fantastic, and also the only instrumental, ‘Across the Horizon’ brings the curtain down on this amazing record that I am 100% positive will appeal to anyone with a love of Irish music. It is ten tracks of pure celtic gold that clocks in just shy of 3/4’s of an hour and keeps up a unbelievably high standard throughout.

TC&TT

An absolutely stunning album of perfectly produced and played celtic-punk that would go down a storm in absolutely anyone’s living room or in any bar across the world. They have taken all the positiveness of celtic punk and produced something you must all get your hands on. Not only is the music outstanding but the CD is out of this world as well. Hand produced by the band gluing and fixing the sleeves together shows how much the band care about giving their friends something special. It may be true that celtic-punk can dwell too much on the negative or the bad things in life but it can also be about the things that give us strength we must remember that. It’s not always about the music it’s also about friendship, family, resilience and community and how these things can help you survive. The Cloves And The Tobacco are a great example to everyone in the scene and I can only dream that I get to catch them live one day. Maybe Flogging Molly can be persuaded to take them under their wing. There are certainly not many bands who are more deserving.

(Here’s the band playing ‘Pure & Innocent’ live. The sound quality is not the best but it’s not always about that…)

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Contact clove.tobacco@yahoo.com or abiyogafazri@gmail.com

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  • For a great overview of the Indonesian scene check out our review of ‘Wind From The Foreign Land’ (here) a compilation of fourteen tracks from fourteen different celtic-punk bands from across Indonesian.
  • There is a fantastic Facebook group called ‘Indonesian Celtic Punk’ (here) we recommend you join. The Cloves And The Tobacco are only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to Indonesian celtic punk so invest a bit of time and find out a bit more about this great scene.

For an alternative view of Across The Horizon check out the review by Celtic Folk Punk And More here and when I say alternative I only mean in the sense that they liked it even more than we did!

ALBUM REVIEW: TRIBUTE TO THE POGUES- Various Artists (2016)

A huge compilation of songs written by the world’s #1 celtic-punk band as covered by today’s generation of modern celtic-punk bands from every single corner of the world!

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Tribute To The Pogues

We were sent this brilliant album by our good mate Vladimir, who also did the fantastic artwork and also seems to do the artwork for most celtic-punk releases in Russia, just before St Patrick’s Day. I had to warn him that we wouldn’t be able to do it justice in time to put a review up on release day as we would all be in the pub busy celebrating our Irish ancestry so here a few days late is our opinion on this years must hear compilation album.

As far as I know this is the first international tribute to the Godfathers of celtic-punk – THE POGUES! Everything we hold dear in celtic-punk comes out of the influence of The Pogues and their seminal and legendary front man Shane MacGowan. What they mean to celtic-punk is unmeasurable and the only question you must ask of this album is whether or not this is a worthy tribute to them or not and the answer is of course is that it most definitely, certainly  is!!! The whole thing clocks in at nearly ninety minutes and has 27 bands from right across the entire globe with just about every corner covered. The list of countries here goes from the obvious ones like the USA, Norway, England, Italy, to some ones that may surprise you like Poland, Slovenia, Czech Republic,  and Russia to some that will downright shock you like Indonesia, Ukraine or Belarus. They have all combined to bring you The Pogues most popular London Irish ballads from the era of safety pins, ripped jeans and dishevelled hair!

Now this has been put together by our mucker and artist Vladimir from Novosibirsk in Russia and has a whole host of bands that are both new to us as well as some that are already firm favourites. It would be pointless here to go too far into the history of the songs as they are surely known to even the slightest fan of The Pogues. The whole thing kicks off with one of The Pogues least known songs ‘Curse Of Love’, which was a bonus track on the Hell’s Ditch re-issue album, by Indonesian band The Cloves And The Tobacco. They recently released a new album and it has been making huge waves across the international celtic punk scene and it is a fantastic start and swiftly followed by ShamRocks from the Ukraine and Dzieciuki from Belarus before the London Irish very own The Craicheads weigh in with ‘Sally MacLennane’. They give it plenty of oompf and one of The Pogues fastest ever songs is delivered more than safely with a hint of country and bluegrass. Next up is easily one of the most inventive bands in the whole scene, and one of my own personal favourites, from California are Craic Haus playing ‘A Pair Of Brown Eyes’. You won’t have heard another band like them in the world of celtic-punk I can guarantee it. They have even invented their own genre called ‘Shamrockabilly’ and though their rock’n’roll may be a little lacking on this track it is still outstanding and worthy of you checking out the rest of their back catalogue. Another bunch of my favourite bands roll up next playing some of my fave Pogues songs. A good combination indeed. Happy Ol’ McWeasel from Slovenia doing ‘Sunny Side of the Street’ with the band I once described as being a cross between The Exploited and The Chieftains Middle Class Bastards from Russia next with ‘Big City’, Ukrainian band O’Hamsters sing ‘The Sick Bed of Cuchulain’ before possibly the album’s biggest band The Greenland Whalefishers from Norway chipping in with a brilliant version of ‘Birmingham Six’. A couple of bands I don’t know follow with Kelush and the Bastards (feat. Chris Dutchak) from the Ukraine with an absolutely fantastic skate punk ‘Fairytale of New York’ before Harley McQuinn from Russia nails it with ‘London Girl’. Keeping just enough of the originals rock’n’roll sound before adding some great guitars and gang vocals. Czech’s Benjaming’s Clan and Italians Dirty Artichokes are both bands that have impressed us here over the years and you could almost call them celtic-punk veterans compared to some of the groups here! Russian band The Real Blackbeards I don’t know but they present a great fun pirate version of ‘Sea Shanty’. Americans CRAIC are another big hitter here and they also do a Hell’s Ditch classic ‘Sayonara’ and is one of the many album highlights. Troty hail from Poland and are one of the few bands with a female vocalist. They give us a faultless Polish version of Bottle of Smoke while Hell’s Ditch is revisited again by another Indonesian band Forgotten Generation with ‘Rain Street’ and again it is absolutely superb. Amach  I don’t know but they offer up ‘Transmetropolitan’ and bloody great in its simplicity it is too. They come from the Crimea and like the best bands here they don’t over complicate things but just add a twist to add their own stamp to the songs. Yet another Indonesian band pops up next and The Working Class Symphony give it plenty in their cover of ‘Fiesta’. Never one of my favourite songs but this version bloody rocks and I have fallen for it big time. Like all the Indonesian bands here they play traditional Irish folk influenced punk and is so well played you would think they were all Irish if heard them on the radio! БНД I can’t even pronounce their name but ‘Boys From County Hell’ keeps up the high standard while The Humble Hooligans are a band I only got into recently and these Californians give Turkish Song of the Damned a right auld kicking complete with proper authentic moans and wails. Great accordion leads and Troy’s perfect vocals mark them out as a band to watch out for. Red Box from Russia again I don’t know but offer up a decent ‘If I Should Fall from Grace with God’ before Rum Rebellion from Portland, USA serve up an epic ‘Boat Train’. Been fans of these for a long time and they do not disappoint. Всё_CRAZY are from Belarus and their ‘My Baby’s Gone’ is another album highlight. Taken from the first post-Shane Pogues album Waiting For Herb it’s a brave choice and fits in and works perfectly. We are nearing the end of the album and the last band I know here is the marvellous Moscow Celtic Punks group Drunken Fairy Tales. Keep an eye out soon for the review of their new EP it’s both fantastic and free to download! Crow Dog Clan have another brave choice with ‘Oretown’ from the final (non-Shane) Pogues album Pogue Mahone. They take the song and give it a real shake to come up with something outstanding. Almost gothic country its actually great to hear something not so celtic. Finally the album comes to a sad end with Kozlobar from Russia bringing down the curtain on this amazing tribute with the mental instrumental ‘Battle of Brisbane’.

Well what to say now in summing up. With 27 bands you’d think their would at least be a few duffers here but you’d be mistaken. I’m sure if their were any they ended up on the cutting floor as from beginning to end the whole thing is simply fantastic. From the selection of bands to the bands own selection of songs this is as good as it could have possibly have mine. Yes this is kinda dominated by eastern European groups but it has been put together by a Russian guy and I for one am glad its not dominated by American bands. If celtic-punk exists and is to prosper beyond The Pogues/Dropkicks/Molly’s then it must also exist outside the countries of the Irish/celtic diaspora like the States, Canada, Australia or England. Compilations serve a purpose in introducing you to new bands and if there was a problem in celtic-punk it is that far too many people think the scene these days revolves solely around the Dropkicks or The Molly’s. I am sure this album will introduce everyone hearing it to today’s generation of bands that are carrying the torch for Shane and his buddies and not only that but will inspire another generation of fans as well.

Tracklist

1. The Cloves and The Tobacco feat. Cathy Shannon – Curse of Love
2. ShamRocks – Wild Unicorns of Kilkenny (Wild Cats of Kilkenny)
3. Dzieciuki – Не Саскочу! (Streams Of Whiskey)
4. Craicheads – Sally MacLennane
5. Craic Haus – A Pair of Brown Eyes
6. Happy Ol’ McWeasel – Sunny Side of the Street
7. Middle Class Bastards – Big City
8. O’Hamsters – Лiжко Кухулiна (The Sick Bed of Cuchulain)
9. Greenland Whalefishers – Birmingham Six
10. Kelush and the Bastards feat. Chris Dutchak – Fairytale of New York
11. Harley McQuinn – London Girl
12. Benjaming’s Clan – The House of Gods
13. Dirty Artichokes – The Rake at the Gates of Hell
14. Real Blackbeards – Пират и Колдун (Sea Shanty)
15. CRAIC – Sayonora
16. Troty – Butelka Smoke (Bottle of Smoke)
17. Forgotten Generation – Rain Street
18. Amach – Transmetropolitan
19. The Working Class Symphony – Fiesta
20. БНД – Boys From County Hell
21. The Humble Hooligans – Turkish Song of the Damned
22. Red Box – If I Should Fall from Grace with God
23. Rum Rebellion – Boat Train
24. Всё_CRAZY – Ты Ушла (My Baby’s Gone)
25. Drunken Fairy Tales – Плот “Медузы” (The Wake of the Medusa)
26. Crow Dog Clan – Oretown
27. Kozlobar – The Battle of Brisbane
So there you have it. Don’t forget to tell all your friends about it now! Share it with all you know and let the world enjoy this superb free compilation! And a happy (belated) St. Patrick’s Day to you!!!
(you can listen to the entire record here for free by pressing play on the Bandcamp player below and follow the link below that to get the download)

Download The Album- Bandcamp

any problem with Bandcamp then you should try here)

CELTIC CELTIC-PUNK. BLACK FRIDAY LIVE IN CORNWALL FEBRUARY 13th 2016

Traditional celtic punk for a real shanty knees up!

Straight out of Kernow and heading our way to London real soon here’s a review of a recent Black Friday gig to wet your whistles for the real thing. A high energy Celtic folk band from St Germans in Cornwall. They play a fine mix of original songs, traditional Irish jigs, reels and ballads and a few cover’s thrown in by bands such as the Pogues, Flogging Molly and the Mahones. 

They have toured all over England and Europe including a variety of venues and festivals such as The Maker Festival, The Port Eliot Lit Fest, The Electric Picnic in Ireland, The Plymouth Folk Festival, Calstock Biker Festival, Burnham-on-Sea Folk Festival and Wimbourne Folk Festival as well as a tour of Austria, which including playing at the worlds largest festival, the Donauinsel Fest. After playing at the reknowned Gaz’s Rockin’ Blues Club in London they were spotted by top Radio DJ, Marc Lamarr, who invited them to record a 6 song session at the famous Maida Vale studio in London for his show. Whilst they were there, they played for and met their hero and Pogues singer, Shane MacGowan. In 2015 the band got into the Guinness Book of Records for performing the most gigs in one day, 30 gigs in 12 hours!

Live at The Inn On The Shore, Downderry, Cornwall

OK, full disclosure here, I was really in attendance at this gig to help a good friend celebrate a significant birthday in my local but, by happy accident, this coincided with the chance to see one of the most highly respected bands currently working the circuit in Cornwall. Black Friday ply their trade in the realms of celtic folk but there is so, so much more to them than that. With all seven members squeezed in to one corner of the pub, the group set about winding up the atmosphere slowly, raising the temperature and creating an atmosphere. Original compositions mixed in amongst classics like ‘Dirty Old Town’ and ‘Whiskey In The Jar’ without missing a beat, showing the quality of the band’s rendition of these classic songs.

Black friday1

It is, however, in the live arena that this collective excels and, even in a tiny space, they can’t help but perform like the natural entertainers they are. From the lowest slung Banjo I’ve ever seen to some seriously fierce Mandolin work, Black Friday an absolute joy to watch if you can manage to take it all in.

KernowThe folk ethos is up front for everyone to see but then you’ve got elements of Blues, Country, Rock’n’Roll and, when that wah-wah pedal kicks in, things get a little funky as well. I’ll admit that alcohol and socialising deflected my full attention but I’ll definitely be checking these guys out again. On first impressions, if you want a band to turn up, play fiercely uplifting music that will get the place jumping and have any audience eating out of the palm of their hands then Black Friday are the guys and girls for you, make no mistake.

Review by LISTEN WITH MONGER

check out their blog here

BLack Friday

Black Friday make a rare foray into enemy territory and play a gig in good old London town soon in the run up to St Patrick’s Day. Performing at the infamous ‘Gaz’s Rockin Blues’ club at the St. Moritz, 159 Wardour Street, Soho, London W1 (nearest tube Tottenham Court Road). An amazing club run by Gaz Mayall from the legendary celtic-ska band The Trojans who has been running this night every Thursday for the past 30 years. So as you can see it’s not to be missed and you can check out what’s happening at the Facebook event page here. One thing though the gig doesn’t start till 10pm so might be worth throwing a sickie and enjoying a long weekend!

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for an excellent resource on Cornwall go check out ‘An Omsav- The Cornish Republican’ here

“It’s not that Cornwall became part of England, it’s just that the English forgot Cornwall was not part of their country”

2015 REVIEWS ROUND UP PART THREE- THE CHERRY COKE$, SMZB, THE GO SET, LEXINGTON FIELD, MICKEY RICKSHAW

2015 has been another exciting year for celtic-punk releases but sadly we haven’t had a chance to review everything we received or heard so here’s the last of our ‘Round-Up’s’ catching up with some of of the more obscure records we missed first time round as well as a couple of the scene’s major celtic-punk hitters. These releases prove that celtic-punk has gone global!

THE CHERRY COKE$- ‘Self Titled’

Cherry Coke$Now The Cherry Coke$ won’t win any awards for Best Name but when it comes to celtic-punk then that is more than possible. Formed in 1999 in Tokyo in Japan they play extremely tight and fast traditional Irish music. Absolutely huge at home, they regularly appear on TV, and this is their ninth release since forming. I have only heard two of their previous records but I can tell you that this self titled album is at least as good as what I have heard before. As mentioned they are tight and powerful and as clear an example of what James Stephens said back in the 1840’s that “it is not blood that makes you Irish but a willingness to be part of the Irish nation”. Easily as good as anything in celtic-punk this is proper party music and a perfect example of what the album has in store is the opening track ‘Rise Again’ for which they and Japan MTV produced this great video.

Ten songs coming in just shy of forty-five minutes so the songs gets plenty of time to develop and like all the best bands in celtic-punk they know how to play a ballad or a traditional folk number as well as punk it up to the high hills! The quality of the playing is amazing, especially the folk instruments. To be put in the same bracket as Flogging Molly but having grown up in different continents its hard to say who is following who here. Absolutely brilliant and well worth checking them out. Couldn’t find a link for you to buy the album but have a look round and see if you can.

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SMZB- ‘A Letter From China’  (BUY)

SMZBNow for something well out of ours (and yours too no doubt) comfort zone. Its one thing to review a Japanese band in The Cherry Coke$ but they been around for years and most celtic-punk ‘knowitalls’ would have heard of them but SMZB are the real underground celtic-punk band… from China. Yes China and they have been playing punk rock since 1996. Their lyrics and music are not appreciated much by the Chinese authorities so three of their albums have been banned. They toured Europe in 2005 and around this time took the decision to move away from their original raw sound of early British punk, ska and ’80s hardcore and add bagpipes, flutes and fiddles to their sound. How or why they decided this is unknown as the internet don’t have an awful lot on them. They have though received plaudits galore from the various celtic-punk sites and sounding like a combination of The Pogues, the Murphy’s and Rancid they have gone on to be absolutely huge in their native country. Previous releases include a split LP with celtic-punk legends The Greenland Whalefishers. A Letter From China makes the bands intentions clear. The cover features a red tank with the caption ‘1989-2014 25th Anniversary’ as well as their rather interesting band logo (have another look!!) Its basically well played melodic punk sung partly in English but with bagpipes chucked into the mix. Its all very very catchy and opener ‘A Song for Chen Huaimen’ seems to be about the singers grandfather where he compares himself to a Chinese fighter pilot who fought against the Japanese. Fourteen songs in just under a hour and some real beauties especially in ‘Smash His Statue’ SMZB hit the real celtic-punk highlights and its songs like this that get them into trouble and long may they rebel! There’s an oldish interview with Wu Wei from SMZB here from The Guardian in England

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THE GO SET- ‘Rolling Sound’  (BUY)

The Go SetIf there was an award for most hard working on the other hand then I think it is The Go Set who would deserve it. Yeah I know The Mahones never stop touring but for an independent DIY band to be able to finance themselves to be able to tour quite as much as The Go Set do is quite an amazing achievement. This year not only did they play a pretty long tour of the USA but they also made in over here to Europe including Blighty to play a few gigs around the big Rebellion punk festival. Formed in 2003 in Melbourne in Australia we have long been big fans of the Aussie celtic-punk scene and The Go Set are one of the biggest and best bands among them. With a bunch of first rate and critically acclaimed albums The Go Set released seventh album Rolling Sound to a helluva lot of expectation and it didn’t disappoint at all. The album begins with a bagpipe dirge that grows in sound before exploding into ‘Bones’

which has all the trademarks of The Go Set’s fantastic sound. Justin’s clear and distinctive Aussie accented vocals atop of catchy tuneful punk rock accompanied by great bagpiping and mandolin from Lachlan and Ben. Politics is never too far away and the lyrics deal with the social and political plights of the working classes, speaking out both for them and with them. The music doesn’t stand still for a second but the boys spread their wings beyond celtic-punk and as is the way for a typical Go Set album it’s their slower stuff I actually prefer more than their full on punk. Stand out punky tracks include the title song, ‘Bones’, ‘The Struggle And The Fight’ but its the working class celtic ballad ‘In The Streets’ that gets me. Yet another blinder from The Go Set and further cements their place as one of the best bands in the celtic-punk scene.

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LEXINGTON FIELD- ‘Greenwood’  (BUY)

Lexington Field

Lexington Field formed in 2009 in San Diego, CA and Greenwood is the bands fourth album so they have been pretty prolific in their short existence. They describe themselves as ‘Fiddle Rock’ and while it is true that the fiddle does loom large in Lexington Fields sound it by no means dominates and when its quite hard to pigeonhole a band then it makes sense to invent your own genre! Having followed the band since their early days I am again happy to say that Greenwood has hit the spot nicely. Thirteen tracks and forty minutes gives the songs plenty of time to develop and Beau’s great vocals and lyrics stand out as usual giving Lexington Field that extra bit more. Their has been a fair amount of personnel change in the last couple of years but finally the band are settled down and Greenwood is the result. The more celtic-punk days are behind them and Lexington Field are another band who have spread beyond the genre while at the same time keeping one foot firmly in place. The album starts with the furious ‘Ghostwriter’ and the rest of Greenwood keeps up the place with ‘The Hitchhiker’s Guide Out of Suburbia’ following.

The catchy, fist in the air music coupled with the dark lyrics is sometimes at odds with the almost jolly sometimes music. The fiddle and the banjo keep them in folk-punk land and they are signed to folk-punk friendly East Grand Records who have no end of great bands on their roster, including more than a couple excellent celtic-punk bands. From the pounding and metalesque ‘Target Rich Environment’ to the slow punk rock ballad ‘Calarity Jane’ this is a fantastic album and Beau further shows his talents as one of the best lyricist’s in celtic-punk.

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East Grand Records

MICKEY RICKSHAW- ‘No Heaven For Heroes’  (BUY)

Well well well we all know The Dropkick Murphys can’t go on for ever and with Boston’s place secured in celtic-punk folklore who then will take on their mantle when they have gone? Well fellow Bostonians Mickey Rickshaw are up for the job. A team of young fired up blue collar Irish Americans in touch with both their working class American lives and their roots back in the auld country. With Boston’s massive Irish population as well as its place in the history of punk then traditional celtic folk and punk rock aggression equals the 100% perfect sound for the Boston Irish and if the Murphys invented celtic punk post Pogues then its bands like Mickey Rickshaw that will carry for the flame for the next generation. The EP ’16 Down and Back Again’ came out in 2013 but it has been No Heaven For Heroes that has seen their name explode onto the celtic-punk scene with universal great reviews and plaudits heaped upon them from all corners of the globe. The first of the album’s twelve tracks starts with an eastern European flavour before ‘Sapphire Hills’ hits you in the jaw. The album flows mercilessly at at breakneck speed with no let up and the few times you think a ballad is on its way you are resoundly proved wrong!

‘Sapphire Hills’ is an early standout as is ‘I’m Sorry Mrs Mahoney’ but after a few listens you begin to realise that the whole album is one big standout. The album takes in some nice touches of ska as well as hardcore and will leave you out of breath and ready to swop all your Dropkick t-shirts for Mickey Rickshaw ones. Unbelievably the album is available to download for just a single dollar so get on there as quick as you can and make haste to get it into your earholes! LONG LIVE BOSTON CELTIC-PUNK!!!!

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So ends Part 3 and again apologies to all the bands that we weren’t able to give each album the full London Celtic Punks treatment but was just not possible with time on our backs. If you missed Parts One and Two check them out (Part One here and Part Two here)but if you don’t want to miss any of our posts in future then you can follow us by simply filling in your e-mail address in the box that is either below or to the left depending how you are viewing and you will receive every post to your in-box.

2015 REVIEWS ROUND UP PART TWO- WILL TUN AND THE WASTERS, SKONTRA, LOUISE DISTRAS, HAPPY OL McWEASEL, THE CUNDEEZ, ANTO MORRA

This year has been quite brilliant for celtic-punk releases. In fact it has been far the best year since we began doing this here thingy. Good news surely but it also sadly means we didn’t get a chance to review everything we received or heard. So after catching up with our North American cousins (here) last time in Part 1 this time round we catch up with some a wee bit closer to home.

WILL TUN AND THE WASTERS- ‘The Anachronist’s Handbook’  (BUY)

Will Tun And The WastersThis album release came accompanied with the sad news that lead singer Will Tun was leaving the band. An amicable split and the rest of The Wasters have decided to carry on without him and so this is the swansong of Will Tun’s Wasters. Formed in 2010 by a gang of students based all over southern England Will Tun And The Wasters released a smattering of EP’s and singles and managed to get pretty popular so it was only a matter of time before an album was due. I suppose losing your lead singer would also also help lose a big slice of momentum as this album sneaked out rather than be unleashed and that was a mighty shame as this is a album deserving of being unleashed! Impossible to pigeonhole they were a hard working bunch ready to arrive from several starting points to play gigs at a drop of a hat. Though starting off more as a folk/celtic/ska-punk band they never stopped evolving and traces of hip-hop, Balkan and Latin found a home and nowhere more so than on The Anachronist’s Handbook. Twelve songs and over fifty minutes long the album takes you on a roller-coaster ride of musical styles but its the accordion and fiddle that stand out for me as well as Will’s great distinctive vocals. The energy is infectious and ‘Red & Black’ and ‘A Criminal’s Waltz’ could be The Pogues but whatever genre they turn their hand to they master it. The album ends with ‘Downtime’ another album highlight but this time a reggae/ska beat dominates. I really hope The Wasters can regroup and carry on (as they do intend to) as they would be sorely missed.

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SKONTRA- ‘Foguera’  (DONATE/FREE DOWNLOAD)

SkontraHere’s some authentic celtic-punk for you played by Skontra from the city of Gijón in the celtic region of Asturias currently under Spanish control. There is a school of thought amongst celtic scholars that to be a true authentic celtic nation you must have your own language but if to be truly celtic is based on culture then we must instead expand our thinking to include both Asturias and their neighbours Galicia as well. Celtic culture is alive and kicking and the people are especially proud of their celtic roots. Formed in 1991 Skontra this is their fourth full length album and the thirteen songs are mingled with elements of punk, hardcore, ska and reggae but always with a celtic base and with the traditional Asturian bagpipes leading the way. Seven of Foguera’s songs are in their native Asturian and the rest in Spanish so can’t tell you what the songs are about but its all dead catchy and if you’re looking for a comparison then this would please all you Real McKenzies fans but its very well played celtic-punk that ought to get you all moving your feet. Typical of Skontra is the fantastic title track which includes just about everything that makes them tick. They have made the album available for free for download so you’d be a mug not to get this fantastic album.

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LOUISE DISTRAS- ‘Dreams From The Factory Floor’  (BUY)

Louise DistrasMaybe not a celtic-punk album but Louise has popped up supporting both The Mahones and Bryan McPherson in the last year and her folky-punk solo set is right up our alley. She has been called the next Frank Turner but as I don’t think she went to the poshest most exclusive school in Britain I reckon we can ignore that. There’s no style over substance here, what you see and what you hear is what you get. ‘Dreams From The Factory Floor’ is twelve songs of over half an hour of folky punk that sometimes veer into almost poppy tunes like the great ‘Bullets’ but then the album goes in a direction that (very) early Bragg or Springsteen at his best would approve of. Plenty of harmonica (I love that) and great politics too. The politics of the working class and its struggles in every day. The spoken word title song is amazing and delivered in Louise’s broad Yorkshire accent sounds about as authentic as some others don’t. The use of both acoustic and electric guitar and the poetic lyrics and every song is both catchy and meaningful. No filler or fluff here and though not as punk rock as Louise is with her full band this album certainly shows an artist who is on her way to stardom.

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HAPPY OL’ McWEASEL- ‘Heard Ya Say!’  (BUY)

Happy Ol McWeaselFrom the first moment I heard this album I fell in love with Happy Ol’ McWeasel’s brand of joyous uplifting celtic punk rawk! Formed in 2007 in the Slovenian town of Maribor this is their second album and while on No Offence they relied maybe a little too much on traditional folk covers on this album they decided to take the more risky route and play only their own songs and I tells you it works… and it works well! All the usual instruments are here as well as accordion, fiddle, and banjo making as authentic a celtic sound as you are likely to hear in celtic-punk in 2015. Most important of all through the album’s twelve tracks you get the feeling that the band really love doing what they are doing. Their is a real sense of enjoyment running through this album and though you could bracket it with Flogging Molly style celtic punk it certainly ploughs its own trough too though it certainly could compare with bands like Rancid as well. Well played instruments, clear vocals and these fun-loving tunes are a definite hit. Its criminal that bands like Happy Ol’ McWeasel don’t get the applause they deserve but they are definitely one of the scenes best bands. They have given us an album that doesn’t just pump out standard celtic-punk rock but something with a whole lot more substance. One of the best productions on a album I have heard helps a lot but this innovative band will go far I am sure.

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THE CUNDEEZ- ‘Sehturday Night Weaver’  (BUY)

The CundeezIf their was a prize for best pun in a album title then Dundee band The Cundeez would walk it. Do you get it? Anyway this is their third album and with each one the band have got more polished and accomplished. Saying that it’s still ramshackle punk rock in all its glory. The lyrics are mostly either political or a bit daft and shouted in a raw Dundee dialect and combined with the punching guitars, pounding drums and occasional bagpipe The Cundeez certainly offer something well different to yer usual punk rock fare. The opening song is pure bagpipes and well played they are too but with the next song ‘Scaffie Radio’ the album steers away from celtic-punk into more standard (but still very good) punk. Elements of ska too especially on the brilliant ‘Rooota’ The pipes return occasionally and the album ends with a cover of ‘Teenage Kicks’ where the pipes return again to great effect. The rest of the album rocks by and can’t wait to catch them live from what I have heard they put on a great show.

The Cundeez unashamedly Dundonian working class band promotin the culture an havin a laugh!

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ANTO MORRA- ‘Patriotism Is Not Enough’ EP  (BUY)

Anto MorraNow this EP from London Celtic Punks favourite Anto Morra sticks out like the proverbial sore thumb here. I can say that freely as it was Anto himself who said it first! Those coming along to this EP expecting more of the same as Anto’s previous releases will get a shock as what you get here is hardcore ‘finger in the ear’ folk music that brings back reminiscences of people like Ewan MacColl and Pete Seeger. Famed for his wordplay and the way he somehow manages to inject the spirit of punk  rock into his London Irish acoustic folk Anto has come up here with something very novel and you can listen to the whole EP below on the Bandcamp player first before you buy. Again the amazing fellow London Irishman and artist Brian Whelan has provided the artwork and the whole EP is a tribute to Edith Cavell. Edith was a nurse and is celebrated for saving the lives of soldiers from both sides during the First World War. She aided some 200 Allied soldiers to escape from German occupied Belguim and it was for this that she was arrested and accused of treason. Edith was found guilty and sentenced to death and despite international calls for mercy, she was executed by firing squad with her execution receiving worldwide condemnation. She is well known for her statement that “patriotism is not enough” and it was her strong Anglican beliefs that compelled her to help all those who needed it. She was quoted as saying, “I can’t stop while there are lives to be saved”. Edith, who was 49 at the time of her execution, was already notable as a pioneer of modern nursing in Belgium and this EP tells of her glorious life. Five tracks of Anto recorded in a church in Norfolk last Summer including ‘Edith Louise Cavell’ which was performed and broadcast live at the Edith Cavell’s centenary memorial service on BBC Radio 4. So a lot different to what Anto has previously done and I doubt we’ll get to hear any of these songs at a London Celtic Punks gig but full marks for producing this beautiful tribute to Edith and I do hope you will give it a chance.

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So ends Part 2 and again we’re sorry we weren’t able to give each album the full-on London Celtic Punks treatment but it was just not possible with work and family commitments. Soooo only one more part to come and in Part 3 we will checking out some cracking releases from across the other side of the world. Yes from Japan, China and Australia. If you don’t want to miss any of our posts then you can follow us by simply filling in your e-mail address in the box that is either below or to the left depending how you are viewing and you will receive every post to your in-box.

EP REVIEW: THE NARROWBACKS- ‘After Hours’ (2015)

New York Irish music.
THE NARROWBACKS- 'After Hours' (2015)

(left to right) Seamus Keane- Vocals, Barry Walsh- Banjo/Mandolin, Pat Keane- Button Accordion, Chris Moran- Drums, Fionn Mcelligott- Guitar. Anthony Chen Bass

nar·row·back /ˈnæroʊˌbæk/ [nar-oh-bak]
–noun Slang.
1. Disparaging. an Irish-American.
2. a person of slight build who is unfit for hard labour
I’ve had the chance to go into the history of the American Irish plenty of times and in a country built on immigration it is the Irish in particular that built the foundations of that great country in spite of racism, intimidation and oppression. In the years following the Irish community stayed true to their roots and still exist in numerous pockets (though you would be hard pressed to call them ghettos these days!) and in every city, town and village in the United States. Just like the Irish elsewhere one of the main things that has kept the community strong has been the role of the pub and the most important aspect of the pub after the obvious one is of course music. It has been music that has kept our traditions flowing from generation to generation. The Irish in America have never felt the need to apologise for their beliefs and what they believe and The Narrowbacks are the latest in a long line of bands that have contributed to passing on those traditions to the next generation. Lead singer Seamus Keane explains the bands heritage.
“My father is one of 11 from Connemara, from the Irish speaking section, My mom was born in Queens and moved back to Clare. They met in the Bronx, moved up to Pearl River, and had six kids, including my brother Pat on the button accordion. Chris Moran on drums and Mike Moran (since left the band) on bass are Irish American brothers as well”
Formed in 2010 The Narrowbacks were the brainchild of a bartender and banker who wanted to inject a punk rock attitude into an old-time Irish folk group. They released a stand out album back in 2013 called ‘Fire It Up’ which contained a host of original compositions and a smattering of covers. Their choice of covers ranged from the popular to the less than well known and show a band in touch with their and their communities history. Like so many of us it was Shane and The Pogues that inspired us to dig into our family’s record collections and find the original recordings of those Pogues songs.
“Obviously, we come from the tradition of the Pogues. So many of us hated Irish music growing up until you hear Shane, and it creates this gateway to Irish music. Then you reach back into things like The Clancy Brothers and Luke Kelly to see what influenced Shane.”
Having shared the stage with just about al the big hitters in celtic-punk, the Molly’s, the Murphy’s, Black 47, Gogol Bordello, Mahones, Tossers and even The Rubberbandits when they washed up in New York!
IrishAmerica
In a music scene where its not uncommon for celtic-punk bands to include All-Ireland medal winners in their ranks those early days must have been intimidating for The Narrowbacks but over the years they have matured into a band that can comfortably take its place on any stage and in front of any audience. Currently on tour promoting their recently released EP ‘After Hours’ and in preparation to begin recording for their follow up album due out in the next few months. The EP’s five songs were recorded at Audio Pilot Studios in Boonton, NJ with Rob Freeman and a quick glance at the list of musicians who guested on the EP speaks volumes for how highly thought off they are. Joe Mulvanerty of the sadly missed NYC legends Black 47 on uilleann pipes, Andrew McCarrick of Jamesons Revenge on tin whistle and flute and Katie Linnane of Broken Banjo Strings on fiddle all contribute greatly to proceedings.

What you get is four punked up takes of Irish ballads and one recording of a pissed up drunken after hours sing song in a bar in the Bronx. The EP begins with ‘Star of the County Down’ one of the more common trad covers you are likely to hear but given The Narrowbacks superb treatment it comes up shiny and fresh. Simply brilliant from the first note and I’m sitting here listening to it imagining myself going off my head in some New York hostelry. The band have nailed a sound that is as home in the pub or the home. There is simply not enough uilleann piping in celtic punk and Joe is on fire here with his superb playing. This is followed swiftly by the ‘Rising of the Moon’. The song recounts a battle between the United Irishmen and the British Army in the rebellion of 1798.
“Death to every foe and traitor
Whistle loud the marching tune
And hurrah, me boys for freedom
‘Tis the rising of the moon”
Following is perhaps the most famous song in Irish history the ‘Fields of Athenry’. It wasn’t always so and I remember this song most for being on an album called ‘Irish Songs Of Freedom’ belonging to the auld fella. Over the years this beautiful song has been adopted by Irish sports fans as well as Celtic supporters and if I tell you that the version The Narrowbacks play is the one you’re most likely to hear at Celtic Park then I am sure there’s a good few of you will know what I mean!!
“By a lonely prison wall
I heard a young man calling
Nothing matters Mary when you’re free,
Against the Famine and the Crown
I rebelled they ran me down
Now you must raise our child with dignity”
The song tells of a young man transported to Australia for the crime of stealing a loaf of bread to feed his family. It is only fitting that this song should become a national treasure but what does come as a suprise to most people is that it was written in the 1970’s by Pete St.John. The last ‘proper’ song is ‘The Patriot Game’ and is sang as a rousing ballad rather than the bands usual fired up celtic-punk. The history of Ireland in song and the heroic death of Fergal O’Hanlon. Written by Dominic Behan and made popular by The Dubliners.
“And now as I lie here, my body all holes,
I think of those traitors who bargained in souls,
And I wish that my rifle had given the same,
To those Quislings who sold out the patriot game”
Certainly one of the most hitting rebel songs ever wrote. The EP ends with ‘Aqueduct, 4:15am’ which is the band and their mates raving it up after a night on the lash. The sort of track you’d give your wages to get on! Can’t wait to hear the new album and if it continues in the same vein as ‘Fire It Up’ and ‘After Hours’ then the bhoys will have a surefire hit on their hands. With the sad retirement of Black 47 it certainly looks like the NYC Irish have found the band to represent them.
The Narrowbacks: American First, Irish Always.
(you can have a listen to the bhoys official bootleg ‘Live At The Stone Pony’ in New York city below by pressing play on the Bandcamp player)
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ALBUM REVIEW: THE FATTY FARMERS- ‘Escape From The Dirty Pigs’ (2015)

Spanish Flogging Molly style Celtic punk rock orchestra!

Fatty Farmers- Escape

The Fatty Farmers were formed in 2009 and having now listened to all three of their albums I can honestly say they are one of the most infectiously fun bands knocking around in the celtic-punk scene. From the very first sound of the very first song what you get here is a joyful romp that must be surely a joy to behold to catch live as if their live shows contain a tenth of the energy as this album then that is more than enough! The Fatty Farmers hail from Toledo in central España, 70 km south of Madrid. The city is famed for its socialist values as well as its religious tolerance with Christian, Jew and Muslim communities existing peacefully side by side for centuries. It is perhaps that tolerance for other views and cultures that led eight young Spanish friends to form The Fatty Farmers and become one of the celtic punk scenes hidden delights.

Fatty Farmers logo

The first thing you notice as the album plays is that the band are firmly from the Flogging Molly camp of celtic-punk and with the Molly’s showing no sign of releasing anything now for a couple of years I tells you this is very welcome. Lately its been the Dropkicks style that has dominated my stereo but I like my trad music and you get plenty of that here. The second thing you notice is how similar Rodrigo’s vocal style is to Dave King. Sung in perfect English it is at times uncanny. Now I must add at this point that I do not want you to think that The Fatty Farmers are some clone or covers band of Flogging Molly in fact they do sound like The Mollys if they had continued in the same vein as ‘Within A Mile Of Home’ but there’s more to their fiddle than that. They have released two previous albums, ‘Down In The Streets’ and ‘Refarmatory’, and have toured extensively at home as well as in Italy and Portugal and hopefully this album will deservedly get them plenty more recognition.

The first of the album’s 16, yes sixteen!, tracks is ‘Carrot Man’ and straight away you know you are in for a great ride. The accordion leads the song along and the fiddle adds a bit of a country feel and just a few seconds in and you feel like leaping about the place.

‘Dirty Tricks’ is next and with female backing vocals, by friend of the band Bea, the country-punk has it sounding a somewhat  like The Rumjacks and everyone knows how much I love them! With ‘Freddy’ we are in proper celtic-punk territory for the first time on the album and the boys ramp it right up with fiddle and accordion and mandolin all together with the entertaining tale of murder in a circus.

“What´s going on? All of this is so real. What´s going on? One kill list? Could it be sinister ventriloquist´s dummy?”

‘The Kings of Our Farm’ could be the bands anthem and the hilarious story of winning the lottery and turning their farm into a strip club.

“We´ll miss the races with our pigs now live at full speed,we hired some girls who cleaned our farm”

Eventually they tire of the life and wish to return to the simple pleasures of farming. The Molly sound is complete with added tin whistle and one of the albums stand out tracks. ‘Gafitaeh’ is the only instrumental and has a Greenland Whalefishers sound to it I suppose because of the tin whistle and The Poguesy feel too. The song rattles along at a grand old pace and shows they can really put a tune together. On ‘Grandma’s Drug Lab’ the band never sound so like Flogging Molly again I can promise you.

Without a doubt another of the album highlights and followed by ‘A Doubt in My Heart’, one of the slower album tracks, which has a cool acoustic sound before ‘A Letter to Beth’ explodes in yer ear holes and we’re settling in nicely but then we are thrown a curve ball and ‘Invictus’ shows the band get the bagpipes out and Javato’s piping is brilliant in the punkiest song of the album and the one that would be guaranteed to see me hit the dance floor. Superb both lyrically and musically proving their is much more going on here than the influence of The Mollys.

“Out of the night that covers me,
Black as the pit From pole to pole,
I thank whatever gods may be
For my unconquerable soul.

In the fell clutch of circumstance
I have not winced nor cried aloud.
Under the bludgeonings of chance
My head is bloody, but unbowed”

Based on a poem by the English Victorian poet William Ernest Henley. ‘Invictus’ was written in 1875 and published in 1888. Henley wrote the poem while recovering from life threatening surgery. Their is a lot more to The Fatty Farmers then their ‘fun’ persona would have you believe.

Don’t worry though ‘There’s a Treasure Everywhere’ sees the boys chuck out a pirate song before ‘Under Our Kilts’ the oddest song on the album comes on. The words are gibberish and a in-joke from the band while the music begins with the mandolin before again they take The Rumjacks sound a little further and a ska song wrapped round the accordion. The song develops making you think its going to turn punk rock any second but they stop just short and when the rest of the band join in the sound is actually really good. Just wish I could tell what they are on about!! ‘Drunk Fighters’ again shows how versatile The Fatty Farmers are and they turn their hand to this punk number and its a testament to them that even when they put songs in like ‘Drunk Fighters’ they don’t stick out uncomfortably and in fact seem perfectly at home.

“We’re the drunk fighters. These are our lives we chose and we know, ready to fight and ready for the show”

The Molly influence is back with both ‘Fanegas T.V. Show’ and ‘Queen of Drag Queens’ and to say they are catchy tunes would be a fecking massive understatement. We are getting to the end of the album. An hour’s worth of top notch celtic punk that will surely be challenging for the years best album if their is any justice. The bagpipes are back in ‘When Our River Was a Beach’ which begins slowly lulling you into thinking your in for an easy ride and then the whistle kicks in and we are off again. All great things come to an end and ‘Dancing Duels’ brings one of the best records I have heard this year to an end. A short song, only 71 seconds long, but stuffed to the gills in a live battle between the fiddle and the tin whistle.

FF

The Fatty Farmers left to right: Javier (whistle, bagpipe) Juancar (drums) Javi (fiddle) Rodri (banjo, mandolin, lead vocals) Josemi (electric guitar) Lalo (acoustic guitar) Lamber (bass) Goyo (accordion)

With such a fantastic album under their belts I am sure that The Fatty Farmers will get the recognition they deserve. Fans of the band funded the making of the album so they do have a hardcore of support but they need to get around a whole lot more and introduce the rest of Europe to the glorious sound of The Fatty Farmers. They are of course indebted to Flogging Molly as their influence is clear on ‘Escape From The Dirty Pigs’ but to think they are just copying them couldn’t be further from the truth. The Fatty Farmers are definitely one of the best and original bands in the celtic-punk scene and deserve to be heard. A superb combination of traditional folk music and modern influences. Be sure to watch this band.

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for another opinion on the album check out ‘Celtic Folk Punk And More’ (here) but they seem to have liked it just as much as we did!

ALBUM REVIEW: PADDY AND THE RATS- ‘Lonely Hearts Boulevard’ (2015)

“Hungary’s most famous Irish folk punk band”

Paddy And The Rats- Lonely Hearts Boulevard

Looking back on 2015 it will be forever known as the year of the Hungarian celtic-punk band! Already this year we have reviewed releases by Loch Nesz, The Jolly Jackers, The Scarlet and The Crazy Rogues and we still haven’t got round to reviewing the new album by Firkin either!

PATR2Paddy And The Rats are probably the best known of all the Hungarian celtic-punk bands and deservedly so. Hard work and constant touring have paid dividends for the band and these days they are known throughout Europe for their superb records and great live shows. With three albums behind them- ‘Rats On Board’, ‘Hymns For Bastards’ and ‘Tales From The Docks’- I awaited this new album with bated breath and I am very glad to report I was not disappointed at all.

Formed in 2008 it was their love of Irish music, pirates and punk rock that inspired them to start a band up and they have been going strong and getting stronger ever since. The original celtic-punk sound is still evident on Lonely Hearts Boulevard but it is also clear that the band are moving slightly away from it too. No harm in that. Its called progression and I’d rather they did that than just stick to playing ‘The Wild Rover’ for evermore.

Lonely Hearts Boulevard begins with ‘Keep The Devil Down In The Hole’ but is not the famous Tom Waits/ The Wire song but classic celtic punk rock with great banjo playing and the closest you’ll get to a country and western fiddle being played in a punk rock band. Reminds me of Flogging Molly somewhat and that is never a bad thing. Following is the the title track and ‘Lonely Hearts Boulevard’ follows much the same formula and is my favourite album track. Catchy as hell and a real toe tapper. On first listen you would take this album to be a real uplifting experience. The songs certainly bounce along with tons of energy but lyrically it’s a dark journey through pain, loneliness and struggle.

“Coz there’s a lot of pain
While we’re marching
Down through the life
And there’s a lot of fear
As we walk through the dark
On the Lonely Hearts Boulevard”

Bagpipes come in towards the end and complete the celtic sound. ‘My Sharona’ has a Sparks feel to it and is the first track without any sort of ‘celticness’. Still it rocks my boat and I am not complaining. Paddy And The Rats enter proper anthem territory with ‘Rogue’, a song that will I am sure get the audience on their feet at gigs.

Their first trip across the sea with a number about trying to keep one ahead of the navy while a bounty is placed on your head.

“Hold again
For the last sea and the friends
Take away my heart from this dusty land
They call me the rogue
But I’ll keep on looting, my friend
Let’s haul the rope again”

‘That’s My Nature’ is also one of the album stand out tracks and comes with a cracking video too. There’s a slight metal edge to the guitars and even though the ‘celtic-ness’ is toned down a bit here it’s still a great song. As with all the great celtic-punk premier league groups, to become one of the scene’s truly treasured bands it’s not just 110 mph fast fast fast you have to be master of the ballad too. Or at least for a minute or two before cranking it back up to 110 mph again. ‘Sleeping With The Winter’ is the former and is a welcome change after the previous five tracks. Very American sounding and the sort of track you could imagine any of the scene’s greats playing. Slow acoustic and with great heartfelt lyrics. ‘Drunker Than You’ is the closest on this album to Paddy And The Rats and their first album. A shitload of swearing accompanied by frantic fiddle, accordion and banjo and all the while Paddy O’Reilly shouting tunefully over the top. Paddy is a great front man and his voice fits perfectly.  ‘Captain Of My Soul’ continues with the celtic feel and begins with piano before fiddle jumps in and so begins a cracking song. Exactly what celtic-punk should be. A real punked up Irish tune with great lyrics too.

“I follow my lush heart
There’s immortal, lamp flame
I slunk like a wise wolf
Between lust and shame
If I let myself tempted
By the killing snake eyes
I forget my greedy vice”

The country/celtic of ‘Blue Eyes’ is a welcome slow down and the banjo picking is superb and leads us into a tale of debauchery in ‘Rock This City’ that any pirate would be proud of. The city is Budapest and with Paddy And The Rats in town I’m sure it is rocked to the max. Bagpipes give the song a nice Dropkick Murphys sound and if you close your eyes you could be in Boston.

“I outshined the sun
And I stole the moon
I fucked with the stars
On sunday afternoon
All of your dreams are made
If you wanna believe
I’ll put a smile on you
Before I leave”

Frantic punk rock drumming and electric guitar on ‘Time Is In My Hands’ can’t hide the celtic tune it’s wrapped around while ‘Without You (I Don’t Wanna Dance)’ is one of the more radio friendly album tracks and comes accompanied by a video with the band frollicking at the beach with a host of young maidens. This summery song sure is catchy enough but give me celtic-punk any day!

‘Junkyard Girl’ is a straight up punk tune with daft lyrics and Lonely Hearts Boulevard’s fourteen tracks comes to an end with ‘What We Are’. Again outstanding lyrics and a slower song building up and up. The ‘fist in the air’ song of the album by a long way. The song ends abruptly with the whole band singing along in a song that I would imagine means a lot to them personally.

 “Sometimes it’s hard to have the courage
To start all over again
But never be afraid to fight for yourself, my friend
Time is the longest distance
Between now and your dreams
Let’s find for you
A different point of view”

So there you have it. Don’t come along to ‘Lonely Hearts Boulevard’ expecting the full on Irish/ celtic tunes of previous albums but instead expect a band not happy just to rest on their laurels, that continues to play celtic-punk but with more and more influences flooding in. That a lot of these songs were originally intended for a solo album explains a lot to me. Paddy And The Rats are going places and they won’t be confined to any genre just for the sake of it. Onwards and upwards but don’t worry just yet they are in no hurry to forget their celtic punk roots any time soon.

PATR1

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a couple more interesting sites are the ‘Paddy And The Rats Fan Group’ here and the ‘Celtic Punk/irish Folk Hungary’ Facebook group here is a great community of like minded people.

here

ALBUM REVIEW: GREENLAND WHALEFISHERS- ‘The Thirsty Cave’ (2015)

Celtic Punk or Irish Punk or Paddy Punk or Folk Rock or Rock or Punk or Folk Punk or Folk?

Greenland Whalefishers- 'The Thirsty Cave' (2015)

The latest studio album from one of the most popular and most successful celtic-punk bands in the world!

The eighth studio album from London Celtic Punks fave’s the Greenland Whalefishers and boy oh boy it does not disappoint! Regular readers will know how much we love this band and we have been privileged to have organised both their only visits to London over the years. One of the celtic-punk scene’s major hitters they have been on the go since 1994 and with over 20 years of touring and recording behind them they show no signs of letting up either. On the release of their ‘Looney Tunes’ EP last St Patrick’s Day (review here) we had this to say about them

“For those not in the know The Greenland Whalefishers hail from Borgen in Norway and have been wandering the globe for over twenty years now playing their fantastic brand of celtic-punk for the masses. Way, way before the Dropkicks and the Mollys were even thought of  it was The Greenland Whalefishers who were flying the tricolour for celtic-punk in Europe…and beyond.”

They have toured literally the four corners of the earth and built up a massive fan base all without the help of any major label support and all done on their own terms. They have kept it independent and done it all themselves.

The album is ten songs that come in at a lengthy forty minutes long and has nine original songs (though two were included on that ‘Looney Tunes’ EP mentioned above) and one instrumental. One of the best things about the Whalefishers is that they don’t feel the need to rush through things. Their sound has been likened to The Pogues and I would agree and just like The Pogues they can race through a frantic, fast paced number or a slow ballad and it will not wear out its welcome. This comes from a band being at perfect ease with itself. They trust in what they do and so do we…

Greenland Whalefishers

(left to right) Atle-Hjørn Øien, Odin Døssland, Agnes Skollevoll, Arvid Grov, Ørjan Eikeland Risan, Alexander Bjotveit, Ronny Terum.

This fine album is up there with the best of The Greenland Whalefishers I am happy to say and will I am sure set the scene alight if there is any justice in this world. ‘The Thirsty Cave’ begins with ‘Tinted’ and from the first sounds of the sea followed by acoustic guitar and tin whistle and then Arvids voice begins and we are in familiar territory here. I find myself saying this over and over again but I do find myself judging a lot of celtic-punk releases on not just the music itself. After all a lot of what is released does whether we like to admit or not sound pretty similar so I find myself looking for things that set the releases apart and one of those things is the lyrics or message the band is trying to get across and one of the things that the Whalefishers have always had is strong and powerful lyrics. Again not too dissimilar to that great band that influenced them the most. Vocalist Arvid is chiefly responsible but by no means exclusively so and they are a real collective effort.

“Carry my weight / and if you like some of my hate”

A great song to start with and as catchy as anything you’ve heard from them before. ‘None Of Us Are Faithful’ is up next and is much more traditional celtic-punk. As I already mentioned the lyrics I have to add that there’s not an awful lot of cheerfulness here. Unrequited love, despair, worthlessness, alcoholism, pity seem to be the order of the day but all wrapped in such gloriously uplifting music that half the time you don’t know how sad your singing is! The self-penned instrumental ‘Nothing To Say’ is the album’s shortest track and Agnes tin whistle dominates proceedings and a fine auld tune it is too. Pure paddy punk mixing that Pogues sound with some real punk urgency. We are big fans of Tom Waits here and ‘Angel’ gives Arvid the opportunity to give it his best chance to do a ‘celtic-Waits’ and a slower swirling song that still has plenty of bite in it. ‘Been Away’ has a feel of Hell’s Ditch Pogues to it and speeds along nicely with another sad song

“I ran into you on a rainy night and we fell in love, in the beginning there was light”

’20 Years Of Waiting’ was the title track of that St Patrick’s Day single and is here simply the highlight of an album where every track is outstanding! All the differing components of the Whalefishers coming together in a perfect storm of a song.

‘Ted McKenzie’ is another slower track that somehow doesn’t seem slow at all. So much going on musically that it has the impression of a fast song without being one. All the band swirl round together to make a glorious noise with more tales of woe and death and losing at the bookies. ‘Queen’ is another high point and a ton of London references in the song about meeting some lassie who breaks your heart! Accompanied by a great video of the band filmed on location at home in Bergen and in London on their date at The Water Rat’s back last Summer.

‘Looney Tunes’ is the other song from this years earlier EP and again its a beauty. Rhyming ‘River’ with ‘Liver’ will tell you all you need to know about the songs story. Such great production on this album that continues with final track ‘The Letter’ which sends us home with the fastest song on The Thirsty Cave and the Poguesy feel is never greater.

“Live every day like its now or never, I hope you don’t lose your mind”

So there you have it. Neither a great leap forward or a re-hash of what has gone before but somehow Greenland Whalefishers have pulled out of their hat yet another fresh sounding album chockablock of some fantastic Celtic Punk or Irish Punk or Paddy Punk or Folk Rock or Rock or Punk or Folk Punk or Folk songs. Whatever you want to call it their appeal is universal and they deserve their place as one of the celtic-punk scenes best bands. If you are still to be converted to the Greenland Whalefishers delay no longer and do yourself a favour and get this album. Its not every band that has been together 20+ years you can say the best place to start is with the new album but with the Whalefishers go on and dive in!

Contact The Band

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Buy The Album

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  • For an alternative view of this great album check out the ever excellent Celtic Folk Punk And More’ blog here for their review…

EP REVIEW: GREENLAND WHALEFISHERS- ‘Looney Tunes’ (2015)

Celtic Punk or Irish Punk or Paddy Punk or Folk Rock or Rock or Punk or Folk Punk or Folk…yeah that sounds about right!

Greenland Whalefishers- Looney Tunes EP (2015)

For those not in the know The Greenland Whalefishers hail from Borgen in Norway and have been wandering the globe for over twenty years now playing their fantastic brand of celtic-punk for the masses. Way, way before the Dropkicks and the Mollys were even thought of  it was The Greenland Whalefishers who were flying the tricolour for celtic-punk in Europe…and beyond. If you haven’t heard of them yet (where you been?!?!) this is your chance to properly rectify that. ‘Looney Tunes’ three track EP came out over last St Patricks Day and as we were all in Dublin it kinda passed us over but soon as I got a chance I promised myself I would play the wee bugger to death and that is exactly what I have done.

Greenland Whalefishers

(left to right) Atle-Hjørn Øien, Odin Døssland, Agnes Skollevoll, Arvid Grov, Ørjan Eikeland Risan, Alexander Bjotveit, Ronny Terum.

The Whalefishers are often thought of as a Pogues style band and there is no denying that yes at moments they sound exactly the same as The Pogues. I mean EXACTLY the same. It’s uncanny. I have fooled more than a couple of people into thinking they were listening to new Pogues material while they were in fact hearing The Whalefishers. Now The Pogues are the ultimate kings of celtic-punk so that is no insult it’s a massive compliment to have played to them. Over the last couple of releases though they have started to move ever so slightly away from that sound and more power to them as it still sounds incredible to this ear that a Norweigan band can have such an authentic Irish ring. It is quite simply amazing.

Greenland Whalefishers

(left to right) Atle-Hjørn Øien, Odin Døssland, Agnes Skollevoll, Arvid Grov, Ørjan Eikeland Risan, Alexander Bjotveit, Ronny Terum.

The EP kicks right off with the title song ‘Looney Tunes’ and every instrument is played to perfection. Arvid’s vocal style is less like Shane than it has been before but slots in as easily as ever with the music. All seven members play their part and with a great production this EP rock’n’rolls along with none of the instruments drowning each other out and simply accompanying each other. Second track ‘Afraid’ is a slow swirling number again with all the multitude of instruments coming together beautifully. Like The Pogues its not always the faster paced songs that grab your attention and most of my favourite Whalefishers songs are of the slower kind.

Ending with the epic ‘Twenty Years Of Waiting’ The Whalefishers ramp it right up and a classic bit of celtic-punk draws the curtain on this grand EP. A few classic album titles get namechecked in the lyrics and the EP’s standout track is also its final one.

“The reflection in the window tells me I’m still the same
Raising my glass, what you see is what you get
I’m just a bag of bones, trying to stay sane
Washing my hands clean, now I’m all set”

There is not an awful lot you can say about The Greenland Whalefishers. You will either like it or you will not. They have been around now for such a long that their sound is as perfect as it’s ever gonna get! Taking a combination of Brit punk and adding celtic folk influences and then finally smothering it in Irishness The Greenland Whalefishers are one of the bands that moulded celtic-punk after The Pogues gave up recording new material. They definitly deserve the plaudits that they regularly get from the celtic-punk media and they seem to be on the never ending verge of pushing on into the big time. This a great EP and showcases the band perfectly and with a new album due later in the year ‘Thirsty Cave’ this is going to be a good year for The Greenland Whalefishers. Earlier in the review I said “you will either like it or you will not” when what I should have written is you will either totally love it or you are a fecking eejit!

(press play below to hear the entire EP)

 

Contact The Band

WebSite   Facebook  Twitter  YouTube  Spotify

Buy The EP

FromTheBand  iTunes  Amazon

this band is so amazing they had an award winning documentary made about them last year and the band have allowed it be released so settle down with a cup of tea and a packet of biscuits and watch ‘Twenty Years Of Waiting- The Movie’.

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