Tag Archives: Shane MacGowan

EP REVIEW: JAMES McGRATH- ‘Live At The Shed’ (2018)

What a fortnight for acclaimed Tipp born singer-songwriter James McGrath with both a new must-hear EP out this week and a must-see gig in London soon too!
My family come from Tipperary (shout out to Ballylooby and Clogheen Wilkinson’s) so at this time of year I would normally be hurting after our annual defeat to Kilkenny in the All-Ireland Hurling Championship but with not even that to look back on I have had to cast my net a bit wider. Following the well trod route of many many Tipp people he has moved to London and with the release of his latest EP, Live At The Shed is hoping for the breakthrough that will see him reach the heights his talents deserve.

Ireland has no shortage of talented singer-songwriters, and never has had to be honest, and among the most talented the name James McGrath is up at the top of the list. Hailing from Nenagh in the north of Tipp James has a voice that has been compared to both Neil Young and Eddie Vedder and the songwriting skills of the legendary Shane MacGowan. Live At The Shed is his third EP release and showcases James live at Shed Studios in the once heavily Irish enclave of Enfield in north London. Just him and his guitar and no knobs twiddled or fiddled about with to change anything. James exciting and passionate live performance transfers onto this recording so well and his warmth shines through. He has already tasted success at home in Ireland when his track ‘8 Cans’ from The Cans EP hit the #1 spot in last years Irish Download charts.

Live At The Shed begins with ‘Can’t Get Out’ and the first thing you notice is James voice. Clear and precise and with a brogue as Irish as Damo Dempsey but without the over inflated ‘Dubb’ inflection. The shortest song here its a tale of having no cash and trying everything you can to make your life work. There’s only four songs here and ‘Bad Bends’ is up next. It’s much more laid back but far from a ballad again it’s no tale to eat popcorn too and despite it being a downbeat song it’s also full of hope and tender emotion. It’s certainly not what I am use to reviewing on these pages but I like to challenge myself and I got over the idea that I cannot like things that my Mammy would like years ago. Now i am not one to bander Ed Sheeran’s name around much but if you draw a line between the wee ginger billionaire and Shane MacGowan then you’d be right to put James on the Shane side of the middle. Third song is ‘Walk Away’ and not much to add here except its more of the same mid-tempo folk.  Extremely well played and James has stamped onto these songs his own brand. At times you can imagine the songs coming from Christy or Damo but young James has certainly developed his own style. The highlight of the EP for me is ‘Race To The Bottom’ which brings down the curtain after only eleven minutes.

One of James stated goals in moving to London was to write an album so here’s hoping he gets onto it as soon as possible. Things move fast in London so he needs to strike while he’s building up some momentum. One bad habit he seems to have picked up in London like the many before him is a love of the bookies. Did your Ma never tell you there’s no such thing as a poor bookmaker? It’s a downbeat song and its not unusual for any of us who arrive in London to find it too much and a combination of the capital’s excesses and homesickness often is too much for new arrivals. A real beauty of a song.

james mcgrath gigJames has released a fine EP and his humour, passion and sincerity shine through and if like me you can’t wait to see him live in concert we will get our chance in just a couple of weeks at the EP’s official launch night at The Swallow Bar in Uxbridge. James favourite venue a packed, fun, lively night is in store and to top it all off it’s free entry as well. He takes the stage at 9pm and you can find the FB event here. The Swallow Bar is a old fashioned Irish bar on Long Lane in Uxbridge, UB10 9NR and is situated right next to Hillingdon Station. It’s on the Picadilly and Metropolitan lines but bring a book if you coming from central London as its a bit of a slog but never let that put you off. Up to a hour on the tube may seem long in London but having just got back my home town I can honestly say it is not! It may  not be the raucous Irish music we are use to here in London Celtic Punks towers but man can’t live by that alone. It’s good for your soul to listen to someone like James occasionally. He has a very exciting future ahead of him and I think the dark streets of London will suit him well.
Buy Live At The Shed
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(James McGrath singing his fantastic hit single ‘8 Cans’. Filmed at Fat Pigeon April 2016)

ALBUM REVIEW: MUIRSHEEN DURKIN AND FRIENDS- ’11 Pints & 3 Shots’ (2018)

And we all thought Muirsheen Durkin had gone off to mine gold in California but would seem he got lost on the way to Amerikay and ended up in Arnsberg and started playing some proper kick-arse Irish-Celtic-Folk-Punk-Rock!

I have a feeling we’ll still be reviewing celtic-punk releases from March well into the Summer at this rate! Here’s another that arrived in time for St. Patrick’s Day and has hardly been out of my ears since. The quality of what we received here at London Celtic Punks Towers has been amazing and when I said I thought Krakin’ Kellys new CD was already the album of the year I hadn’t heard 11 Pints & 3 Shots by this awesome German collective of musicians.

Having known each other for some thirty years it was only a few years back in 2009 that the idea to start something new came up. Wanting a band with its feet based firmly in traditional Irish music and with an emphasis on emigration songs Muirsheen Durkin & Friends was born. Their name comes from the auld song about a happy go lucky Irishman heading off to mine for gold in America during the  California Gold Rush of 1849. The song is unusual in that its a happy song and Muirsheen (a reference to the phonetic pronunciation of ‘Máirtín’ (in English Martin) in the West of Ireland.The feet may be in trad with mandolin, banjo, tin whistle, accordion and two pipers but with the addition of classic rock music instruments the band joined an ever growing scene

” set about re-voicing Irish traditional’s with pulsing bass runs, pumping beats and the use of relatively rare instruments, making it hard to recognize the contemplative shanty or seafaring vocation , Pure enjoyment and a little punk rock is still…”

Modern day celtic music and celtic-punk music has moved away from the areas well known for Irish/Celtic emigration and is now played throughout the world inspired by hundreds of bands throughout the globe. They no longer come from Ireland or London or New York but from Indonesia, Russia, Japan and even China. This is the proud legacy that the Pogues leaves to the world.

11 Pints & 3 Shots is the third release from Muirsheen Durkin with their debut album, Last Orders, hitting the streets back in 2012 and their follow up to that, Drink With The Irish, a four track EP, arriving in 2014 which features ‘The Pogues and Whiskey’ a stunningly great homage to Kings Cross finest. Each release came with mighty press from around the celtic-punk world with everyone from Celtic Folk Punk & More to Shite’n’Onions raving to the high heavens about how good they are.  Formed in the central German town of Arnsberg the band were first revealed to me when they played at the Celtic-St. Pauli football and music festival and loads of fellow Celtic supporters arrived back over here raving about a band they had seen. That was a couple of years ago and with 11 Pints & 3 Shots I finally had the chance to hear them for the first time.

What we have here is fourteen tracks that clock in at three quarters of an hour which includes three instrumentals and and a bunch of songs that you may have probably heard before but done in a style i’m sure not many are accustomed to outside these pages! Mix in some re-workings (updating?) of a couple of songs and a smattering of original compositions and you got yourself one hell of a an album!

So onto the actual review and the fun begins on 11 Pints & 3 Shots from the very off with a great album opener ‘Another Drunken Night’. Self penned by the band this was the song that announced the new release to the waiting public and needless to say it is a corker! Banjo and accordion led with nice drumming it has a definite Rumjacks feel to it but these Bhoys and Ghirls have been around long enough, and on another continent!, to come up with it themselves. A grand song and what a way to start.

The subject matter well have a gander at the video above and you’ll easily work it out. We stay in the pub next for ‘One Whiskey’, another band penned number. The song really evokes an Irish sound to me. This is the Gaelic music music that we grew up here but with plenty more bite to it. Its still folk music but played at a breakneck speed and with a real passion. Vocalist MacRünker was a member of the first Irish folk punk band in the area, Lady Godiva, who released four albums and his voice fits in superbly. Hoarse and raspy but never too much and totally in tune with the music. The bagpipes are out for ‘Itchy Fingers’ and it puts the mental into instrumental. It’s the same tune as The Kilmaine Saints signature tune which I am sure is well known but beyond my feeble memory. A killer of a song and you’d expect it to be from a band with two pipers and where half the rest of the band can pipe as well!

The first totally recognisable cover is the Scots classic ‘Donald Where Your Troosers’. Written by the great Andy Stewart in 1960 while sat on the toilet in a recording studio. The song tells the hilarious story of a kilted Scotsman travelling round London shocking the well heeled residents of London.

“I went down to London town
To have a little fun in the underground
All the Ladies turned their heads around, saying,
“Donald, where’s your troosers?”

This is followed up with another classic Scottish song in ‘Wild Mountain Thyme’ and make no mistake I tells you this is the best bloody version of it I have ever heard in all my days! Folk music is put aside somewhat for a moment as the band punk it up with a thundering bass and MacRünker and acoustic guitarist Sonja and accordionist Mine kick up a real storm on vocals that captures Muirsheen Durkin perfectly. Talk about catchy this album sounds like there’s about twenty people playing and if i never thought I’d hear a better version than you-know-who’s then i was wrong. Another classic cover up next and its one perhaps made famous by The Dreadnoughts, ‘Old Maui’. The song can be traced to records going back to the mid 19th century and tells the story of a whaling ship returning to Maui in Hawaii after a long season of whaling.

“It’s a damn tough life full of toil and strife
We whalermen undergo”

The song is strong as any on the album but doesn’t add much to the Dreadnoughts version for me and for a band that really can stamp their brand onto any song maybe it might have been better to cast their net for a less known song. After a smattering of covers the next couple of songs are self-penned by the band and ‘Peggy The Waitress’takes us back to the auld sod of Ireland and a tin-whistle led instrumental that takes in a variety of tunes some sounding familiar and others not before the banjo takes over and leads us until the accordion takes over and then all kick in before we get ‘Land Of 1000 Mountains’ and its a country/Irish folk crossover and again MacRünker’s voice is exactly what is needed here. The song steams along at a steady pace and you know its gonna take off and when it does it lifts the roof. Another album standout here proving they are not just a brilliant covers band but a brilliant band in their own right. Next up we get another cover and Sonja and Mine again take up the vocals on ‘Botany Bay’ and again it’s a great version but perhaps a bit overdone. For a band so in touch with ‘Irishness’ this would be my only wee complaint here. ‘MacRunkers Junk’ is another belting Irish folk punk instrumental with what could easily pass for a ska interlude if they wanted. The tunes fly at you and once again some familiar and some not but they make for one hell of a song when they all put together. On ‘Drink With The Irish’ Muirsheen Durkin pay tribute to one of Ireland’s best ever bands and one that at times could have got you arrested for just listening to! The Wolfe Tones classic rebeler ‘Erin Go Bragh’ is chopped and changed and adapted with love and respect into a celtic-punk number.

“I’ll sing you a song of a row in the town,
When the green flag went up and the Crown flag came down,
‘Twas the neatest and sweetest thing ever you saw,
And they played that great game they called Erin Go Bragh”

Written and arranged by banjo/mandolin player Thomas ‘Lanze’ Landsknecht I bet the tones would whole heartily approve. With the King Of Celtic-Punk’s recent 60th birthday Muirsheen Durkin then pay tribute with ‘Last Of McGee’ written by Shane himself.

“Rope of hemp, around his neck
To hang from an old gum tree
And as he hung
The branch came down, and finished the last of McGee”

You may not have heard it as the song was unreleased and was recorded in 1990 during the recording sessions for the Hell’s Ditch album and produced by Joe Strummer. The song stays fairly true to the MacGowan version and is a timely reminder of the great mans talent. Fast and furious and how could it be anything other than absolutely fecking brilliant!! We are steering up towards the end and the quality hasn’t waned and in ‘When The Pipers Play’ we have what for me is the albums standout track. Originally played by the amazing Black Tartan Clan from Belguim the lyrics are by Muirsheen Durkin and leans heavily on songs as varied as ‘The Water Is Wide’, ‘Danny Boy’ and ‘Auld Lang Syne’. If you like bagpipes in yer celtic-punk then this is the song for you. Absolutely stunning pipes from Andre and Simon and arranged into a completely new song.

11 Pints & 3 Shots comes to a glorious end with the hilarious ‘Botany Bay Reggae’ and aye you guessed it is a reggae infused version of everyone’s favourite emigration song. Now I hate reggae but I love this so there! What a way to wrap up the album and the perfect way!

Overall the album has a fantastic sound. Quite a feat with the amount of musicians at work here and thanks are due to Sebastian Levermann of German progressive metal band Orden Ogan who along with the band members has managed to capture the band perfectly. The CD also comes with a very elaborate twenty page booklet with everything you need to know about the album and with some amazing cartoons of the band drawn by Sebastian Kempke. Last year was the year all the giants of celtic-punk released albums and this year may seem quieter because of that but so far we have a handful of albums that must have the giants quaking in their shoes and up at the top of that list is this one!

Buy 11 Pints & 3 Shots

FromTheBand

Contact Muirsheen Durkin

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THE UNHOLY TRINITY- SHANE MacGOWAN, MARK E. SMITH AND NICK CAVE

We were saddened to hear about the death of Mark E.Smith grumpy front man of the influential Manchester post-punk band The Fall. So seems an apt time to remember the time, back in February 1989, that the British music paper the NME sent two of its journalists, James Brown and Sean O’Hagan, to the boozer with three of music’s wisest (and wildest) men- Shane MacGowan, Mark E.Smith and Nick Cave… and gave them all £10 each to have a drink!

It’s not often that we mere mortals find out what the personalities of our heroes are but in this interview we can almost see them lapping it up in the lounge bar down the Montague. Nick Cave keeps his cool and his answers short and sweet, maybe down to him being the only sober one there perhaps (he had just spent seven weeks in rehab), while Shane (“… done some Ecstasy and had drunk a bottle of whisky on the way down”) is the amiable drinking companion we would always assume he would be dipping in and out and taking the piss in between bouts of seriousness. Finally Mark, at times abusive and hostile and others friendly and warm. His views were certainly militant but maybe not in the way many would like them to be but no denying the influence he had inspiring a generation of musicians from Sonic Youth to The Pixies and beyond. I had the pleasure of meeting him once in a pub in Sheffield around 1988 and he was as sound as you could expect a music hero to be when you’re a awed teenager. With more than thirty album’s and more band members than you could ever possibly keep up with The Fall didn’t make it easy to follow them but there were always Mark E.Smith steering them and always around but no more now. He will be missed.

“a kind of Northern English magic realism that mixed industrial grime with the unearthly and uncanny, voiced through a unique, one-note delivery somewhere between amphetamine-spiked rant and alcohol-addled yarn.

FEBRUARY 25th 1989. NME TALKS TO

“So the NME thinks we’re the last three heroes of rock’n’roll, do they?” laughs Nick Cave. “Smarmy fuckers,” adds Shane McGowan, “what they actually mean is that we’re the three biggest brain damaged cases in rock’n’roll.”

“Apart from Nick”, jabs Mark Smith, “Nick’s cleaned up.”
“yeah”, drawls Cave, “my brains restored itself.”

A bottle’s throw from Millwall FC, The Montague Arms, a mock Gothic fun pub for morbid tourists, plays host to a bizarre summit meeting. Amidst stuffed horses’ heads, skeletons on bicycles and mocked up corpses, three of contemporary music’s most infamous individuals are gathered at the NME’s request.

Shane MacGowan of the Pogues, Mark E.Smith of the Fall and Nick Cave all share an outsider’s attitude that informs their respective musical output. Both championed and castigated for their obsessiveness and extremism, this unholy trio are dogged by reputations that precede them.

That they agreed to such a meeting is surprising. What ensues is inspired and insane by turns. The fractured and, often fractious, conversation sprawls between the amiable and the aggressive- Presley to Nietzsche, songwriting to psychology, football to fanatics.

In an afternoon of sheer psychotic hellishness, Cave plays the diplomat to Smith’s bursts of contentious rhetoric whilst MacGowan transmits his thoughts from his own singular, rarefied wavelength.

WHAT REALLY WENT ON THERE ? WE ONLY HAVE THIS EXCERPT

NME Do you think it’s accurate to describe the three of you as outsiders?
NC “I think we have all tended to create some kind of area where we can work without particularly having to worry about what’s fashionable.”
MES “Yes, fair enough. But I think there’s a lot of differences in this trio here. Nick was very rock’n’roll to me but he’s turned his back on it which was cool. Shane’s more, I dunno. To me the Pogues are the good bits from the Irish showband scene, like the Indians. You had that feel, probably lost that now. Your work’s good though.”
SM “Fuck it man. Who wants to work in a place where there’s all these people looking at you ?”
MES “Are you talking about your gigs ? You should stop doing them, then.”
SM “Can’t afford to.”
MES “Fuck it, you could fight not to if you don’t like it.”
SM “…and leave the rest of them in the lurch ?”
MES “Nah, the rest of your band will always complain about not working. If you’re paying them a wage tell them to stay at home and behave themselves.”
SM “It’s a democracy our band.”
MES “Why aren’t they here with you then ?”
SM “Cos the NME didn’t want to interview them.”
MES ‘Cos nobody’d recognise them.”
SM “That’s it ! They want to interview us because we’ve got distinctive characteristics. They just want to interview three high-brow loonies.”
MES “In that case you should have brought your mate Joe Strummer along.”
SM “I said high-brow loonies.”

HITS AND MYTHS

NME You must be aware that, consciously or otherwise, you’ve each created a particular myth that has arisen, in part, from your songs.
SM “Nobody created my mythology, I certainly didn’t.”
NC “No, you (the press) created it.”

SM “The media has a lot to answer for, you’re all a bunch of bastards however friendly you are.”
NC “Let’s not talk about the media. Why the hell are you talking about mythologies ? That tends to suggest it’s somehow unreal.”
SM “It seems to me that in your songs, Nick, you’re doing a Jung-style trip of examining your shadow, all the dark things you don’t want to be. A lot of your songs are like trips into the subconscious and are therefore nightmarish.”
NC “Possibly.”
SM “You’re exploring the world through the subconscious. I’ve done that on occasions for various reasons, whether it be illness or self abuse, or whatever. Once things start to look grotesque I don’t write them or sing them. I couldn’t write them the way you do, I couldn’t-making nightmares into living daylight…”
NC “I think you do a pretty good job of it in some of your songs.”
SM “The minute it gets dark I shoot back, retreat. I haven;’t always but I do now ‘cos…”
MES “Don’t give too much away Shane, don’t tell them. Hold a bit back.”
SM “I haven’t told them anything yet.”

NME “How do each of you approach the actual mechanics of songwriting ?”
MES “When you ask that you induce fear in a songwriter. I just go blank.”
NC “It’s not a cut and dried process.”
SM “For a start I’ve got to be out of my head to write. For a lot of the time it’s automatic writing. ‘Rainy day in Soho’ was automatic.”
MES “Its gotta be subconscious and off the wall. He says he’s got to be out of his head, and a lot of the time I have too. Sometimes, I just wake up and do it. It’s one of the hardest questions you ever get asked. For instance, you sometimes hear things that would make a great idea for a song but you never carry them out.”
SM “I do. Like the “Turkish Song of the Damned” was a Kraut trying to tell me something and I misheard him. He said, “Have you heard ‘The Turkish Song’ by the Damned”. Then I woke up.
MES “My German song’s better than your yours, I bet. This is like one of those night-time discussions on Channel 4.”
NC “I write songs in batches then record them and then can’t write again for ages. I try and build one song upon another, they may not look obviously inter-related but often one song acts as a springboard into another.”
SM “You haven’t been back to the swamps for a while, have you ?”
NC “The swamps ? Heh,heh. I’ve written a novel about that.”
MES “Nick thinks a novel’s two pages long. Very novel, heh, heh.”
NC “What’s it called ?”
MES “It’s called ‘It’ll Be Ready in Another Five Years’. You should write more aggressive songs, Nick, you’re getting too slow.”
NC “I haven’t sat down and thought about the mood before I wrote them.”
MES “I find your work almost English Lit oriented, like Beckett, things crop up again and again.”
NC “And your songs are very deceptive Mark, in the way they’re sung. They might appear at times like streams of consciousness but that’s deceptive.”
MES “One thing that eally annoys me is that stream of consciousness thing. I wouldn’t let on to it normally, but it annoys the shit out of me. I put a lot of hard sweat into them, I think about them. They have an inner logic to me so I don’t really care who understands them or not. I see writing and singing as two very different things. My attitude is if you can’t deliver it like a garage band, fuck it. That’s one thing that’s never been explored, delivering complex things in a very straightforward rock’n’roll way. My old excuse is if I’d wanted to be a poet, I’d have been a poet.”
SM “And starved.”
MES “I can write, boy, I can write. That’s what I do. People like you sit around moaning about the state of pop music…The trouble is it’s too bloody easy for people, that’s why music is in the sorry state it is. Any idiot, actors mainly, can go in there, sing a chord, bang on a machine…I’m not objecting to that but when people get at me for trying to say something in a rock’n’roll mode it’s as if I’m a freak.”
SM “All this talk about the state of music, rock’n’roll, Irish music, soul, funk.”
MES “Salsa.”
SM “Its been proved by Acid House that anyone can make a record.”
MES “We’re not thick, we all know that.”
SM “Look, I’m talking about the implications of Acid House”
MES “There’s nothing new in Acid House for me, pal. I’ve been using that process for years. Bloody years. It might be new for you but don’t assume it’s new for anyone else, because you’re fucking wrong, pal.
SM “What the fuck are you talking about ? Have you made an Acid House record ?
MES “It’s the same process, right. Have you had some sort of bloody revelation about Acid House ?”
SM “Hah ! It’s obvious if you listen they put Eastern melodies over it, bits of this and that…”
MES “That’s what music should always have been like.”
SM “It always was.”
MES “Why haven’t you been doing it for years then pal ?”
NC “I think they have been doing it. I’ve heard zithers and so on. Eastern stuff and Turkish stuff.”
MES “We had jazz arrangements in ’82 when the rest of those tossers were playing cocktail lounge music and fucking pseudo new wave, so don’t talk to me about it because I know what I’m talking about pal.”
SM “Fucking hell, what’s he on about ?”

CONTAINER DRIVERS

MES “The trouble with the music biz is that its become so bourgeois. A middle class executive business like the police force.”
SM “A middle class executive police force ? You must be mad ! They’re stormtroopers nowadays, thicker than they ever were.”
MES “Can we drop the cop talk ? It’s the same with everything else, like lurries…” SM “Lurries ? What are lurries ?”
MES “Lurries. Containers that deliver your fucking food to your fucking house, alright ?”
SM “Lorries ! Yeah right.”
MES “The drivers are paid the lowest wages because everyone wants to sit in the office and be a ponce. You can’t just go into a hotel and write your name, you’ve got to fuck around on a bloody computer. Nobody wants to work anymore.”
SM “Oh God ! You make me wanna puke sometimes, you do. Of course nobody wants to work. Who in their right mind wants to work ?”
MES “Alright, alright, that’s obvious, the sky’s fucking blue. Soccer’s the same. None of the fuckers want to hit the ball in the back of the net. They’re all too fucking muscley. And thick. Running up and down the field like bloody morons. The England team are all bloody minor executives who can’t kick the ball in the back of the net, can’t do the bloody job they’re hired to do. I do loads of gigs, that’s my job to play loads of gigs, I’m not an executive, I don’t mind playing in front of a load of sweaty people.”

NME “Do you two still enjoy playing live ?”
NC “I don’t know if I do. The first Kilburn show was a nightmare.”
MES “What’s new with The Bad Seeds ?”
NC “I used to hate playing live totally, just the whole physical exhaustion was too much for me.”
MES “Bleeding workshy Australian. Australians never do any work.”
NC “The last tour, going on stage was a release.”
MES “Sexually ?”
NC “As my life gets more constipated and cramped going on stage I’m able to purge myself in some way.”
MES “A bowel release.”
NC “I feel more relaxed.”
MES “With Mick Harvey behnd you with the vaseline.”
NC “Put a muzzle on this guy.”
SM “The gigs I enjoy are the ones where I am so angry and paranoid, and I hate the audience so much, that I put everything into it to feed off the aggressive side of it. I don’t actually hate the fans but when I’m feeling angry, pissed off and full of hate, it’s a good gig for me.”
NC “An audience is the perfect thing to unleash that hate and venom on. It doesn’t necessarily mean that you hate everyone in the audience but when you’ve got a so-called adoring mass in front of you, it’s a perfect target for that kind of disgust. Sometimes you find yourself in a position where you’re venting your disgust on an audience and a lot of them keep coming back because they actually like that aspect. In a way that diffuses the feeling and you don’t get the same release.”
MES “You gotta reassess your audience, make sure they aren’t just coming to throw ashtrays at your head for fun. Shane says he goes on full of twist, you’ve got to. If you don’t you’re fucking fucked, that’s whats wrong with a lot of acts these days, they do fucking yoga before and go on all fucking relaxed. I’ve been with Fad Gadget and he was doing incense and headstands. The English soccer players could do with a lot of twist, they should be put in a room and made to go round in circles, and told “if you don’t do a good gig tonight then you’re not getting paid.”

NME “Shane, you obviously don’t enjoy playing live anymore, is that through being on the road too much ?”
SM “I feel like I’ve spent the last five years of my life on the road. It hasn’t affected my songs but it has probably affected everything else about me. Obviously, the more you travel, the wilder the things that keep happening to you, the more likely it is that complete strangers will knock on your hotel room door.”
MES “Nick and I don’t related to that ‘cos the people who come up to us either hate our guts or wouldn’t really want to be alone in a room with us. You’re a very amiable guy, Shane.”
NC “I’m not sure what you’re talking about here but the way people related to me in the dressing rooms and so on was incredibly aggressive. They know every record and they seem to think they should nudge me or bump into me as they go past.It was this incredible performance that used to amuse me. I think we share something in common on that level ‘cos, like, in the early days, people were drawn towards us like they’d be drawn towards a car smash…”
SM “I read about the fan mail that Freddie Krueger from the Nightmare on Elm Street movies gets-real sicko stuff, loads of letters from genuine corpse freaks and child killer types. It frightens him shitless. That sorta thing freaks me out.”
NC “There is a definite relationship between that fanaticism and the fact that, as a performer, you expose more of yourself, of the undercurrents of your personality. Most rock personalities subdue that or chose not to explore it.”

“It’s rare when a group comes along that has any real soul to them.” (Cave)

HEROES AND VILLAINS

NME “Mark, of the three of you, would you admit to being the professional cynic ?”

MES “No, cynicism and defensiveness are two things constantly levelled at me. Look, I’ve got time for people, I’m good mannered. I usually find that when you are down, nobody has a bloody minute for you. If I was a nobody, you wouldn’t even talk to me.”
SM “You are nobody.”
MES “Fuck off. It’s bloody true. Neither would you, Nick.”
NC “Bullshit! That’s bullshit I take offence at that.”
MES “I’m not levelling anything at you. People, in general, don’t like being upfront and civil. They hate you for it. They label you a cynic ‘cos you’re reasonable.”
SM “You’re no reasonable though. You’re a rude bastard. That’s fair enough.”
SO’H “Ok I’m cynical. But I’m not defensive. I’m slightly paranoid which is healthy.”
NME “Slightly?”
MES “Listen, Sean, do you walk around London embracing everybody? If I was in the bleeding gutter you wouldn’t piss on me.
SO’H “I would.”
NC “Your reaction is becoming very defensive, Mark.”
MES “You’re a failed psychiatrist.”
NC “I’ve analysed you, alright-defensive paranoid with delusions of grandeur.”
MES “I’ve had discussions like this all the time in pubs. I end up beaten half to death on the floor. I try to be civil and people assume I’m attacking them.”
SM “You attack people all the time. In the press.”
MES “I used to. It became too routine so I gave it up. Nietzsche said ‘Embrace your enemies’. You two aren’t my enemies so I won’t embrace you.
SM “Read a lot of Nietzsche, have you?”
MES “All his stuff. I can’t quote him. I’m not into him anymore, gave up three years ago. He taught me a lot, though. We’re not all born public school boys like you.”
SM “I’m not a born public school boy.”
MES “Do you like Brendan Behan, he’s good.”
SM “Yeah, he’s not a fascist maniac posing as a philosopher.”
MES “If we’re gonna talk philosophy, that’s a load of crap ! The Nazis adopted his creed and distorted it, they misquoted him all the time.”
SM “‘The Will to Power’? Try re-interpreting that statement. You can’t. It says what it says.”
MES “He wasn’t a Nazi-you’re only saying that because some polytechnic fucking lecturer told you he was.”
SM “I’m saying it ‘cos I read two of his books where he dismissed the weak, the ugly, the radically impure, Christianity, Socrates, Plato. He was anti anyone who hadn’t a strong body, perfect features…”
MES “That’s the coffee table analysis. He was the most anti-German pro-Semitic person…”
SM “His books were full of hate.”
MES “You’ve just said you’re full of hate when you go onstage.”
SM “I don’t go around saying Socrates was a cunt, Jesus Christ was an idiot, do I ?”
MES “Jesus Christ was the biggest blight on the human race, he was. And all of them Socialists and Communists- second rate Christianity. It’s alright for you Catholics. I was brought up with Irish Catholics. Some of my best friends are Irish Catholics.”
SM “listen to him.”
MES “Hitler was a Catholic vegetarian, non-smoker, non-drinker. The way you’re talking about Nietzsche is that anyone who’s a non-smoker, non-drinker is a Nazi. That’s the level of your debate, pal. You don’t know fuck all about Nietzsche, pal.”
SM “You’re anti-socialist, too, aren’t you ?”
MES “Yeah. I’m an extreme anti-socialist. You don’t live on a housing estate where there’s been socialism for thirty years and they keep saying it’s gonna get better all the time and it never does. Thirty fucking years of it getting worse and worse. You obviously haven’t experienced that, living in London.”
SM “What’s the alternative ?”
MES “I don’t have to worry about that. I’m an adult. I’m working class, me. I come from a generation that fucking created this nation pal. You lot, you just sit around and talk about socialism, you’re the bloody problem. Eighty percent of this country are white trash, working class. How come they don’t vote Labour? ‘Cos the Labour Party are a fucking disgrace, that’s why. Engels- he was a factory owner in Manchester exploiting 13 year old girls. Learn your history, pal, learn your history. I suppose you blame all Ireland’s problems on the British. All the problems of the world are down to Britain. That’s what you think, why don’t you say it? You can’t tell me anything about oppression ‘cos, I’ll tell you something pal, if you’d been part of Germany, you’d have been liquidated. If you were part of Russia, you wouldn’t even exist. Don’t tell me about oppression, my parents and grand-parents were exploited to the hilt. Sent to wars, they had gangrene in their teeth. My grandfather was at Dunkirk and all you can see is Margaret Thatcher on my face when, actually, She’s on Nick’s face. Isn’t she Nick ? Come on Nick, help me out. Basically, I like to discuss things right down the line and I don’t agree with anybody…”

KING INC

NME “This is getting a bit out of order, can we talk about something less acrimonious. Heroes ?

SM “You’re into Presley, Nick.”
MES “A lot of Presley’s good stuff was overlooked. Like the NME viewpoint that he died when he came out of the army. I think the opposite, his best stuff came after the army.”
SM “That figures. He was a pile of shit when he came out of the army compared to before he went in. His mother died when he was in the army. That was one of the causes. Anyway, he did some good stuff in the late ’60′s after the army- ‘Kentucky Rain’, ‘Suspicious Minds’, ‘In the Ghetto’ as opposed to ‘Heartbreak Hotel’, ‘Blue Moon of Kentucky’, ‘That’s alright Mama’. I suppose that’s all shit to you , is it ?”
MES “I’m not saying that but everybody writes the later stuff off…”
SM “Who ever writes off Elvis ?”
MES “Look, pal, Elvis was the king, right? To me, Elvis were king. He was only the king ‘cos he sustained it. You probably think he’s some kind of criminal ‘cos he went in the army for a few years. You’re insinuating that I’m pro-army and if you have anything to say on that score, say it now, pal and I’ll fucking argue right through you !”
SM “What ! He’s off again.”
MES “I’m into Mersey Beat at the minute- The Searchers. I respect Dylan. The only good thing I’ve heard of his is that LP he did with George Harrison and Roy Orbison.”

NME “You seem to prefer older music, is there nothing contemporary that appeals ?”

NC “It’s rare when a group comes along that has any real soul to them. Rock’n’Roll history isn’t long enough. There’s three or four blues people that I like after filtering through loads of blues. There’s about three gospel bands, a handful of country ones. I have to draw on the….what are you laughing at, Mark ?”
MES “Oh nothing, heh heh, I’m really into John Lee Hooker myself. He’s great solo without a band. His bands are crap. I was always into more experimental bands- Can, Faust. I won’t say German ‘cos Shane’ll have an epileptic fit. I think Nick’s more traditional and I respect that but, I’m into things like Stockhausen, The United States of America and Gene Vincent and rockabilly. That’s my influences. And I always preferred Lou Reed to the Velvet Underground.”

NME “What do you think of the blanket critical approval of Morrissey ?”

MES “Morrissey’s another Paddy! A South Manchester Paddy. Shane’s got more to say than Morrissey.”
SM “I think you guys are encouraging Mark to be like this. You journalists love it.”
MES “Of course they do. That’s the NME policy, they love a good argument. Don’t you lads ?”

Things fall apart. The unholy trinity climb on the pubstage. MacGowan on drums, Smith on guitar and Cave on the organ. A jam of sorts ensues- The Velvets meets Hammer Horror with a hint of Acid House. Totally wired. Summit mental.

(Nick Cave, Shane MacGowan and Kylie Minogue sing Bob Dylan’s ‘Death Is Not The End’)

What became of them after the tape finished we can only guess but I doubt they just got up and went their separate ways! These days its hard to imagine any publication with any influence doing something like this but we learn a lot about all three gents and though acerbic and argumentative Mark E.Smith certainly gets his point of view over and is heard. Gone before his time but he lived his life hard and wild and is one of a small bunch of working class musicians of which we can truly say that when they pass we will never see their like again.

MARK E.SMITH- 5 MARCH 1957 – 24 JANUARY 2018

GET IN THE FESTIVE SPIRIT WITH THIS CHRISTMAS CELTIC PUNK TOP-TWENTY!

It’s the first of December so let your pint glass be half full for a change and get into the festive spirit with what started as a Top Ten but but soon became the London Celtic Punk’s Top Twenty of the best kick-arse Christmas celtic-punk tunes ever written and absolutely no surprises at #1.

20. THE PRIESTS FEATURING SHANE MacGOWAN-  ‘Little Drummer Boy/Peace On Earth’

Yeah you read that right. It may not quite reach the heights of Bing’n’Bowie but feck it nothing this man does is anything short of brilliant!

19. THE RUFFIANS- ‘Christmas In Killarney’

The Ruffians cover the holiday classic Christmas in Killarney on their 2005 Christmas EP Together at Christmas.

18. REILLY- ‘Paddy’s Christmas’

Milwaukee Celtic punk band Reilly’s version of Snoopy’s Christmas, now called Paddy’s Christmas on their 2008 album Kick Ass Celtic Christmas.

17. THE GOBSHITES- ‘Christmas Eve in the Boozer’

Boston Celtic punk band The Gobshites’ cover of the Yobs’ Christmas Eve in the Boozer. On The Gobshites’ album When the Shite Hits the Fan.

16. IRISH ROVER – ‘Christmas Time In Hells’

Performed entirely by  Rover MacChroi and one for the miserablists out there. This guys glass is definitly half empty!

15. DROPKICK MURPHYS- ‘AK47 [All I Want For Christmas Is An]’

Proof the Murphs can do no wrong…

14. THE REAL McKENZIES- ‘Auld Lang Syne’

Now not strictly a Christmas song but I’ve met Scots who actually enjoy Hogmaney (New Years Eve) more than Christmas!

13. THE MAHONES- ‘Angels Without Wings/Merry Christmas Baby’

From The Mahones 2012 album Angels & Devils here is their awesome Christmas song featuring Felicity Hamer.

12. SHANE MacGOWAN- ‘Christmas Lullaby’

Gotta love this tune. Irish blues with a punk rock edge. McGowan nails it again.

11. STIFF LITTLE FINGERS- ‘White Christmas’

Belfast punk rock legends, and still going from strength to strength, cause Bing to rotate in his grave with this which appeared on the B-side of ‘The Edge’ 7″ in 1979.

10. SHILELAGH LAW- ‘Christmas in New York’

Christmas is many things to many people. I will always remember that a good mate Steve died on Christmas Eve and so it’s also a good time to think of those who have passed and raise a glass to them. Here’s a tribute to the victims of the terror attacks on September 11, 2001, by NY’ers Shilelagh Law.

9. MALASAÑERS- ‘Xmas Tree’

Rousing celtic-punk from Spain and available to download for free at: malasaners.bandcamp.com. Watch out for their new album due any day soon.

8. FINNEGAN’S HELL- ‘Drunken Christmas’

Sweden’s Finnegan’s Hell deliver an unorthodox Christmas anthem and yeah, yeah, yeah some Irish stereotyping sure but get over yourselves. What is it you think The Dubliners sang about? My house at Christmas was more like this than what you see on the BBC I can tell you. Anyway judge for yourself!

7. CelKILT- ‘Santa Santa!’

CeltKilt from France even released a full album of Christmas themed songs Kiltmas Songs! in 2015 and as they say themselves, and it sounds better in French I think, “festive celtic rock celtique festif”.

6. THE WAGES OF SIN- ‘Merry Christmas from the Wages’

Enjoy the festive sights, sounds, and smells of the season with Wages Of Sin and their first, and possibly last, holiday single!

5. DARBY O’GILL AND THE LITTLE PEOPLE- ‘Baby It’s Cold Outside’

Possibly a bit much for this Catholic Bhoy to bare so if you of a delicate disposition skip to #6. It is hilarious though from this Oregon band from their 2007 album Christmas Songs for Drunken Atheists.

4. THE GENTLEMEN- ‘Oi! To The World’

Oi to the world! so said old punkers The Vandals and this cover by The Gentlemen from West Virginia captures perfectly. One of the celtic-punk scenes most under rated bands does anyone know what became them? Any family opening up Christmas presents to this album is an top one in my book.

3. THE NARROWBACKS- Prodigal Son(I’ll be home for Christmas)

Part filmed at Paddy Reilly’s in New York this song actually brought a tear to my eye when I first heard it. After a couple of years of not speaking to my Mammy after a stupid argument we had only just made up. Kids look after your family. Keep them close and love them lots.

2. THE DROPKICK MURPHYS- ‘The Seasons Upon Us’ (2016)

Unfortunate to go up against The Pogues this is The Murphys superb Christmas epic. Hilarious video of Irish-American life. Sure to lift the spirits.

1. THE POGUES FEATURING KIRSTY MacCOLL- Fairytale Of New York

When you see other Christmas best of list’s they always put ‘Arguably the greatest Christmas song of all time’ well we’ve no time for that bollocks. It is without a doubt THE greatest Christmas song of all time so there! R.I.P Kirsty

so there’s our Top Twenty. If you think we missed any post in the comments as is usually the way with these things we couldn’t stop there so bubbling under here’s one to play loud and proud!

…and so we end with some great words “let’s not fight tonight”. Just listen to The Ramones instead.

NEW SINGLE AND VIDEO FROM JOSHUA McCLURG FROM NAYMEDICI

I had wondered after not hearing from them for a bit but sad to say that Manchester-Irish celtic-punk band Naymedici are no more. Now that name probably means more to our Irish readers than anyone else as at the height of their popularity they upsticks and moved across the sea (wrong way surely?!?!) to a lovely beachside cottage near Clonakilty on the coast of West Cork. Described as

“the bastard child of The Pogues and Gogol Bordello”

in one review, and Scots writer Irvine Welsh said they were ‘f***ing on it!’ which is probably one of the best reviews anyone could ever get! They played all over Ireland and Britain and were regular’s on the festival circuit too and even did undertook a tour of Europe, playing in cities such as Berlin and Prague among others. They released a few singles during this time, including ‘Paddy McGee’, ‘Koo Koo The Bird Girl’, ‘Whack Fol The Diddle’ and ‘Men and Women’ and were featured on BBC 6 Music, E4, MTV UK, MTV Europe and MTV International. Not bad for a DIY Band with no management!

Well three years ago the band went on their different ways and Josh the bands singer moved back to Manchester and began his next project The Lucky 15’s, an Irish Party Band, with a great bunch of talented musicians I knew from various other bands in Manchester. It was during this time that Joshua began writing material for a solo album, You Can’t Take It With You, set for release next month.

So here’s a wee taster with the video for ‘If You’re Gone’ the first single release from Joshua McClurg’s debut album, ‘You Can’t Take It With You’.

One cold winter’s evening I sat by the stairs,
In the doorway I huddled while the cruel millionaires
Turned up all their noses as I held out my cup
Hard to keep your chin up when your down on your luck
So I felt in my pockets, had nothing to show
And I thought back to the old days how quickly they’d go
When I first held you close and you promised the world
And I saw my true love through my darling young girl
If you’re gone, don’t leave me falling
The night it is cold now
The leaves are falling
And we were young then
Still had our dreams babe
But now I’m alone
I’ve still got me dreams
I’ve still got me dreams
Well these horses and whores, cruel mistresses all
And I gambled my money and I gambled my home
And for all my sins I was condemned to roam
With nowt but the clothes on my rowdy-dow-dow
And life it is hard and gets harder each day,
Haven’t eaten since 8 and it’s started to rain
But I swear by the Christ’s blood that flows through me veins
That I never will whistle that old tune again
Well I’ve made some mistakes and I’ve not been too good
And my life’s in the gutter with the rats and the mud
And it’s thicker than wine and it’s colder than blood
Yes it’s hard to look up when your down on your luck
If’re gone, don’t leave me falling
The night it is cold now
The leaves are falling
And we were young then
Still had our dreams babe
But now I’m alone
I’ve still got me dreams
They can’t take me dreams

Now it may not be the raucous celtic-gypsy-Irish folk we were use to with Naymedici but even better there’s an unmistakable Poguesy air to it from the land of ‘Dirty Old Town’. The piano, backing vocals and marvellous lyrics straight remind me of If I Should Fall From Grace With God era Shane. If you like this then you can pre-order Joshua’s album from his Bandcamp page below and keep an eye out for a review coming to these pages soon.

Contact Joshua McClurg

WebSite  Facebook  Bandcamp  YouTube

HOW THE IRISH BECAME THE POGUES

by Jack Hamilton

The Pogues

Last March I enjoyed the pleasure (and attendant hangover) of partaking in the annual ritual of alcoholic commerce that is St. Patrick’s Day in Boston.  Although I had grown up in the area, and in a decidedly Irish-American household at that, I had spent the past seven such holidays as a resident of New York City, and while St. Patrick is certainly heartily toasted in New York things haven’t reached the pathological extremes of Boston, where they’ve even gone so far as to cook up a bogus holiday in its honour.  After managing to find a bar which, while crowded, was thankfully free of either a gratuitous cover or any sort of neon leprechauns, my small group of friends and I settled in for an evening of friendly imbibing and spirited conversation, surely two of the more distinguished aspects of the Irish national character.  All night we listened to the Celtic-infused rock ‘n’ roll of the Pogues.  This was not by choice—the bar had no jukebox, merely a bartender’s iPod—yet the selection seemed so obvious that I doubt any objections were raised.  In fact, I doubt many objections were raised in any of the numerous bars throughout the city that most likely played a considerable dose of the Pogues on St. Patrick’s Day, or for that matter in any of the countless establishments around the world who presumably engage their patrons in similar entertainment come March 17.  As the old cliché goes, everyone becomes Irish on St. Patrick’s Day, and a good deal of those busying themselves with “becoming Irish” will find themselves at some point listening to the music of the Pogues.

The issue of how the Irish became the Pogues—or, for that matter, how the Pogues became Irish—is an interesting one that makes their emergence as progenitors of Irish authenticity all the more complex.  Outside of Dublin-born guitarist Phil Chevron, none of the members of the Pogues’ primary line up were Irish by birth: refugees of the dying British punk movement with an affinity for traditional Irish music, singer-songwriter Shane MacGowan¹, tin whistle player Spider Stacy and accordionist James Fearnley formed the Pogues in the early 1980s in North London.  Furthermore, while their music often proudly employs ‘trad’ instrumentation—whistles, pipes, banjo, accordion—the Pogues also prominently feature two crucial pieces you’d be loath to hear while trolling trad sessions in Galway or Cork: namely, an electric bass and drum kit.  Indeed, when one couples their rhythm section—clearly more schooled in American R&B and rockabilly than reels, jigs or hornpipes—with their ragged lead singer, the Pogues have always at their heart been a rock band, closer to the Clash than Turlough O’Carolan.  I bring up these points neither to challenge the Pogues’ claim to Irishness nor slander their authenticity, but rather to point out that the band represents a fascinating example of transnational mobility in which a British band aggressively appropriates Irish musical traditions, imbues them with a punk sensibility then exports the sound around the world, where the result is deemed ‘Irish’. Noel McLaughlin and Martin McLoone have argued that the Pogues’ musical hybridity speaks to diasporic qualities central to Irish cultural identity, noting that

“the Pogues address the Irish emigrant through song narratives that offer an ‘in-betweenness’”

While surely compelling, such an assessment fails to address the Pogues’ massive popularity in Ireland itself, where the band’s frequent touring and Republican political leanings have elevated MacGowan and company to folk-hero status.  It would seem that the Pogues’ greatest musical legacy lies not in their commitment to Celtic musical traditions but rather the affectionate and wilful dragging of these traditions into the foreboding present, and it is through this gesture that the Pogues most effectively lay their claim to a far more meaningful Irish tradition than the sort celebrated with green beer and shamrock tattoos.

Nowhere is this impulse so thoroughly manifested as in the complicated talents of Shane MacGowan.  A gifted melodist and the sort of writer that inspires websites devoted to interpretations of his lyrics, MacGowan holds a place among the finest rock songwriters of his generation.  As a singer MacGowan’s voice is tattered yet full of conviction, reminiscent of Seamus Heaney’s memorable writing that ‘the voice of sanity is growing hoarse’. Of course, it is also with MacGowan that the Pogues’ more problematic notions of Irishness are cultivated.  MacGowan’s infamous alcoholic tirades, run-ins with the law and glorification of the Irish Republican Army have surely re-inforced as many negative Irish stereotypes as his prodigious musical output and knack for verse have brought out positive ones.  While MacGowan has frequently drawn comparisons to the late Irish poet Brendan Behan (a comparison MacGowan himself invokes in the sublime ‘Streams of Whiskey’), there is another, albeit fictional, figure from Irish literature with whom MacGowan shares a resemblance: James Joyce’s Stephen Dedalus, the irascible protagonist of ‘Portrait of the Artist’ who must turn his back on Ireland in order escape the spiral of his homeland’s tormented past.  Whereas Stephen ultimately flees Ireland for Paris, MacGowan and the Pogues sought to flee London to a particular Ireland of their own imagining.  It is this Ireland, one that exists via North London and rock ‘n’ roll, that so many of us visit every St. Patrick’s Day, when the Pogues songs flow from jukeboxes like so many streams of whiskey and we all try a little too hard to become a little more Irish than we probably should.

¹ A common misconception is that Shane was born here but he was in fact born in the Premier County and moved to England as a child.

further reading: Noel McLaughlin and Martin McLoone, ‘Hybridity and National Musics: The Case of Irish Rock Music’ (Apr. 2000)

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 

‘The Pogues And Irish Cultural Continuity’  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

The Best Pogues Related Sites

In The Wake Of The Medusa  Paddy Rolling Stone  The Parting Glass  Pogues Facebook Page

ALBUM REVIEW: JAMIE CLARKE’S PERFECT- ‘Hell Hath No Fury’ (2017)

New album from German based ex-member of The Pogues Jamie Clarke’s Perfect.

Pioneers and purveyors of Folkabilly Rock- rockabilly and punk mixed with a dash of Irish folk and a belly full of beer!

The name Jamie Clarke will be known to many of you due to his membership of a certain band in the 1990’s. Yes he was only a member of the bloody Pogues!!! Londoner Jamie grew up in London and happened to be in the right place at the right time being a teenager at the time of the original punk rock explosion in the capital sparking off a lifetime interest and involvement in music. Passing through many bands until he became Philip Chevron’s guitar technician while The Pogues were literally touring and conquering the world. In 1994 ill health forced Phil to leave the band and in the spirit of The Pogues they chose Jamie to replace him. Sadly this was also the time of Shane’s most wild excess and he soon left the band as well. Jamie played on the final Pogues album Pogue Mahone and wrote, what was always for me, the best song on the album ‘The Sun And The Moon’. On the break up of the band Jamie moved to Germany and formed Jamie Clarke’s Perfect, the band he’s been playing and recording with ever since.

Jamie Clarke’s Perfect left to right: Johnny Rebel- Bass * Pierre Lavendel- Banjo/ Mandolin * Jamie Clarke- Vocals/ Guitar * El Diablo- Drums. Accordion on the album- Andy Schnapps (not pictured)

With a slew of album releases behind them I have to make the confession that this is the first LP I have ever heard and I have been suitably impressed to want to check out the back catalogue as well. The last couple of years I have got bored with the seriousness of punk and started to listen to more and more rockabilly/psychobilly so I was more than pleasantly surprised to find Hell Hath No Fury laced with more than a little rockabilly alongside the folk, or as the band themselves call it- ‘folkabillie rock’.

The album begins with ‘Back From Hell’ and straight away one band popped into my head. With a very distinctive banjo and accordion sound it was early Blood Or Whiskey that leapt out the speakers at me. Even Jamie’s vocals reminded me of the original BOW vocalist Barney. Needless to say this ain’t a band that’s copying them as their sound is still incredibly original. Incredibly catchy opener and it don’t change throughout. This band got some real good tunes and considering how long they been going/how many releases they have that is some achievement. ‘Monster’ and the album’s first single ‘Change The World’ keep up the foot stamping and again excellent accordion/banjo stand out as well as Jamie himself.

The first sign of that Folkabilly Rock start to appear next in ‘On Your Feet’. I literally could not keep me feet still listening to this. Catchy (there’s that word again…) as hell with a great chorus and some great rock’n’roll banjo from ex-Frantic Flintstones guitarist Pierre. Several songs here also take in The Pogues and ‘Waking Down The Road’ is one of them while title track ‘Hell Hath No Fury’ nails their sound completely. One of the album highlights and a word here for Jamie and his vocals. As I already said he may sound like he has a sore throat and I do wonder how many fags a day he’s on! He sings with a real passion that while not overstating does in fact stand right out without you really noticing. In the old Irish traditional the voice as an instrument. His lyrics help of course as they tend to take up most of the length of the song. I Would have liked to have seen the lyrics as even though they are clear it is hard to keep up. ‘Eve Champagne’leads us up to the first cover and ‘La Bamba’ the old Mexican folk song made famous first by Ritchie Valens in 1958 and Los Lobos in the summer of 1987. Another solid number ‘Gun In My Hand’ leads us into a great Irish trad/rockabilly instrumental ‘Un Hoyo Es Un Hoyo’. We coming up to the end of the LP and the final three songs fly past in a flash of brilliance starting with the frantic ‘Rollercoaster’ while ‘Rockabilly’, not surprisingly, takes that rock’n’roll sound and plays it right up before Hell Hath No Fury ends with another album high point, ‘Protest Song’.

Thirteen great songs. Unlucky for some but not for us! The album clocks in at a very healthy forty minutes and shows enough individuality and originality to make sure it never drags or sounds jaded. Germany has a real love of alternative music and has produced many many great celtic-punk band psychobilly bands so it should come as no surprise that they have embraced a mixture of the two. After all it was only a few weeks ago we reviewed the new album from another German  band, Pitmen (here) who mix both genre’s to great acclaim. So with over twenty years behind them and thousand’s of gigs well done to them for putting out such a consistently great album that may veer off from celtic-punk in several directions but always keeps at it’s core the sound of celtic folk. Punk, rockabilly, psychobilly, celtic-punk and country all raise their heads here on an album I was completely taken aback from and I can’t understand why more isn’t known about this great band even within the celtic-punk scene.

Discography

Perfect Liar (1997) * Perfect Live (1998) * Sickly Men Of Thirty Or So (1999) * Live Too (2000) * Nobody’s Perfect (2002) * Live Free (20004) * Psychic TV- Single (2006) * You Drove Me To It (2007) * Fucking Folkabillie Rock (2010) * Beatboys (2011)

Buy 

FromTheBand/WolverineRecords  Amazon

Contact Jamie Clarke’s Perfect

WebSite  Facebook  ReverbNation

HUNGARIAN CELTIC PUNK WEEK! EP REVIEW: THE CRAZY ROGUES- ‘Rebels’ Shanties’ (2017)

ireland-hungaryAnyone remember 2015? That was the year of the Hungarian celtic-punk record. A whole host of bands coming together in a perfect storm and absolutely completely dominating the scene that year. Loch Nesz, The Jolly Jackers, The Crazy Rogues, The Scarlet, Firkin and Paddy And The Rats all featured in the London Celtic Punks end of year ‘Best Of 2015’ charts and all received glowing critical praise galore. What quite happened to them all last year is a mystery but the Hungarian celtic-punks are back with a fecking bang! So for one week we are running a Hungarian celtic-punk special. Three reviews in seven days from three amazing EP’s from three equally amazing bands who all have completely different styles of celtic-punk.

crazyroguesepThe Crazy Rogues are from Veszprém in mid-Hungary and were formed in 2014 making them among the earliest of the second wave of Hungarian celtic-punk bands.With two EP’s behind them, one of Demo versions and another called Chapter 1 which we reviewed back in 2015 here giving it a massive thumbs up. They have named their style as ‘Rogue ‘N’ Roll’ taking in elements of punk, country and bluegrass as well as Irish and Celtic. The EP begins with ‘And Then the Sky Fell’ and its fast fiddle led celtic-punk with good ole’ fashioned punk rock drumming and punk rock guitar playing in the background at times pushing the fiddle forward. ‘Fleet’ is up next and is a bit more traditional celtic-punk of the Flogging Molly kind. One of the things I liked on The Crazy Rogues previous releases is how they can switch from their folkier side to their more punky side with ease. They slow it down next with the sad tale of ‘The Sad Leprechaun’. A leprachaun is a mischievous mythical creature that roams the Irish countryside playing tricks on humans. Many though think they are real, including my Grandparents! Again the fiddle is the lead here and Verrasztó’s vocals are suitably angsty as he tells us of the life of these solitary creatures. The flute appears here and like a lot of Hungarian bands in particular it’s used to good measure.

They speed it up next with the fast paced punky song ‘Mutineers (must DIE)’ and though it does seem funny to call something a ‘traditional punk rock’ song this is it! Shouty gang choruses and fast guitar and then all of the sudden banjo pops up and we get a short blast of each band members individual talents before it ends. Short and sweet and snappy as hell and then we drift into ‘Silver Hair’ which reminds me of the sort of bluesy country folk that Shane MacGowan and The Popes were so f’ing brilliant. Superb mandolin here from Fellegi and I have to say that the mando and the banjo have been a bit low in the mix thus far so great to hear it dominate on this track. Well that is until right out the blue it suddenly switches to a ska song and the song ends with an absolute flourish with electric guitar helping it speed to a finish. The absolute standout track here for me. Can’t tell you how much I enjoyed this song! The EP ends with the song ‘Rebellion’ and is a tribute to the Easter Rising of 1916 when a small band of Irishmen and woman declared war on the British Empire. They took over several important buildings in Dublin and held them for a week against far superior British forces and many died during that week until the rebels were forced to surrender. The British executed the leaders of the rebellion and this led to a wave of sympathy which would eventually lead to full scale war across Ireland that would in the end see freedom for the 3/4’s of the country. Verrasztó’s voice is clear and loud and stamps out where The Crazy Rogues stand. A perfect celtic-punk tune with everything that makes celtic-punk great. Story based lyrics with a solid punk rock base embellished with Irish instruments especially the fiddle again. Songs to get you both thinking and dancing is what celtic-punk is all about!

crazy

So six Crazy Rogues composed songs that clock in at a very healthy twenty-five minutes and not a single sign of a cover version. All sang in English with a multitude of musical styles thrown into the celtic-punk mix and with very thoughtful lyrics about a multitude of subjects that are very easy to understand. Rebel’s Shanties is an excellent EP and The Crazy Rogues continue to forge ahead to make a name for themselves in celtic-punk circles. Like both their previous releases Rebel’s Shanties is available for ‘Name Your Price’ download which basically means pay nothing if you got nothing and a couple of pounds (or more) if you got a couple of pounds. This EP is certainly worthy of it.

(listen to the Rebel Shantie’s EP for free by pressing play on the player below)

Download The EP  Bandcamp

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So all in all a very impressive start for our Hungarian celtic-punk week. Check back in a couple of days for part two of three. If you are interested in finding out more about the great celtic-punk scene in Hungary (and if you got any sense you better be) the best place to find it is the ‘Celtic Punk/ Irish Folk Hungary’ group on Facebook here

ALBUM REVIEW: ORTHODOX CELTS- ‘Many Mouths Shut’ (2017)

Sixth album from Serbia’s Orthodox Celts. The first and still one of the best Irish/Celtic bands from not just Eastern Europe but anywhere!

orthodox-celts-lp

There are so many bands in the celtic-punk scene that for one reason or another can be regarded as legendary. One of these bands well deserving of that word are the Orthodox Celts. They may not be a name very familiar to you but as the first band in Eastern Europe to play Irish music we can safely say that all who came after them owe them a debt for popularising Irish music and culture. Orthodox Celts hail from Belgrade in Serbia and celebrate a quarter of a century together this year with the release of their new album Many Mouths Shut. Over the last 25 years they toured right across Europe with their energetic and mesmerizing performances playing to packed houses wherever they go. I have never seen them live but a friend of a friend had a live DVD of the band and i can certainly attest to the amazing show they put on with a great and positive atmosphere for an army of fans that follows wherever the Celts play.

Despite Irish/Celtic music being unheard of in their home country the Celts have risen to become one of the biggest bands in the Serbian rock scene and have gone onto influence many, if not all, of the newer Celtic punk bands in the region. While we were getting all excited at ‘An Irtish Pub’ by The Rumjacks easing into the millions of views on You Tube Orthodox Celts version of ‘Star of the County Down’ recently racked up an incredible 10,000,000 (aye ten million) views and continues to grow.

orthodox-celts

Orthodox Celts left to right: – Dragan Gnjatović- Whistles * Dušan Živanović- Drums, Bodhran, Percussions, Accordion * Dejan Lalić- Octave Mandola, Mandolin, Guitar * Aleksandar Petrović- Vocals * Dejan Grujić- Bass * Vladan Jovković- Acoustic Guitar * Nikola Stanojević- Fiddle.

Many Mouths Shut begins with ‘One / Milk & Honey’ which was the first single from the album released last year and you can tell from this opening song pretty much what you going to hear for the next half hour. Put simply its energetic mostly acoustic Irish folk. The sort of stuff you use to only hear where the Irish gathered but bands like the Orthodox Saints have helped introduce it far and beyond almost anyone could ever have imagined.

“Many Are Drowned In This Sea That I Swim
Many Nailed To The Cross That I Bring
Many Are Burnt In The Flames That I Feel
But I’ll Never Be The Fallen One”

The first part of the song is followed by a beautiful Irish tune and shows right from the start that the standard of musicianship is outstanding and there’s more than a bit of a punk rock spirit in there too. These Bhoys play louder than Motorhead live! They follow this with the cracking ‘I Wish You The Very Worst’ with some great lyrics about someone who somebody doesn’t like.

“I’m So Sick Of Being The Lamb, In This Game I’ll Be The Wolf”

Wouldn’t want to be on the receiving end of this! The first of the album’s rockier songs but again the song is interspersed with some brilliant Irish reels and has some great fist (or pint!) in the air chants to get the crowd going.

As I already said about the standard of musicianship here and with ‘Morrison’s Jig’ they take an old Irish traditional folk song named for the Sligo-born, Irish-American fiddler James Morrison from the 1930’s and breathe new life into the tune. They take it and make it almost unrecognisable while still keeping true to the song itself. We are back in more in more upbeat Celts territory next with one of the poppier songs on the album, ‘Save Me’, a song that would fit snugly into a set of The Saw Doctors or The Bible Code Sundays. They have come a long way since their debut album of all Irish standard covers.

Not one of my favourite songs here I have to say but great lyrics again and I never cease to be amazed how some celtic-punk songwriters who have English as a second and sometimes third or fourth language can write such great stuff. It is a talent I will be eternally jealous of.

“Save Me Girl
Give Me Shelter In Your Arms
Save Me Girl
And Blow Away My Harms
Save Me Girl
Arise Me From The Dead Tonight”

The second of the traditional Irish songs is next and again they come up trumps with ‘The Banshee’. A fast and furious reel that was thought to have been written by famed Monaghan tin-whistler James MacMahon (1893-1977). The sort of reel that at a session just gets louder and faster and faster till your head bursts!  Named after the female spirit in Irish mythology that heralded the death of a family member by shrieking. ‘King Of The Hill’ is next and is a bit more upbeat with a great drum back beat keeping the lot of them in time. Another traditional instrumental ‘Flowers Of Red Hill’ keeps the momentum flowing and the tin whistle playing here is exemplary with the only problem is that again it’s over in just over a minute. Recorded by many great Celtic bands like De Dannan, Bothy Band, Silly Wizard we can now add Orthodox Celts to that esteemed list. You can compare The Bothy Band here to the Orthodox Celts here. Been waiting on a ballad for half the album and with ‘Lone Wolf’ its arrived. A simple song that starts with just voice and acoustic guitar before the rest of the Celts team join in and takes us through to ‘Revolution’ where as usual the same old story comes out of politicians betraying the very people who put them into power.

“Hey You Are The Same As Those Who We Dethroned For You, You’re Spitting On The Faces Of Those Who Cleared Your Way
We Bled For You, We Fought For You, And Gave You All Those Years, You Became A Kind Of Master For Whom We’ll Never Be Obeyed”

The break up of Yugoslavia and the subsequent war that followed saw many innocent people killed and homes destroyed across the region. That the Serbian people deserve something better cannot be in dispute and I hope they get the politicians in power that will deliver it. ‘Banish Misfortune’ is another traditional instrumental folk song arranged by the Celts followed by ‘Double Cross’ which delivers an album standout of epic proportions. With an album that is roughly half and half Celts compositions and trad folk covers I love that they choose to avoid the better known tunes and delve deep into Irish folk history to find some tunes worthy of them. For the penultimate track they do come out with ‘The Parting Glass’ and as is their way the Celts turn it on it’s head and while 99% of the time bands play it as a slow ballad the Celts speed it up and deliver something as close to original as a cover can be.

“Goodnight and joy with you all”

Another old Irish trad song brings down the curtain on Many Mouths Shut and a rollicking version of the ‘Kesh Jig’, again made famous by, and I would say right up there with, The Bothy Band.

Orthodox Celts are that thing that raises shackles back in Ireland.  A band that plays Irish music as good and as great as any Irish band at home or abroad. Their love for the music and culture of our tiny island is evident in all they do. Band front man Alex said to me

“The Pogues were the only major influence when we talk about music as we didn’t want to sound like any other band so we sound very different from all the other bands in this genre. My definitive personal literary influences are Shane MacGowan and Alexandre Pushkin. Talking about the whole figure my major influence is Ronnie Drew of The Dubliners”

They have established themselves as unique ambassadors of the Emerald Island and have spread and continue to spread the very best of what we are to the entire world.

Discography
Orthodox Celts- 1994, The Celts Strike Again- 1997, Green Roses- 1999, A Moment Like The Longest Day- 2002, One, Two… Five- 2007

Buy The Album

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(you can hear the whole album below by playing via You Tube)

CLASSIC ALBUM REVIEW: THE DUBLINERS- ‘A Best Of The Dubliners’

FREE DOWNLOAD!

The Dubliners are without doubt the best known band in the Celtic music world. Formed in 1962 their first hit single ‘Seven Drunken Nights’ launched them into international stardom. Non stop touring and a stint with The Pogues ensured that the popularity of their music never ebbed. Without them it is highly debatable whether or not celtic-punk would have ever come about as Shane McGowan himself has said.  The Dubliners- The first and original celtic-punk band.

dubs

The Dubliners, now one of the most legendary bands in the world, started off in O’Donoghue’s pub in Dublin in 1962 under the name of The Ronnie Drew Folk Group. Then they were four, Ronnie Drew (vocals and guitar), Luke Kelly (vocals and 5-string banjo), Barney McKenna (tenor banjo, mandolin, melodeon and vocals) and Ciaran Bourke (vocals, guitar, tin whistle and harmonica). In 1963, they played a gig in Edinburgh where they met the head of Transatlantic Records, Nathan Joseph, for whom they started recording. In 1964, Luke Kelly left, and Bobby Lynch (vocals and guitar) and John Sheahan (fiddle, tin whistle, mandolin, concertina, guitar and vocals) were added. When Luke Kelly returned and Bobby Lynch left in 1965, we have what is considered as the original Dubliners, five individualists, five men whose talents were mixed together in a superb blend and just wanted to play and have a good craic. If they only knew what was awaiting them!

In 1967 their major breakthrough came as a result of a coincidence. Their song, ‘Seven Drunken Nights’ which was recorded in one take, was snapped up by a pirate radio station which started playing it along with the Beatles, the Mamas and the Papas, the Who, Kinks and Jimi Hendrix. Suddenly, The Dubliners were a major band, playing all over the world, getting into the charts, and receiving gold discs. Not what you expected from a bunch of hairy people who as Colin Irwin in the reissue of Live at the Albert Hall says

“looked like they’d just been dragged out of a seedy bar via a hedge (backwards) and dropped on London from a very great height”

The seventies started like the sixties ended – wilder touring, drinking and playing. They started doing regular tours, and they were still recording, of course. Then, in 1974, Ciaran Bourke collapsed on stage with a brain hemorrhage, which eventually led to his death. He first, though, recovered remarkably and was back on stage with The Dubliners, but collapsed again. At the same time, Ronnie decided to take a break, and Jim McCann took his and Ciaran’s place in the group.

dubliners

In 1979, Ronnie decided to make a comeback as a member of the group, although he probably never really left it. In the five years, he had recorded two solo albums, and The Dubliners three albums. With Ronnie returning, Jim left, and The Dubs were almost back where they started. Then Luke Kelly became ill, he collapsed on stage with a brain tumor, for which he received surgery several times. He too, made remarkable recoveries, and went on touring with the Dubliners, at the same time continuing his wild and unhealthy lifestyle. Sean Cannon, a long time friend, stepped in for Luke, when he couldn’t be on stage. Sean’s appearance wasn’t that well received by the audiences at the beginning, but he has later turned out to be an important addition to The Dubliners, and their repertoire. In 1984, Luke Kelly died, but The Dubliners, now with Sean Cannon as a member, decided to keep on.

1987 turned out to be one of the best – and busiest – years for the Dubliners. Their long time friend, and guest musician, Eamonn Campbell, brought the group together with the Pogues on the hit single ‘The Irish Rover’. This single took the Dubliners back to the charts, and also gave them a completely new audience; people who weren’t even born when The Dubliners started off. And with Dublin celebrating its millennium in 1988, The Dubliners also received more attention than for years. Eamonn Campbell joined them on regular basis, a move that has turned out to be one of the most important in their history. In 1988 Ciaran Bourke died, after years of pain and difficulties. He always was, and still is very much remembered by The Dubliners, just like Luke Kelly is.

The eighties finished off with rumours that The Dubliners were to retire, probably something that’s always been following the group. However, they didn’t, and celebrated their 30th anniversary in 1992, with a double CD and extensive tour. The nineties brought a tour video from the German tour 1995, and the “shock” news that Ronnie Drew was leaving. He left in December 1995, after releasing a superb album, Dirty Rotten Shame a few months earlier.

dubliners2Now, even the most optimistic Dubliners fans thought it was the end, but the lads decided to convince Paddy Reilly to join them, and they continued their busy touring and recording schedule. This move has also turned out to be excellent. Paddy, not very well known in Europe, had never been touring there, so he too enjoyed the experience, as well as being part of a band. He still, though, does tours in the USA in the winter and summer months. In 2002, they temporarily reunited with Ronnie Drew and Jim McCann, for their 40th anniversary tour but sadly after the tour, Jim McCann was diagnosed with throat cancer and, though he fully recovered, his voice was severely damaged, and has not been able to peform since his illness. Despite this, he regularly acts as MC at folk gigs, notably at The Dubliners reunion shows, and at the 2006 ‘Legends of Irish Folk’ shows (where he also played guitar in the finale).

Leader and legend Ronnie Drew passed away in 2008 meaning the end of the original Dubliners. Before he passed though he recorded with The Dropkick Murphys in a memorable version of ‘Flannigan’s Ball’ therefore passing on the baton to the only group comparable to them in what they mean to the Irish diaspora.

It was The Dubliners (and The Clancy Brothers And Tommy Makem who will be next in our series) pioneered the way for untold number of bands from Ireland and for Celtic music, like the Chieftains, the Pogues, U2, the Fureys and so on. The artists that list The Dubliners as one of their major influences and idols is endless. They brought folk music to millions of people all over the world, people who never otherwise have been interested at all. That isn’t only because of the music, it’s because of The Dubliners, their astonishing voices, their indescribable instrumentals, the wild life style and drinking, late sessions, their enormous beards, their extensive touring, their charisma and their characters. It was, and still is to a certain extent, a blend the world will never see again. The Dubliners brought Ireland to the world in a way that emigration hadn’t, they have brought the world to Ireland, and they have brought people all over the world closer together. When it ended, the world was never going to be the same again.

The Dubliners 1962-2012
Over the 50 years there were 12 people in The Dubliners.  Ronnie Drew (’62-2008), Luke Kelly (’62-84) , Barney McKenna (’62-2012), Ciaran Bourke (’62-74), John Sheahan (’64-2012), Bobby Lynch (’62-65), Jim McCann (’74-79), Sean Cannon (’82-2012), Eamonn Campbell (’88-2012), Paddy Reilly (’96-2005), Patsy Watchorn (2005-12) and Gerry O’Connor (2012).

The surviving members of the group – Sean Cannon, Eamonn Campbell, Patsy Watchorn and Gerry O’Connor, except John Sheahan, are still touring in 2014 under the name The Dublin Legends.

The Dublin Legends 2012-

After the departure of John Sheahan and the official retirement of the name The Dubliners in late 2012, the remaining members of the group – Seán Cannon, Eamonn Campbell, Patsy Watchorn and guest musician Gerry O’Connor – formed a folk band called The Dublin Legends to keep The Dubliners’ legacy alive. The band released their first live album entitled An Evening With The Dublin Legends: Live In Vienna in January 2014. They continue to perform extensively and you can find their web site here.

Tracklist:

1. The Wild Rover (2:50)
2. Medley: Doherty’s Reel / Down The Broom / The Honeymoon Reel (3:36)
3. The Holy Ground (2:26)
4. A Parcel Of Rogues (4:21)
5. God Save Ireland (1:57)
6. A Nation Once Again (1:31)
7. Spancil Hill (4:03)
8. Molly McGuires (2:01)
9. The Old Triangle (2:55)
10. And The Band Played Waltzing Matilda (6:16)
11. Johnston’s Motorcar (1:50)
12. Seven Drunken Nights (3:23)
13. Black Velvet Band (3:18)
14. Free The People (3:08)
15. Van Diemen’s Land (2:15)
16. Dirty Old Town (2:59)
17. Medley: The Maid Behind The Bar / Toss The Feathers (2:18)
18. Lord Of The Dance (2:27)
19. All For Me Grog (2:24)
20. Whiskey In The Jar (2:47)

(listen to the album below and follow the instructions to download for free)

The Dubliners On The Internet

OfficialDublinersSite  TheDubliners  It’sTheDubliners

“They brought folk music to millions of people all over the world, people who were converted to their charm. That isn’t only because of the music, the instrumentals or the stories, it’s because of The Dubliners, their astonishing voices, their indescribable instrumentals, the wild life style, the drinking, late sessions, their enormous beards (I even tried to copy them in the 70’s), their extensive touring, their charisma and the enigmatic characters. It was a blend the world will never see again.  It was an entire package that invented the word unique. How do you top that?Every artist in the world is trying to achieve success by getting their ‘sound’ and being unique.  The Dubliners did it”  –Robert Tallent

THE LONDON CELTIC PUNKS ‘Stepping Stones’ CLASSIC ALBUM REVIEW SERIES

This album was brought to you as part of our regular series where we bring you something a little bit different to what you’re maybe use to. Lost and hidden and sometimes forgotten gems from the legends that have inspired and provoked folk music and musicians right up to modern celtic-punk music. Usually out of print so we can provide a free download link for you.

VARIOUS ARTISTS- ‘People Take Warning! Murder Ballads And Disaster Songs 1913-1938’ (2007)  here

EWAN MacCOLL -‘Bad Lads And Hard Cases: British Ballads Of Crime And Criminals’ (1959) here

EWAN MacCOLL AND PEGGY SEEGER – ‘The Jacobite Rebellions’ (1962)  here

VARIOUS ARTISTS- ‘Don’t Mourn. Organize!- Songs Of Labor Songwriter Joe Hill’ (1990)  here

LEADBELLY- ‘Easy Rider’ (1999)  here

VARIOUS ARTISTS- ‘The Little Red Box Of Protest Songs’ (2000)  here

GIL SCOTT-HERON- ‘The Revolution Will Not Be Televised’ (1974)  here

EWAN MacCOLL- ‘Scots Drinking Songs’ (1956)  here

VARIOUS ARTISTS- ‘Protest! American Protest Songs 1928-1953’  here

VARIOUS ARTISTS- ‘Women Folk- Iconic Women Of American Folk’  here

VARIOUS ARTISTS- ‘The Greatest Songs Of Woody Guthrie’ (1972)  here

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.

Shane

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

INTERVIEW WITH PAUL ‘Mad Dog’ McGUINNESS FROM THE POPES

A couple of years back the whole celtic-punk community were shocked to hear that Paul ‘Mad Dog’ McGuinness, vocalist with The Popes, has been involved in a serious car accident in east London. The Popes were best known originally as Shane MacGowan’s backing band but also became a God damn brilliant celtic rock/punk band in their own right too. He was hospitalised for quite a long time after the accident so serious were his injuries so we are delighted to let you know that Paul is back on the road again and is playing a series of low key acoustic gigs but more on that later. We are totally blown away that Paul has taken some time out to answer a few questions for us and let you all know how he’s getting on and his plans for the future.

MadDog

Now Paul first thing we have to ask you is how are you doing since the accident. Its been a long road to recovery but its great that you’re finally coming out the other end. There was a lot of shock in the Irish music community and it was heartening to see it come together to give you some support.
Mad Dog- I’m doing fine since the accident an with the help of my therapy sessions I keep getting better.
Now their may be a small handful of people reading this who are not aware of your contribution to the world of celtic-punk/rock so want to enlighten them? What started your interest in music and how long you been playing and what bands you been involved in up to now?
Mad Dog- I started playing music in the mid seventies an I played with Irish punk an new wave bands D.C Nien an Tokyo Olympics eventually I came to London an got a job as a roadie for The Pogues an when Chevron was ill I started playing guitar with them then I joined The Popes which Shane started when he got sacked from The Pogues for a short while then when he went back to The Pogues I took over as lead vocalist.

As I say you’ve been performing for a hell of a long time and it’s absolutely brilliant to hear that you are back playing music again as a solo act but it has been said (and I am in agreement) that being a solo artist is the hardest thing to do. Just yourself on the stage and nowhere to hide. What does it take to be a solo performer. I would say big nuts and a big ego but obviously that’s not right for everyone!
Mad Dog- I’m going solo now and that takes a bit more balls.
Having been in bands yourself that have influenced celtic-punk dramatically which figures or bands do you think have been the important links between the past and the present and folk/celtic/traditional music and punk/rock music?
Mad Dog- My fab band has always been Thin Lizzy.
How you find the London Irish scene these days? Obviously the old community has shrunk and the new arrivals seem, to me anyway, not to be interested in Irish music. Maybe I’m reading it wrong. I certainly hope so. Is there still a community out there? What bands were you listening to at the moment? Do you follow celtic-punk at all. Any bands out of the scene that you like?
Mad Dog-  I’m not really up to date with the Gaelic music scene since my accident but I’m slowly getting back into the Irish music scene.

With so much music in your life. What are your happiest memories of playing. The best gig or best people…
I liked touring America the best. There was a gig I really liked in L.A. called the House Of Blues the American fans were fabulous. I have a lot of stories to tell but you will all have to wait to hear about them as I’m keeping them for a book I’m writing. The funniest stories I think was when I was touring with Shane. But as I say you all will have to wait for the book to come out. The gig I enjoyed the most was that one in the House Of Blues in Los Angeles.
Have you been following the Shane’s new teeth saga?
Mad Dog- I read about Shane an his teeth an all I can do is wish him the best of luck.
Now one of the questions that popped up when putting this interview together was whether you’re a football fan or not. Living in north London where you do are an Arse or a Spurs fan? Or do you give a shit and are only interested in the Gaelic?
Mad Dog- I’m not really a football fan but if I was I would follow the Arsenal.
Thanks Paul for taking the time to answer a few questions. I know I speak for the entire celtic-punk community and especially the London Celtic Punks crew when I say I wish you all the very best and look forward to seeing you back on stage with the lads high kicking the night away. So all that’s left is for you to plug plug plug and is there anything else you want to add or anyone you want to thank?
Mad Dog- Hopefully see some of you at Lissenden Gardens this Wednesday at 15.30. Come up an say hello.
Mad Dog 2
Mad Dog GigSo there you are Paul’s well and truly on the road to recovery thank heavens and you can catch him playing a small intimate acoustic solo set at the Nordoff Robbins Music Therapy Centre (phone number 020 7267 4496), 2 Lissenden Gardens, Camden, London NW5 1PP next Wednesday 8th June. Paul is on stage about 3.30pm and the gig is on the green right in front of the centre. The Nordoff Robbins Music Therapy Centre offers music therapy and other music services to help children and adults with disabilities and illnesses. Specialist piano, keyboard, singing and song-writing lessons for people with a disability, illness, emotional difficulties or other challenges. Music groups for babies, toddlers and their parents; singing groups for children with autism and adults with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) and other lung conditions. The Lissenden Gardens are just between Kentish Town West and Gospel Oak and it’s free in so show your support for one of our own.

POST-SCRIPT:

A couple of us did make the gig and lucky for you Anto Morra got this great recording of Paul performing Dirty Old Town accompanied by Dave Thorpe. Wonderful to see you back giving it large again Mad Dog!

Paul accompanied here by Whiskey Mick, a fellow Pope. photo- Vicki Rowan

Paul accompanied here by Whiskey Mick, a fellow Pope. photo- Vicki Rowan

ALBUM REVIEW: LARKIN- ‘A Toast To St. Jude’ (2016)

With traditional Irish folk music and some of their own originals Larkin rock it up while keeping it trad. Always a good yellin’, rebel song, drinkin’ song good time with Larkin!

Larkin

Larkin are a superb 6 piece trad Irish folk band from Tulsa, Oklahoma in the USA that play traditional working class Irish protest song’s. They are led by Chad Malone, formerly of the American crusty punk political hardcore racket Brother Inferior, he has swapped one kind of music that comes from the heart for another that will surely stir the emotions of even the most stony hearted punk rocker. Leaving the hardcore punk growling behind Chad sings in a vein that crosses both Luke Kelly and Shane MacGowan while the band follow in the much same way inspired by the likes of both The Dubliners and The Pogues as well.

Larkin1

It has been eight years since Larkin’s last release and that is far too long. Their first release was The Curse of Our Fathers which was the first CD I had ever sent off for from America way back in 2003 when I had never even heard of the internet. Rustling up a bunch of dollars and posting them off not knowing if they’d ever get there! Lucky for me they did and a short while later the CD dropped out the letterbox and was ready for me to play constantly for months to come and tape for about at least fifty people! It was thirteen songs that included a smattering of old rebel songs and some brilliant original compositions that seriously marked them out as a band to watch. Irish-American life in song and Chad had obviously lost none of his songwriting ability’s when he made the dramatic (to some!) shift from hardcore punk to trad Irish. They followed this with Reckoning in 2005 and again it covered much the same track as their debut. More original songs this time but still a few rebs’s covering both the ‘auld days’ with ‘Broad Black Brimmer’ and the new with ‘Men Behind The Wire’. Again the music was exemplary and the energy through the roof. The following year they released a six track EP called Alexandra, named after the daughter of one of the band members, and again folks went bloody mad for it. Garnering great reviews from both folk and punk sites it seemed like Larkin were on the rise but whatever happened we this side of the pond were never to know and their international profile went down and we heard absolutely nothing till this their new album hit the streets running recently.

That new album A Toast To St. Jude has again been released, like all Larkin releases, on Know Records a punk rock and hardcore record label from Long Beach in Southern California. Available from the band on only vinyl for the moment on either orange (limited to 200) or green coloured vinyl, but that include’s a free digital download card. It is available as a download on other things like iTunes though so if you want one don’t be silly and delay… send off today.

A Toast To St. Jude begins with ‘The Ballad Of St. Patrick’s Battalion’ and straight from the off its a thigh slapping and merry fiddle led jaunty tribute to the famed battalion of up to several hundred mainly Irishmen who fought as part of the Mexican Army in the Mexican–American War of 1846–8. Famed in song already by the likes of Damien Dempsey (‘St Patrick’s Brave Brigade’) and The Street Dogs (‘San Patricios’) and countless others its a proud addition.

Larkin slow it down for ‘A Bottle And Two Days Later’ and it’s the tin whistle that dominates here aside from Chads vocals which shine out loud and proud over all. The music has a slight country twist to it but listen to the words and get carried away on the swell. ‘Row In The Town’ follows and is the first cover here and top marks for a song I have never heard covered in celtic punk before. Better known as ‘Erin Go Bragh’ it’s the story of 1916 and the brave leaders who fought and were executed in the Easter Uprising.

“God Bless gallant Pearse and his comrades who died
Tom Clark, MacDonagh, MacDiarmad, McBryde
And here’s to James Connolly who gave one Hurrah!
And faced the machine guns for Erin Go Bragh”

Written by the great Irish balladeer Peadar Kearney who also wrote the national anthem of Ireland ‘Amhrán Na BhFiann’ as well as a host of other well known and cherished Irish rebel songs. The song sticks to much the same tune as The Wolfe Tones version which is by far the most popular. ‘The Long Goodbye’ sees them back in thigh slapping mode again and despite it being almost entirely acoustic instruments they are giving it as good as any punk band and you can imagine the pit to this being pretty rigorous while ‘Shadows And Dust’ sees Chad giving it his best Shane as he sings of the evils of drink and drinking. Slow and mournful and the fiddle and whistle keep it moving on. A word here for the backline of non Irish instruments and the drumming and electric bass are both excellent additions and are as much of the sound as the others. Like all the best celtic-punk bands Larkin can switch it up and manage to follow a slow song with something like ‘The Wages Of Sin’ where Chad sings as fast as anything he managed in Brother Inferior. The beauty is though that you don’t notice that switch as it seems completely faultless. We are halfway through and they slip in ‘Lexy Slip Jig/Villain’s Octaves Jig/December Jig’ a collection of dance reels and jigs that prove Larkin are as an accomplished bunch of traditional musicians as exists in celtic-punk. Bloody superb is the only way to describe this and the fiddle playing of Karen Harmon is beyond brilliant. ‘Maybe Someday Outside Of Belfast’ slows it down again and Chad can turn his hand to much more than reb’s and rockers and he can give out a beautiful auld love song too. Of course it doesn’t have a happy ending but hey ho there you go! The longest track here and again I’m marvelling at this story teller’s words. ‘Midnight In The Fall Of Man’ ramps it up again with frantic acoustic guitar setting the pace with the band barely able to keep up. ‘A Wayward Lament’ again slows it down and Chad again hits a nerve with this my favourite song of the album. His voice may be a thousand miles from crooning but extols more emotion and feeling than anyone I have heard in a very long time.ST JUDE Album theme tune ‘A Toast To Saint Jude’ is exactly that a tribute to the apostle who is the patron saint of lost causes! He became associated with desperate situations because of a letter he wrote in which he says that the faithful must keep going even in harsh or difficult circumstances. Fast and utterly brilliant and over in just two minutes it sets up nicely for the album’s only other cover and poignant is not the word. ‘Back Home In Derry’ has been covered by a small handful of celtic punk bands and always sounds fantastic as it does here. Written by the peoples MP Bobby Sands while incarcerated in prison its an amazing song that never fails to move.

“Van Diemen’s land is a hell for a man
To end out his whole life in slavery
Where the climate is raw and the gun makes the law
Neither wind nor rain care for bravery
Twenty years have gone by, I’ve ended my bond
My comrades ghosts walk behind me
A rebel I came – I’m still the same
On the cold winters night you will find me”

A song about Irish freedom fighters sentenced to slavery in Australia by the British Government in the 1800’s the song was originally recorded by Christy Moore and Christy tells of the origins of his learning the song

“I was playing in Derry and staying with The Barrett Family. After my gig we were gathered in Chamberlain St having a banter and drinking tea when a bit of singing broke out. A lad, just home from The Blocks (prison), sang these verses and subsequently wrote out the words for me. At the time the name Bobby Sands was not known to the world as it is today.
He used the air of The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald from Gordon Lightfoot, an air which I suspect has earlier origins.  My version of Bobby’s song is shorter than the original”

Finally A Toast To Saint Jude comes to an end with ‘Have Another Drink, Boys’ and its altogether thirteen of the best songs I have heard in a good while. I simply cannot say how much I loved this album.

Team Larkin

Larkin from left to right: David Lawrence ~ whistle * Dalton Williams ~ guitar, bodhran * Chad Malone ~ vocals * Karen Naifeh Harmon ~ violin * Kelly Tuttle ~ bass Johnny Walker ~ drums

Larkin are almost the perfect band to symbolise celtic-punk. Heartfelt renditions of classic Irish songs that stir the emotions that will have you sobbing your heart out into your beer one minute and belting your lungs outs and thumping the table the next. That their own songs sound perfectly at home being sung right next to songs that are over a century old while at the same time giving off a very modern vibe is a fantastic achievement. Everything about Larkin is to be recommended right down to the artwork (once again done by the amazing Dublin punk artist Boz) and while some Irish-American’s may not know all that much of the history of Ireland that is not the case with Chad and the other bhoys and ghirls. History courses through the entire Larkin back catalogue and this is no exception. The band are named after the famed Dublin working class agitator and trade union leader James Larkin (1876 – 1947), a second generation Irish man born in Liverpool. He grew up in poverty and received little formal education but became a leader and a visionary whose influence still lives on today at home in Ireland and beyond. The hard life of the Irish who made the journey across the broad Atlantic and the sometimes hard life of their descendants (you see not every man is a king is in the US of A) is rarely better told and Chad sits comfortably up there with Tony from The Tossers or Leeson from Neck as a modern day celtic-punk story teller. The high praise doesn’t end there though and the music that accompanies is of the highest quality as well. Fast paced tunes with heaps and heaps of energy mix it up with soulful ballads and instrumentals that are all guaranteed to fill the dance floor with either swaying emotional mobs linking arms and pints in the air or a mosh pit you’d be taking your life in your hands to go near. With whistle, fiddle, acoustic guitar, electric bass, drums and vocals Larkin kick up an almighty storm and may just possibly be the world’s most punkiest folk band. No sod that… in fact make that definitely the world’s most punkiest folk band!

Buy The Album

KnowRecords (available on green and orange vinyl with free download card)  Microsoft  iTunes

Contact The Band

Facebook  MySpace  Chad Malone Facebook page (Larkin singer)  Soundcloud

  • you can check the wonderful artwork of the chief Larkin illustrator, Boz here at his web-site
  • Know Records Facebook page is here.

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!

FREE DOWNLOAD!

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)

THE POGUES ON MASTERMIND- THE ANSWERS!

…so following on from the quiz we published on St Patrick’s Day here’s the answers.

If you missed it and want to take it now click on the Mastermind chair below.

Mastermind chair

John got 12 on the show so better than that and you deserve a pat on the back…

1. What was the name of the first Pogues song to enter the charts when it peaked at number 72 in April 1985?
Answer: A Pair Of Brown Eyes
2. Who produced the Pogues’ most successful single Fairytale of New York and the album it was taken from If I Should fall from Grace with God?
Answer: Steve Lilywhite
3. In October ‘86 the Pogues recorded two songs with the Dubliners. One was the Irish Rover making the Top 10. What was the title of the other song that appeared on the B side?
Answer: The Rare Auld Mountain Dew
4. Which new wave artist produced the Pogues second album that was released in August 1985?
Answer: Elvis Costello
5. What was the Pogues debut single for Stiff Records that failed to chart when it was released in October ’84?
Answer: Boys from the County Hell
6. Following a number of promotional appearances, the Pogues first live American concert took place in February 1986. At what venue in New York?
Answer: The World
7. What was the title of the 4-track EP that was released in March 1986 featuring among its songs A Rainy Night in Soho and The Body of an American?
Answer: Poguetry In Motion
8. Who replaced the guitarist Philip Chevron when he missed the band’s American tour in late ’87 because of ill health?
Answer: Joe Strummer
9. During July and August ’87 the Pogues opened for which band in a number of stadium gigs, the first of which was at Wembley in front of a crowd of 70,000?
Answer: U2
10. The video of the song Fiesta was filmed in Barcelona in April ’88?. Which comedian directed it?
Answer: Ade Edmonson
11. By what name is the tinwhistle player and occasional vocalist Peter Stacy better known?
Answer: Spider
12. Apart from the annual re-releases of the Fairytale of New York, what was the title of the last release by the band to make the UK Top 20?
Answer: Tuesday Morning
13. What was the name of the bass player who left the band in ’86 following her marriage to Elvis Costello earlier in the year?
Answer: Cait O’Riordan
14. What was the title of the first album of new material released by the band following the departure of MacGowan . It was produced by Michael Brook and recorded in ’93?
Answer: Waiting For Herb
15. The Pogues played a benefit concert in Camden in December 1990 for their manager’s daughter after she was injured in a diving accident. What was her name?
Answer: Shannon

Your editor here got 11 out of the 15 right. I had no idea for Q.6 or Q.15 and for Q.5 and Q.10 I simply couldn’t remember. Old age catching up with me!

you can ‘follow’ the blog and receive a e-mail every time we post by simply filling out the section that is on the bar on the left hand side under the menu at the top. we post around 6-9 times a month so you wont be too harassed we promise!

* 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

Lá fhéile Pádraig sona dhuit!

“For each petal on the shamrock
This brings a wish your way
Good health, good luck, and happiness
For today and every day”

A couple of years ago John Abernethy competed on Mastermind (a English TV quiz show) and had The Pogues as his specialist subject. We know that that the London Celtic Punks bhoys and ghirls are a knowledgeable lot so here’s the questions below. Have a go and see how many you got and I’ll post the answers one week from today!!

Mastermind chair

1. What was the name of the first Pogues song to enter the charts when it peaked at number 72 in April 1985?

2. Who produced the Pogues’ most successful single Fairytale of New York and the album it was taken from If I Should fall from Grace with God?

3. In October ‘86 the Pogues recorded two songs with the Dubliners. One was the Irish Rover making the Top 10. What was the title of the other song that appeared on the B side?

4. Which new wave artist produced the Pogues second album that was released in August 1985?

5. What was the Pogues debut single for Stiff Records that failed to chart when it was released in October ’84?

6. Following a number of promotional appearances, the Pogues first live American concert took place in February 1986. At what venue in New York?

7. What was the title of the 4-track EP that was released in March 1986 featuring among its songs A Rainy Night in Soho and The Body of an American?

8. Who replaced the guitarist Philip Chevron when he missed the band’s American tour in late ’87 because of ill health?

9. During July and August ’87 the Pogues opened for which band in a number of stadium gigs, the first of which was at Wembley in front of a crowd of 70,000?

10. The video of the song Fiesta was filmed in Barcelona in April ’88?. Which comedian directed it?

11. By what name is the tinwhistle player and occasional vocalist Peter Stacy better known?

12. Apart from the annual re-releases of the Fairytale of New York, what was the title of the last release by the band to make the UK Top 20?

13. What was the name of the bass player who left the band in ’86 following her marriage to Elvis Costello earlier in the year?

14. What was the title of the first album of new material released by the band following the departure of MacGowan . It was produced by Michael Brook and recorded in ’93?

15. The Pogues played a benefit concert in Camden in December 1990 for their manager’s daughter after she was injured in a diving accident. What was her name?

John Abernethy got 12 right out of the 15 so see if you can do better! 

soooooo come back exactly one week today and click below and you will be directed to the answers

Mastermind

HAPPY ST PATRICK’S DAY TO ALL

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ALBUM REVIEW: ‘JOY OF LIVING: A TRIBUTE TO EWAN MacCOLL’ (2016)

Fearless and uncompromising Ewan MacColl’s influence is still felt far beyond the folk world. We owe him a lot… more than we can ever imagine.

Joy Of Living

Regular readers of the London Celtic Punks blog will all know how much we like Ewan MacColl and we have regularly featured him within these pages. Though long gone Ewan’s massive volume of work lives on and only the other day were we raving about the Irish-American celtic-punk band 1916 and their amazing version of another Ewan song (sadly not featured here) ‘Hot Asphalt’. Ewan’s songs were uplifting whether proclaiming love or war or peace. He wrote about things that would now be forgotten about and has kept their memory alive. He gave birth to a folk revival that continues to this day, many years after his passing, that remains in great health. The songs he wrote and championed are still being played and explored and adapted and still being made great. Ewan MacColl’s musical legacy is, to put it simply, just out of this world. We owe him a lot… more than we can ever imagine.

Ewan was the Scots-born son of a Gaelic-speaking mother and Lowland father from whom he inherited more than a hundred songs and ballads. He worked as a garage hand, builders’ labourer, journalist, radio scriptwriter, actor and dramatist. After the end of World War II Ewan wrote and broadcast extensively in Britain about folk music. He was general editor of the BBC folk-music series, ‘Ballads and Blues’, and frequently took part in radio and television shows for the BBC.

Ewan MacColl 1His folk song publications included ‘Personal Choice’, a pocket book edition of Scots folk songs and ballads, and ‘The Shuttle and the Cage’, the first published collection of British industrial folk songs. Eventually he was ousted from the BBC due to his socialist beliefs. He wrote many songs that have become folk (and celtic-punk standards) the most famous of course being ‘Dirty Old Town’ popularised by The Dubliners and then The Pogues. It is wrongly assumed to be about Dublin but it is in fact about his home town of Salford in Manchester. He is also famous for writing one of the greatest ever love songs ‘The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face’ which he wrote for his second wife, the influential American folk singer, Peggy Seeger. He was also the father of Kirsty MacColl who of course guested on The Pogues enormous Christmas hit ‘Fairytale Of New York’. After many years of poor health Ewan died on 22 October 1989 but it can be safely said of him that his songs and influence will live on forever. Comparable only to Woody Guthrie in more than one way.

This fantastic double album marks 100 years since Ewan MacColl’s birth and the album has been produced by two of Ewan’s sons, Calum and Neill, and features a wonderful bunch of diverse artists from right across folk, rock, pop and celtic music. Disc one begins with, for me, one of the stand out tracks with Damien Dempsey singing ‘Schooldays Over’. The only song here we have heard before nevertheless it is more than welcome. Made famous by the late great Luke Kelly’s version with The Dubliners Damien is no stranger to Ewan’s work and does him truly proud.

This is followed by a track from one of the most influential figures in folk music today, Martin Carthy and is the first of several and several individual contributions by the Waterson-Carthy family. He performs the unlikely tale of a fish delivery man in ‘I’m Champion At Keeping ‘Em Rolling’. The Unthanks may sound like a rock band but are in fact two sisters (Unthank is their great surname) who perform a gentle lullaby ‘Cannily, Cannily’. Tracks from legends old and new follow from Seth Lakeman and Marry Waterson and Bombay Bicycle Club are up next, BBC famously include one of MacColl’s grandchildren, Jamie. They contribute a moving version of ‘The Young Birds’, a song written back in 1961 to commemorate a tragic plane crash that killed 34 London children of whom some were known to MacColl’s oldest son, Hamish. Another artist we are familiar with here is Dick Gaughan who contributes ‘Jamie Foyers’. Dick is an influential Scottish musician, singer, and songwriter who was a founding member of the famous celtic band Boys Of The Lough. Martin’s daughter Eliza Carthy, ‘Thirty-Foot Trailer’ and Chaim Tannenbaum, ‘My Old Man’, are up next before honorary Irishman Steve Earle presents a new take on a song that needs no introduction ‘Dirty Old Town’, except to say that it does sound like the spirit(s) of Shane MacGowan were present at its recording.

The first discs last song is from Jarvis Cocker and the erstwhile Pulp front man gives us a amazingly beautiful whispered version of  ‘The Battle Is Done With’. I am sure it won’t be everyone’s cup of tea but its great to hear something that just isn’t a straight cover of Ewan’s work.

Ewan MacCollDisc two begins with the most famous of Ewan’s compositions and Paul Buchanan vocalist of 80/90’s Glasgow indie band The Blue Nile croons beautifully through the ‘First Time Ever I Saw Your Face’. Ewan wrote the song for Peggy Seeger and it became an international smash hit in 1972 sung by Roberta Flack. On hearing this version it made me wonder how Shane MacGowan would have mastered it. Paul Brady will be a name known to many and his version of ‘Freeborn Man’ shows Paul to have lost none of his talent in a career that spans right across modern day Irish folk music. Another travellers song follows and Norma Waterson provides us with a fauntless rendition of the gypsy’s plight in ‘The Moving On Song’. Karine Polwart’s version of ‘The Terror Time’ is again beautiful, and Martin Simpson, The Father’s Song, is up next before the ultimate Irish living folk legend, and former band mate of Paul Brady in Planxty, Christy Moore appears with ‘The Companeros’. Again yer man has lost nothing and its a stunning version. Now there’s one name missing from this album so far and he’s up next. It must be written into law that Billy Bragg must appear on any folk compilation and whatever you think of him he gives us a really nice but angry copy of ‘Kilroy Was Here’ which strips Billy back to those early days when he was at his best. Folk siblings Rufus and Martha Wainwright play the magnificent ‘Sweet Thames, Flow Softly’. A small gentle snapshot of life before Kathryn Williams, ‘Alone’, and David Gray brings the whole project to an end with one of Ewan’s best but sadly little known songs, and album title, The Joy of Living.

As you may expect traditionalists might not appreciate some of the versions here but this enhances, rather than detracts and all the various strands of Ewan’s political and musical life is represented here. This double album does not pretend to be the ‘be-all-and-end-all’ as with an artist with such a massive repertoire it would be impossible to please everyone but it does provide a gateway. Collections like this serve only one purpose. That is to steer listeners away from the modern day versions to the original source and with Ewan their is plenty to catch up on. We have included some links at the bottom where readers can find more information and free downloads so I hope you take the opportunity to. It is impossible to calculate the range and influence of this remarkable singer and song-writer but we can rest assured his memory lives and this album is a great testament to him.

“My function is not to reassure people. I want to make them uncomfortable. To send them out of the place arguing and talking”

Disc 1
1. Damien Dempsey – Schooldays Over
2. Martin Carthy – I’m Champion At Keeping ‘Em Rolling
3. The Unthanks – Cannily, Cannily
4. Seth Lakeman – The Shoals of Herring
5. Marry Waterson – The Exile Song
6. Bombay Bicycle Club – The Young Birds
7. Dick Gaughan – Jamie Foyers
8. Eliza Carthy – Thirty-Foot Trailer
9. Chaim Tannenbaum – My Old Man
10. Steve Earle – Dirty Old Town
11. Jarvis Cocker – The Battle Is Done With

Disc 2
1. Paul Buchanan – The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face
2. Paul Brady – Freeborn Man
3. Norma Waterson  – Moving On Song
4. Karine Polwart – The Terror Time
5. Martin Simpson – The Father’s Song
6. Christy Moore – The Companeros
7. Billy Bragg – Kilroy Was Here
8. Rufus & Martha Wainwright – Sweet Thames, Flow Softly
9. Kathryn Williams – Alone
10. David Gray – The Joy of Living

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Official Ewan MacColl Sites

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For more on Ewan MacColl the internet is awash with sites but trust us and head straight to the official sites but also to Wikipedia as well as this tribute from the Working Class Movement Library here. You can listen to some of his music for free here on LastFm.

We have a regular series ‘Classic Album Reviews’ where we feature records from the past that have had influence far beyond their years. Ewan (of course!!), Leadbelly and several compilations have featured so far and all come with links to free downloads. You can check out the full series here.

(Just to prove Ewan’s work lives on here’s the aforementioned 1916 from New York with their recent  version of the classic Ewan song ‘Hot Asphalt’)

ALBUM REVIEW: 1916- ‘Last Call For Heroes’ (2015)

SHAMROCKABILLY!

The hardest hitting Irish rock band this side of Dublin city!

1916 (2015)

With the sun about to set on 2015 and the end of year ‘Best Of’ polls pretty much settled no-one in the London Celtic Punks camp expected another album worthy of the list to come along. Let alone one to come along that would hit you so instantly in the gut that it would rocket up to be voted the third best Celtic Punk Album Of 2015 (here) by the LCP team. That album was by a band called 1916 from New York and was about to make BIG BIG waves in the celtic-punk scene. The roots of 1916 had been around for a few years now starting off as a duo back in 2006 before deciding to take things to another level with the addition of electric guitars, drums and traditional folk instruments. Soon they had become a staple of the celtic-punk/ Irish rock scene in New York and it wasn’t long before they released their debut album A Drop Of The Pure in 2012 and the follow up, Stand Up And Fight, released the following year. These were both great albums but, and I’m sure the Bhoys won’t mind me saying, it was all solid but still pretty standard celtic-punk rock fare. That debut album was full of the passion and wild fire of a bunch of young Irish-Americans while the follow up shared much the same path but was a much more polished version. Their new album Last Call For Heroes hit the streets in the USA at the beginning of December just gone but took a couple of weeks to reach us here across the broad Atlantic and it is fair to say that it blew everybody’s bloody brains out over here at London Celtic Punks and has since been causing quite a scene across the worldwide celtic-punk community!

1916 (2012)Over the years their have been several celtic punk bands who have included a double bass and combined Irish folk, punk rock and rock’n’roll/rockabilly to create something pretty amazing. Craic Haus are without doubt the kings of, what they term themselves, ‘shamrockabilly’ but other notable bands like Black Irish Texas, Black Water County and Kevin Flynn And The Avondale Ramblers also have a double bass player rather than a electric bass guitar to create that rocking sound you just don’t get from a normal bass guitar. The sound that Chris Van Cleve brings to 1916 is quite simply amazing and will leave you gobsmacked. If you thought that pretty much all celtic-punk bands sound alike then get your lug holes around this album and prepare to eat some humble pie as this band will blow any perceptions you may have of celtic-punk music out of the water.

1916 (2013)Coming out of the once solidly Irish area of Rochester in New York, 1916 may have seen the Irish population of their home town shrink somewhat but it has only hardened their determination to both sing loud and sing proud about the NY Irish community and their noble history! The Irish are still here and they are still fighting!!NYI (2)

The album starts with an absolute cracker of a song with ‘Tear The Pub Down’. Thrashy guitars and singer Bill dives straight into in a song that deserves to be played while the Ireland team (only one team in Ireland!) walk out on the pitch at the European Championships in the summer. If this song wouldn’t swell their hearts and heads we’ve no chance. Next up is ‘For Whiskey’ which was the first release from the album and is clearly the band’s favourite track. Certainly it shows the band at their most rocking and if there’s one song on this album that could be the 1916 signature tune then this is the one.

Smuggling whiskey into America during prohibition made many a Irishman plenty of money and even better for the Irish community at large it gave the Irish a taste of power that they learnt to hang onto.

“It’s row, ye bastards row
We can see the beach and the pickup harbor
It’s go ye bastards go
To the speakeasies with your whiskey cargo
And now we’re headed back
For the smuggling life we’re living now
It’s whiskey we’re on our way”

This is followed by ‘Long Street Bop’ and is more than a passing nod towards Shane MacGowan’s first band The Nipple Erectors (later The Nips) with a short but sweet blast of rockabilly. 1916 are certainly no covers band belting out Danny Boy and their wonderful choice of covers proves they have both a great taste in music and a good knowledge of their Irish roots. ‘Hot Asphalt’ is up next and is as good a version as I have heard in my entire life. 1916 bounce along with a tonne of energy and turn this well known song into their very own.

“You may talk about yer sailor lads, ballad singers and the rest
Your shoemakers and your tailors but we please the ladies best
The only ones who know the way their flinty hearts to melt
Are the lads around the boiler making hot asphalt

With rubbing and with scrubbing, sure I caught me death of cold
For scientific purposes, me body it was sold
In the Kelvin grove museum, me boys, I’m hangin’ in me pelt
As a monument to the Irish, making hot asphalt”

Made famous by The Dubliners and for once we have a classic traditional folk song not written by Ewan MacColl… I jest of course as yet again its another in Ewan’s armoury of amazing songs that celebrate working class life. This time about Irishmen digging the roads in England. One of those men was my Grandad incidentally. Ewan was a genius pure and simple (check back in a few days time for a review of the recently released Ewan MacColl tribute double album ‘The Joy Of Living’). It’s quite hard to describe how 1916 breath new life into this classic song but by God they do so. I love this version and hats off for achieving something more than just a simple cover version. ‘Nothing Left To Lose’ is one of the albums slower tracks but still kicks it up with the chorus while ‘The Traveller’ has a country/rockabilly feel while still rooted firmly in Ireland. ‘Ordinary Man’ is not the famed Christy Moore song but does travel much the same road lyrically and is dedicated to all those

“worker bees who are buzzing around with you and me”
‘Tomorrow’ is classic celtic-punk territory. Guitar and banjo clash producing yet another fantastic song but with front man Bill and his sometimes gravelly and sometimes almost crooning vocals 1916 prove they can rattle out top class song after top class song. Another great cover that the band properly claim is ‘Mursheen Durkin’. It tells the story of an Irish emigrant who goes to mine for gold during the Californian gold rush during the 1840’s and unusually in tales of Irish emigration for once it’s an upbeat song where yer man revels in leaving.
“Goodbye to all the boys at home, l’m sailing far across the foam
To try to make me fortune in far America,
For there’s s gold and money plenty for the poor and gentry
And when I come back again I never more will stray”
Again it’s a song made famous by the band that influenced The Pogues like no other The Dubliners. If by chance you are one of those rare souls that has never checked out The Dubliners do so immediately. It has to said that if celtic-punk wouldn’t exist without The Pogues then The Pogues would not exist without The Dubliners.
1916
‘Last Call For The Heroes’ is the last self-penned number and again the boys nail it. A swirling tribute to their Irish ancestors in New York. Again its a superb song and one of many fist/pint in the air moments on this album and sadly we come to an end with the final track, ‘The Parting Glass’. Again a Dubliners favourite and though this is the third song on the album popularised by this great band 1916 do something incredible and breathe new life into each song and make it their own. ‘The Parting Glass’ is sung wherever the Irish are throughout the world. First appearing in the 1770’s it is sung wherever Irish friends gather at the end of the night.

“Oh, all the comrades that e’er I had
They’re sorry for my going away
And all the sweethearts that e’er I had
They’d wish me one more day to stay

But since it falls unto my lot
That I should rise and you should not
I’ll gently rise and softly call
Good night and joy be with you all”

Bill sings with the very barest of accompaniment and comes out with something both beautiful and poignant. I can see this song being played at a good few funerals in the future!!
So here’s a blend of rockabilly with Irish punk rock that will leave you reeling while Bill spits out the songs with a venom that will have you belting your lung’s out while bouncing off the walls. Following 1916 through their three albums its clear to see how this talented bunch have continued to grow and evolve as musicians and artists and you get the feeling that they will only continue to get better and better as well. I can honestly say that their has been no better album in celtic-punk since The Rumjacks debut album kicked our teeth out back in 2010. What we are looking at here is the early days of a band that is destined for the top table of celtic-punk and who knows where after that…
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ALBUM REVIEW: JOHNNY CAMPBELL- ‘Hook, Line And Sinker’ (2015)

Fast, ruthless and uncompromising traditional folk music and frantic bluegrass style picking with self penned songs of protest and debauchery!

Johnny Campbell

Johnny Campbell is a name that will be familiar to regular viewers of the London Celtic Punks blog-zine as we have been long time fans of pretty much everything Johnny has come up with over the years. We first crossed paths with Johnny when he played in the excellent Yorkshire celtic-punk band Three Sheets T’Wind but since those days Johnny has spreads his wings and has become a quite successful and well travelled solo artist. After numerous tours and gigs and a EP we now arrive at the release of Hook, Line And Sinker back at the arse end of last year.  We did a very interesting interview with Johnny in September just gone (here) so drop over there to have a read and find out lots more about Johnny and his various gig antics across Europe including how ISIS nearly screwed up his tour!

JohnnyHook, Line And Sinker is eight songs of stand out traditional folk music lasting just shy of half an hour with Johnny ably supported by Rosie Eade on backing vocals and an old bandmate of Shane MacGowan, Kieran O’Malley on the violin. A story of a journey from York to Middlesbrough begins the album with ‘Hills Of Cleveland’ and name checks places of outstanding beauty along the way. A sort of North Yorkshire national anthem that I am sure sounds mental to anyone who doesn’t know or appreciate ‘Gods own country’.

“Sneck Yate over Hambleton it’s where we made good time
The smog caresses Middlesbrough you could see it to the Tyne”

This is followed by ‘Johnny McGhee’ a  comedy song that came about after a night out on the lash and with a gut full of ale and arriving home and after listening to the great Irish balladeers like John McCormack and The Clancy Brothers Johnny decided to write a traditional old school folk song with the emphasis on the lyrics and using different volumes of the voice when singing. Play the song below and you’ll understand instantly  what I mean.

“Rambling and roving and smoking and courting
And drinking black Porter as fast as you feel
In all your days roving you’ll find none more jovial
As the wondrous wanderer Johnny McGhee”

‘Blue Mountains’ is a fast paced instrumental with great fiddle work from Kieran and as close as this album comes to the sound of Three Sheets T’Wind. Personally I think the album would have benefited from a few faster paced numbers but that is not Johnny’s shtick here. Waking up hungover on a boat to Denmark with no money, no phone, no bank card and no wallet was the inspiration for ‘Copenhagen’ and having to busk for three days for food and money just to get to the airport providing the background for the story. ‘Complaint’ was written in mind about those affected by the Bedroom Tax and forced out onto the street and put to a very old traditional Irish tune. The romanticism of tramping the high roads belies exactly how difficult and traumatic it can really me. Like anything it’s simple with a safety net but there’s not many of us who will ever find ourselves with no other option. There are too many songs in the folk genre romanticising the idea of living a homeless life and glamorising the idea of being a wanderer without commitment or troubles. The ‘roving minstrel’ image portrayed in folk song about travellers and gypsies having a carefree life just isn’t true when weighed up against all the daily shit and blatant discrimination traveller families have to put up. Next up is ‘The Death Of The Public House (skit)’ and that witch Maggot Thatcher snarls out at you from the speakers. Many of you will have no idea or will have forgotten what she was like so remind yourself with her spouting the miserable anti-human claptrap she was famous for. Hook, Line And Sinker’ was wrote with Woody Guthrie in mind and the legendary American folk pioneer will be smiling down from above on hearing this. The song steers clear of preaching and has a real catchy foot tapping way about it. References to the optimism of the radical movements in the US and UK that haven’t come to full fruition as well as religion and the two party political system.

‘Jock Stewart’ is the famous song made famous I suppose by The Pogues as sung by Cait O’Riordan. Originally an Irish ballad it was shortened and adapted to an Aberdeenshire drinking song. And what a song it is!

“So be easy and free,
When you’re drinkin’ wi’ me,
I’m a man you don’t meet every day”

If you’re a fan of traditional folk music and folk singer’s like Christy Moore and Paul Brady then you will love this record. Passionate and straight from the heart Johnny takes his music very seriously and his commitment is amazing. A record that is evocative of the past but is rooted very firmly in the here and now. Fans of celtic-punk music deserve to give artists like Johnny a go. The music he plays is where the music we all love comes from and is living proof that the soul of celtic-punk belongs firmly in the past.

(you can have a free listen to the whole of ‘Hook, Line And Sinker’ before buying by pressing Play on the Bandcamp player below)

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FromJohnny

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INTERVIEW WITH JOHNNY CAMPBELL

A fast, ruthless, uncompromising sound with influences from far and wide. Material that embraces traditional music and sometimes frantic Bluegrass style picking with self penned songs of protest and debauchery.

Johnny2We are extremely happy that Johnny took time out from megabussing it around the country from gig to gig to do a little interview for us.

The obvious one to get us started so can you tell us how long you’ve been playing music and what bands you have been in before?

Johnny- I’ve been performing live for a decade now, and for the last couple of years as a solo performer. Before those ten years I was playing a battered classical guitar to Bad Religion live albums pretending I was in Bad Religion.

You have played in a celtic-punk band before with Three Sheets T’Wind so how do you see the celtic-punk scene here and abroad?

Johnny- I haven’t performed in other bands to any full-on level of commitment, apart from numerous and humorous side projects and filling in space for musicians who couldn’t make shows…and once trialing for The Popes as a fiddle player but that was a long time ago… I personally feel the scene in the UK is much broader, encompassing Anti-Folk, Alt-Folk and other offshoots. Though across the underground in The Netherlands for example, there are a number of fantastic ‘Folk-Punk’ bands using Banjos, Mandolins, Accordions that you couldn’t label as ‘Celtic-Punk’. It is great to see people’s horizons to ‘Punk’ don’t just start and end with an Electric Guitar.

I would like to think so but does it follow that celtic-punk fans also listen to folk from the past or present?

Johnny- For me yes. Right back to Planxty, Hank Williams or even contemporary folk like Julie Fowlis. The ‘Celtic-Punk’ fans I’ve come across like their fair share of Tom Waits and other artists that are hard to define by genre. I think if you’re into niche music, as in ‘Celtic-Punk’, you’re probably going to be listening to some other interesting styles!

Which figures or bands do you think have been the important links between the past and the present and folk/celtic/traditional music and punk/rock music?

Johnny- Obviously The Pogues…but I think we all know that. The Tossers are in my opinion, the logical progression from The Pogues taking influence from Behan and Joyce and managing to create it in their own American sound. Silly Wizard (possibly Scotland’s Planxty) manage to create an equally ‘rocky’ feel to their sound which leads neatly onto artists like The Horslips, Thin Lizzy and Moving Hearts.

Bit of an odd question this but how would you describe what you do on stage?

Johnny- I describe myself in my write up as an ‘Alt-folk’ musician. This is about as broad as I could make it. It isn’t a musical ‘style’ it is simply a way of saying ‘It is folk music…but a bit different.’ Some have said that shows can differentiate from stand-up comedy to thoughtful political song. I’ll do traditional Irish Anti-war songs like Arthur McBride to A Cappella songs about getting blind drunk and catching STDs from ladies of the night.

It has been said (and I am in agreement) that being a solo artist is the hardest thing to do. Just yourself on the stage and nowhere to hide. What does it take to be a solo performer. I would say big nuts and a big ego but obviously that’s not right for everyone!

Johnny- There’s a certain amount of balls/ego in there to get up and ask people to listen to what you’ve got to say for an hour, definitely. If you manage to fuck up the set, then it really is your own fault. That’s something that is pretty daunting but a challenge to relish I suppose, as the credit (if there is any to give out) is all yours.

At the moment there is a big ‘folk-punk’ thing happening in the UK that seems to have a lot in common with celtic-punk like the politics and aspirations but without major celtic influences. Have you noticed this at all?

Johnny- Because the genres are getting broader and ‘Folk-Punk’ is the easiest umbrella to put yourself under if you perform anti-authoritarian/alternative Folk music… I think that is how it is coming about. Celtic/Irish music has transported well as there is a mythology built up around the Irish. But also the way we can consume music nowadays, we can search for Mongolian Political Folk Punk on Youtube and get an instant response. Which is broadening our intake very quickly. I speak for myself here when I say 10 years ago, when I was 18, the only Folk-Punk you could really find was Dropkick Murphys, The Pogues, and anything else on a major label as you had to go to the local (if you had one) independent record shop. Now we are blessed with so much choice, which is generally free which brings its own negative impacts like de-valuing a product and other factors.

It would seem sometimes, and there is certainly a history of it in England (the band that must never be mentioned!), that bands who play Irish/celtic tunes won’t label the tunes as Irish/celtic and would instead categorise it as English folk (so as to not be seen as Irish I suppose) but do you see this as cultural appropriation or not? it sometimes reminds me of Prince Charles roaming round his billion acre estate in Kernow/ Cornwall wearing a kilt!

Johnny- Hmm, it is an interesting one. I don’t think anyone would get offended if you said a tune was English when it was an Irish tune if you believed it was initially. I think it is important to try and research a song or a tune and find out its origins and to recognise it. I can also see some cultural appropriation in there as it is a small way of denying heritage by simply taking is as your ‘own’. I think we must be more concerned with things like the far-right using traditional folk music and making a patriotic gesture with the songs.

Johnny CampbellYou have a new album due out soon I hear. What’s the latest on that? Is it purely yourself or will you be aided and abetted?

Johnny- It’s been a long process, I haven’t released something with new material for about three years. I’ve had writer’s block for a while and since I’ve been on the road the last couple of years I’ve picked up new influences which has come out on the record. I am aided by Kieran O’Malley, a violin player from Leeds who performs with Spirit of John and many other acts..he’s also performed on a Shane MacGowan’s release ‘Rockier Road To Poland’ and backing vocals from Exeter singer/songwriter Rosie Eade. http://www.rosieeade.co.uk/ It will be released early October.

You seem to be on a non-stop tour of anywhere and everywhere so where does the future take you and do you think you will be able to keep it up more importantly?

Johnny- I’m sure I’ll be able to carry on for a few more years as long as my legs still carry me. I only use public transport and we managed to get from Istanbul from Yorkshire in 28 days on public transport on the Summer European tour with James Bar Bowen and Cosmo. We hit squats and social centres through eight countries and the final show in Istanbul got cancelled as the promoter had left to go and fight against fascist ISIS and didn’t tell us! We had about five days to waste in Istanbul because of the cancellation. This was during Ramadan which is an amazing spectacle. We decided to imbibe the culture by visiting mosques, walking the streets and eating kebabs. As long as the gigs keep being interesting, I still have some life left!

Thanks Johnny for taking time out of your busy touring schedule (where are you as you write this?) so all that’s left is for you to plug plug plug and is there anything else you want to add or anyone you want to thank?

Johnny- I’m currently in the South West for a week between shows and getting ready for the release of my album ‘Hook, Line & Sinker’ which will be released on my website and Bandcamp in early October! I will be doing a UK and USA East Coast tour in March 2016 with Tim Holehouse www.timholehouse.com (UK tour) and James Bar Bowen https://jamesbarbowen2014.wordpress.com/ (USA tour) but in the meantime I have shows across the UK and The Netherlands with Rob Galloway http://www.theyallayallas.com/rob-galloway which can all be found on my website! Cheers and beers! x

(you can listen to Johnny Campbell’s debut solo EP below)

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  • keep your eyes peeled for a review in the next couple of weeks of ‘Hook, Line & Sinker’. I’m lucky to have had a sneak preview and can guarantee its an excellent debut record!

BOOK REVIEW: ‘RUM, SODOMY AND THE LASH’ by Jeffrey T. Roesgen

30 years to the day of the release of Rum, Sodomy And The Lash.

Fleshing out The Pogues second album into a pocket sized, historical and musical mix of fact, fiction and nautical friction. Perfect for yer summer holiday,

Rum, Sodomy And The Lash

 “You can smell The Pogues through the writing”

Today is the 30th anniversary of the release of The Pogues classic album ‘Rum, Sodomy And The Lash’. I dare say that their can’t be that many of us that heard it back then and didnt find it a life changing moment in the way that only music can be sometimes. Easy to forget that The Pogues were the first celtic-punk band and though first album, ‘Red Roses For Me’, introduced the band it was this album that really set off the fireworks!

As Melody Maker said back in the day

“The brightest, most intense moments of Rum…aren’t about particularities of style or delivery. This is, apart from anything else, music to hang on to other people by to stave off brutal fact and the weight of history. While The Pogues make music for drunks as well, probably, as anyone has they’re also dragging an oft-ignored folk tradition into the daylight with an altogether improbable potency… Rum… has soul, if not a great deal of innovation, and somewhere among the glasses and the ashtrays lie a few home truths”

The albums title was suggested by drummer Andrew Rankin who said

“it seemed to sum up life in our band”

and the cover of the album has The Pogues members faces superimposed on the Medusa’s shipwrecked sailors in the famous painting by Theodore Gericault called ‘The Raft Of The Medusa’. Nautical themes abound as well as tales of male prostitution, the Spanish civil war, peace-keeping in the Lebanon and a multitude of stories telling of Irish emigrant life. Jeffrey T. Roesgen has taken these tales and wrapped them up in a book that is half nautical novel and half a history of The Pogues. Though you would expect such a specific book to be aimed squarely at the die hard Pogues fan audience the book actually reads very well. Sure the characters in these songs (Frank Ryan, Jesse James, Jock Stewart, Sally MacLennane etc.,) lend themselves to great story-telling but Roesgen deserves credit for writing a book that would interest maybe not quite anyone but certainly anyone with the faintest appreciation of The Pogues.

Rum Sodomy And The Lash

The story begins with The Pogues arriving on the dock and boarding The Medusa and follows them till they find themselves on that raft suffering

“unrelenting heat and torrents of waves”

A incapable captain and a corrupt French Governor interweave with and drink and fight with band members and the characters from the album.

“An officer rushed over to our group.  He stood before Spider, rigid and ornate, and nodded to the bags and cases at our feet.
“Musicians” said Spider, releasing Shane.
The officer winced and brought up a collection of papers he’d rolled behind his back. He squinted at it. “Your name?”
“Pogue Mahone”
The officer made his eyes slender. “Pogue Mahone?” He fiddled with the sparse whiskers on his chin.
“A Gaelic expression”
“Gaelic?”
“Kiss my arse” Spider shot back.
The officer widened his eyes and poised his head above the group.
We were quiet, looking to our feet.  The officer shifted himself rigid.  He looked to Spider. “Aboard this ship you will be Pogues”

The chapters are short and each part of the story is interrupted by a smaller section explaining how the song came into being. These pop up as they appear in the book and not in the album’s order so having a good knowledge is not all that important, though some of it will sail over of your head I am sure.

Ewan MacColl

Ewan MacColl

The classic Ewan MacColl penned song ‘Dirty Old Town’ receives a chapter to itself. As The Medusa navigates a storm we are told that Ewan MacColl actually hated The Pogues version of his song. In an interview Ewan’s wife Peggy Seeger, a renowned folk artist in her own right, contends that when Ewan wrote the line

“We’ll chop you down like an old dead tree”

he was implying improvement of Salford rather than destroying it. Roesgen quite rightly sees another side to The Pogues version

“In the Pogues performance we have little trouble seeing Shane, with spite seething from his lips, wielding his axe like a banshee, hacking his dismal town to splinters”

Roegson tells a great tale of the story behind the album and brings out the connections between Irish music and punk rock as well as American folk as well. Steering clear of anything too overly dramatic this wee book is worthy of passing the time away one day and is small enough (only 119 pages) to be read in one go. Therein lies the problem though in that you are left gasping for more. So the only possible solution is to pour yourself a generous drink, put ‘Rum Sodomy And The Lash’ on, turn it up loud, sit back in your deckchair and enjoy!

“With Spider singing, Shane and Frank Ryan jigged among the band. Ryan hadn’t expected James’s theft and his canonization, but it played into his plan for revolt. And he danced. Together the two men gulped from the jug, embracing amid the music. “Jesse James,” the crowds called over and over, diluting even the music we played”

Buy The Book

Amazon  Bloomsbury  Audible(TalkingBooks)

33⅓ (Thirty-Three and a Third) is a series of books written about music albums, featuring one author per album and published by Bloomsbury Publishing. The series title refers to the speed (33⅓ revolutions per minute) of an LP album and as of June 2015 over 100 titles had been published.

For more information on the series there is a Blog here as well as the Bloomsbury site here

*if you’re interested in The Pogues we have a multitude 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

The Best Pogues Related Sites

In The Wake Of The Medusa * Paddy Rolling Stone * The Parting Glass * Pogues Facebook Page

For me though the best place on the internet for The Pogues is this unofficial group on Facebook (here) all the diverse views you would expect from a bunch of people who follow The Pogues. Be sure and join up won’t you?

ALBUM REVIEW: THE KILMAINE SAINTS- ‘Live At The Abbey’ (2015)

Explosive, high-energy celtic-punk rock band from Pennsylvania will lift your hearts and your spirit…
and your pint when you’re not looking!
Kilmaine Saints Live At The Abbey

Formed in 2009 The Kilmaine Saints were the brainchild of two members of the Harrisburg Pipe And Drum Band (Pennsylvania). With celtic-punk taking off they decided to form a band that would get them free beer at St Patrick’s Day shows in the Central PA area. With the addition of  a couple of local musicians and a couple more Pipe band members The Kilmaine Saints took off and haven’t looked back since. Hundreds of gigs and festival appearances have seen them become one of the most popular celtic-punk bands in America. Two full length albums behind them,  ‘The Good, The Plaid And The Ugly’ and ‘Drunken Redemption’ as well as a mini-album ‘un-Traditonal’ from last year, their releases have all been a solid mix of ramped up celtic classics and some extremely good compositions of their own. After all it has to be said that you can be a great band playing covers, and especially if you do something with them rather than being just a standard cover, but to go further you need strong songs of your own and The Kilmaine Saints have them as well.

‘Live At The Abbey’ is just over an hours worth of celtic-punk rock that is I reckon an exact replica of a Saints show. What I mean is it captures completely the feel, as well as the sound, of a Kilmaine Saints gig. The actual recording is clear and captures the various band members and their instruments perfectly. ‘Amazing Grace/Will The Circle Be Unbroken’ kicks off the album and straight away you can feel the energy busting out of the speakers. Blimey if every show is like this then they better keep a medic by the stage with a defibrillator! ‘Haul Away Joe/Tamlin’ is a typical song of what gives the Saints that special something. They take a song and just as you think its about to end will fly off into something even more manic not giving you pause for breath. Their background in the Harrisburg Pipe And Drum Band certainly gives them an edge on other bands when it comes to playing traditional songs and also shows that the music is literally in their blood too. The best Irish rebel song ever written is next and ‘Come Out Ye Black And Tans’ could be written as a celtic-punk song so easy to turn into one is it. Shane MacGowan’s classic’Streams Of Whiskey’ is punked up to heaven while ‘Long Walk To Sonnagh’ is my favourite track on the album with a celtic/country crossover sound while not losing any of its punk rock feel.
‘Black And Blue Jig’ tells of a Irish bare knuckle boxer follows the same musical path and ‘I’m A Man You Don’t Meet Every Day’ is the trad Irish song made famous by the Pogues but imagine the Pogues playing it with electric guitars and you know what I mean. Bagpipes kick off a thrash version of ‘The Wild Rover’ with chugging guitar a 77 punk band would be proud of! ‘Swallowtail Jig/Drunken Sailor’ and ‘Rattlin’ Bog’ everyone will be familiar with but again given that Saints twist that brings something new to them. Next up is the Kilmaine Saints anthem ‘Saints Are Up’ and its what every bands signature tune should be about. The lyrics say it all
“Raise the blue raise the green and all the colors in between
Sing along, sing it loud, ‘cuz we’re Celtic and we’re proud
Raise a shot, raise a pint, put your arms around your mate
‘cuz we’re the noisy drunken bastards called the Kilmaine Saints”
‘Devil’s Den (Painting Paradise Square Pt.2) is a hill where the Battle Of Gettysberg took place in the American civil war and tells of an Irish recruit forced to defend the hill against enormous odds.
“Born on the streets he grew up hard & mean
Raised in Paradise Square
But the blood and the gore of this cruel Civil War
Five Points cannot compare”
With Black And Tans covered the Saints bring the fight for Irish independence up to date with the modern day rebel song ‘Go On Home British Soldiers’ and they certainly put some oompf into it.

‘The Whiskey’s Calling’ is another great song with brilliant pint, and fist, in the air chorus of
“So raise a pint
and give a cheer
This one’s for friends
both far and near
Some are here
and some have fallen
Bottoms Up! The whiskey’s calling”
With the first half of the album given over to the classics the second half is mostly Kilmaine Saints songs and ‘Battle Cry’ is a great example. The pipes flow the guitars chug and Mayo born singer Brendan’s voice soars over the top of it all. The lyrics are inspiring and motivational
“All men have the strength inside to get up on their feet
I’d rather stand and fight than live my life down on my knees”
Following are  ‘Old Brown’s Daughter’ and ’10 Fathoms Deep’ and this is the first time I have ever heard ‘Old Rugged Cross’ on a celtic-punk band album but I soon realise that its quite a long way both musically and lyrically from my Nanna’s favourite song!
“Twenty five Hail Marys will absolve all my sins!
So don’t judge me son til you know where I’ve been
The Lord will have mercy on a man of the cloth
Who sometimes will stray from the old rugged cross”

The album ends with the amazing ‘Rakes Of Mallow/Jump Around’. Combining two of my favourite songs its no surprise its an absolute firm fan favourite and as you can see it the attached video it certainly gets the crowds going and even sitting at home listening to this with just cup of Barry’s on the go I feel the need to get up off me ass and jump around. A fecking brilliant way to close and I’m already searching for their first album to stick it on and have a listen. The Abbey is a music venue situated above a brewery in Harrisburg Pennsylvania, called the Appalachian Brewing Company so the absolutely perfect place to record a live album! With equal parts Irish swagger, Scottish pride, and whiskey The Kilmaine Saints have risen in such a short time to being one of the most popular and certainly one of the best American bands in the scene. If by chance you haven’t checked them out yet ‘Live At The Abbey’ is an excellent place to start.
(you can listen to ‘Live At The Abbey’ by pressing play on the Bandcamp player below)
Get The Album
Contact The Band

FILM REVIEW: ‘A MAN YOU DON’T MEET EVERY DAY’ (1994)

It’s the mid-nineties in London and a couple meet through a lonely hearts column. She is an middle class English married woman, he is an lonely Irish mechanic and despite the gulf between them they start an affair.

The Pogues

CREW

Director: Angela Pope Writer: Ronan Bennett  Producer: Belinda Allen  Cinematography: Gavin Finney

CAST

Richard Hawley as Jim, Colum Convey as Bernie, Conleth Hill as Michael, John Keegan as Aidan, Harriet Walter as Charlotte, Peter Davison as Robert, Ray Nicholas as Crackdealer, Joanna Wake as Landlady, Doreen Mantle as Mrs. Norton, Kika Mirylees as Caroline, Bill French as John, Eamon Maguire as Jack McConville, Lesley Taylor Jones as Eileen, Emma Hill as Newscaster, Marianne Hemming as Woman Upstairs, Kevin Kibbey as Man Upstairs and

Shane MacGowan and The Popes as Themselves!

RUNNING TIME

64 Minutes

MUSIC

The Pogues * Shane MacGowan And The Popes

Well until just recently I never even knew this film to exist! ‘A Man You Don’t Meet Every Day’ was made by Channel 4 and broadcast, it would appear, the one and only time way back in 1994. Why this should be is anyone’s guess especially in this day and age when it is possible to stream anything over the internet. The film is just over an hour long and tells the story of Jim, a lonely mechanic working over in London from Belfast with his mate Bernie.

Ronan Bennett

Ronan Bennett

Written by the prolific writer Ronan Bennett. Ronan was born in Belfast and has led an interesting life to say the least having been convicted of murdering an RUC Inspector in 1974 at the age of only 18. He was jailed in the notorious Long Kesh prison but his conviction was declared unsafe and overturned and he was released in 1975. He moved to London and in 1978 was caught up with the arrests around the anarchist Angry Brigade bombings and he was a defendant in the ‘Persons Unknown’ trial. Charged with conspiracy to cause explosions he was again sent to prison, serving 16 months on remand. Ronan conducted his own defence and all defendants were eventually found not guilty. He went on to study history at Kings College London receiving a first class honours degree and later completed his PhD at the college in 1987. Since then Ronan has wrote numerous screenplays and dramas as well as completing both novels and non-fiction books. He was the uncredited co-author of ‘Stolen Years’, the prison memoir of Paul Hill, one of the Guildford Four who were wrongfully convicted in 1975 of the Guildford pub bomb in 1974.

Richard Hawley

Richard Hawley

Straight away in the first five minutes of ‘A Man You Don’t Meet Every Day’ you get Shane MacGowan singing ‘Lullaby Of London’ over the credits as well as a half dozen Pogues references including a visit to White City greyhound track. The story begins as Jim spies an ad in the paper’s lonely hearts column and arranges to meet Charlotte a rich sophisticated English woman and they start a relationship together. The story sees the ups and downs of their romance and I wouldn’t want to give too much of the story away here as I doubt very few of you will have seen it. It really is a lovely short film with a simple tale of a couples affair. If that all sounds a wee bit too soppy for you then you will be able to console yourselves with the fantastic soundtrack of Pogues classics and that Shane MacGowan And The Popes make a brilliant appearance as a pub band playing live in what looks like The Canterbury Arms in Brixton. The boys including the late, and sorely missed, Tommy McManamon on banjo and Paul Mad Dog’ McGuinness on guitar give a great version of The Old Main Drag’. Lovely characterisation of how London can be a very lonely place and then a totally unexpected and sharp twist that come’s from absolutely nowhere that even M. Night Shyamalan would be proud of. A totally unique film showing London Irish life when it still dominated huge parts of London. The simple story of romance that, at first, has you failing to see what the story of the film was hiding!

Everyone I have asked has no re-collection of this film so watch it now on the YouTube link provided. The film has been uploaded from an old VHS video so the quality is not as we are use to these days but is still easily watchable and the sound is perfect. As is the way with these sort of things they have a habit of coming and going off air so if it does go down leave a comment below and we’ll try our best to fix it. That is until someone sorts out an official release which unfortunately doesn’t look like it’s going to happen any day soon.

(thanks to Øyvind Lade for sending us the link when we couldn’t find it- we had the name of the film wrong would you believe!!)

The Pogues

*if you’re interested in The Pogues we have a multitude 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

The Best Pogues Related Sites

In The Wake Of The Medusa * Paddy Rolling Stone * The Parting Glass * Pogues Facebook Page

For me though the best place on the internet for The Pogues is this unofficial group on Facebook (here) all the diverse views you would expect from a bunch of people who follow The Pogues. Be sure and join up won’t you?

EP REVIEW: JACK OF ALL- ‘Bindle Punk’ (2015)

pirate songs and punk polemics!

Jack Of All- Bindle Punk

Another great new band from England has arrived on the London Celtic Punks doorstep with their cracking debut EP ‘Bindle Punk’. Formed only in April last year Jack Of All began gigging locally but soon they spread their wings out to Yorkshire across the Midlands and even ‘dahn’ here in London. Good things lie ahead of Jack Of All and don’t be a fool and miss out. They have a long list of gigs coming up (here) but they are playing London at The Gunners, 204 Blackstock Road, North London N5 1EN, nearest tube Finsbury Park, on Saturday 4th July so get along and catch them in the flesh. They take the stage at approx. 8pm and its an all day event and completely free for a ton of bands. Keep an eye on the FB Event page here.

Jack Of All

Anna Clifton (violin) and Laurence Aldridge (guitar/vocals)

The Jack Of All sound is of classic English folk but with a few punky chunks added. You can make out obvious influences coming from bands as diverse as Ferocious Dog, New Model Army, Billy Bragg and The Levellers but Jack Of All follow no-one. The first thing that strikes you on listening to the EP is Laurence’s vocals and and how good they actually are. You can forget sometimes that in a genre where Shane MacGowan is king it is actually possible to still sing ‘properly’ and also fit in. Added to this is Anna’s superb fiddle playing and the concoction is pretty sweet. Nothing too manic here and its possibly stretching things by calling it punk but the spirit is there and the spirit is willing. They play mostly original material and I’m sure they would make a fortune if they decided to go the ‘pub route’ but with Laurence being a professional actor and Anna an ethical jeweller they can happily steer clear of that route and go their own way. Thank God I say! The EP’s name was I thought a odd one so I looked it up and came up with

‘a hobo or derelict hired to do rough or unpleasant work’

which seems to fit Jack Of All pretty nicely. I mean even though there’s no Tom Waits style growling its still very much the music of outlaws and vagabonds. They have some pretty amazing lyrics too and by the sound of them they fit in ever so nicely with ourselves, with a sample from Paul Kenny, head of the GMB Union talking to Mark Thomas, the icing on the cake!

The EP starts off with ‘Definitions’ and a bit of celtic sounding fiddle and the tempo is up and Jack Of All are off. From the very start Jack Of All let you know where they stand. Even though they are usually a 2-piece band the added drums on this EP give them a extra bit of bite. ‘Home’ follows and begins acapella style

“if home is where the heart is why is my heart not home”

before it becomes a folky-celticy-rockabilly number and as catchy a chorus as I heard in a long time. A guaranteed foot tapper. ‘Thank You For Your Application’ is the EP’s slowest track but stills keeps up that God-damn catchiness! With ‘Home’ and now this one my foot is going like the bloody clappers! Beginning slow the song builds to a crescendo and what I originally thought was an electric guitar, but turns out to be Anna’s electric violin through a distortion pedal, coming in is a great move. Simply brilliant. ‘On Top Of The Hills’ continues and is still more of the same but how are they keeping up the quality. Absolutely impossible to pick a stand out track as the whole EP is fantastic. If we did marks out of ten it would be 10/10 all round. The final track is ‘All About The Money’ and it reminded me a bit of 50’s style crooning Germans The Baseballs but was a great way to end the EP. Capitalism is a disease and Jack Of All know the cure… They funded the EP themselves through the Pledge music web-site and of each sale 10% goes to charity through Parkinson’s UK, which is the charity which helped the late father of Laurence while he suffered from a life-threatening illness. So there you have a great EP and a chance to help others too so don’t delay! Over twenty minutes and every song is a strong self-penned number well worth your measly few quid. When you do reviews one of the words you find yourself using the most (if you’re lucky) is ‘catchy’. I’m sick of the fecking word but sometimes it explains everything. This EP has it all catchy songs, expertly played fiddle and great vocals and lyrics and all without being over produced. I reckon this EP has captured Jack Of All’s live sound so be sure to catch them somewhere soon. Can’t recommend this enough.

(listen to the whole EP by pressing play on the Soundcloud player below)

 
Get The EP
Contact The Band

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’.

EP REVIEW: SIGELPA- ‘Ens Van Diagnosticar Un Transtorn’ (2015)

Sigelpa are truly one of the best and inventive celtic-punk bands in the scene right now!

SIGELPA- ‘Ens Van Diagnosticar Un Transtorn’ (2015)

Late last year Mrs London Celtic Punk decided it was time we go off on a proper holiday somewhere. Sick and tired of going to the seaside with me she said what about Barcelona? Now i don’t have travellers legs to be honest. I made it to London and that has been it really, but Barca… hmm “why not” I thought. So off she went to book the tickets and off I went to message Sigelpa that I would be coming to visit and would they be playing anywhere that week. I was heart broken to hear their reply that they were out on tour and my heart sank even further when The Drink Hunters said they were too! Still a lovely week was had wandering around that lovely city getting incredibly sun burnt thanks to my Celtic genes, plastering the place in London Celtic Punks stickers and getting plastered on Estrella!

The word on the street has it that Sigelpa will be releasing their follow up album to last years brilliant ‘TerraMorta!’ later in the year but in the meantime heres a wee five track EP of four originals and one cover to keep us going. That first album ranked very highly for us and it strolled in at 13 in our ‘Best Albums Of 2014’ list (read article here) so to say we are looking forward to the follow up is an understatement.

from left to right: Alba (diatonic accordion), Robert (electric guitar), Pol (singing and guitar), Albert (violin), Bruna (singing), Xavi (bass guitar), Guille (drums)

from left to right: Alba (diatonic accordion), Robert (electric guitar), Pol (singing and guitar), Albert (violin), Bruna (singing), Xavi (bass guitar), Guille (drums)

Sigelpa come from Terrassa in the Barcelona region of Catalonia and they mix up punk, hardcore and good old fashioned Irish folk music. Everything about the band is pretty amazing right down to their extremely clever name. Its a acronym of the initials of the seven deadly sins in Catalonian. Superbia/ Pride, Ira/ Wrath, Gula/ Gluttony, Enveja/ Envy, Luxuria/ Lust, Peresa/ Sloth and Avaricia/ Greed.

Sigelpa

‘Ens Van Diagnosticar Un Transtorn’ means ‘We Got Diagnosed A Disorder’ in Catalan but theres certainly nothing wrong with this band! The EP’s five tracks sail past incredibly in just over ten minutes. The energy is boundless and will have you leaping around on first listen. The instrumental ‘3.0’ kicks the EP off with some great solo Irish fiddle until the guitar and drums kick in and accordion soon follows. A great tune of pure bred Irish folk-punk. ‘Necroguateke’ follows and sorry but I can’t tell you the story as its all in Catalan like the majority of their recordings. Dual male/ female vocals work extremely well, especially in a scene where there is a lack of female vocalists. Just when you start to think that Sigelpa have stood still and are happy to stay within the confines of celtic-punk ‘Sant Jordi’ follows and gruff vocals and fast loud guitar can’t hide the bluegrass roots of the superb tune and the bands progression. ‘Dacrifilia’ returns them to what they are best at. Again the dual vocals are there and again the accordion is to the fore with fast guitars before it all slows down for a nice bit of ska before building up again and letting go again. The mental Pogues classic ‘Bottle Of Smoke’ ends the EP and Sigelpa keep the pace and manicness of the original going. A great tale of one of lifes losers bet on the horses coming in accordion starts before Shane MacGowans words are spat out over fast Catalan celtic-punk. The man himself would be as proud as punch.

“The moon is clear
The sky is bright
I’m happy as the horses shite
Up came the Bottle of Smoke”

Sigelpa are a great band who put great thought into all they do. Their debut album was outstanding and ‘Ens Van Diagnosticar Un Transtorn’ is as well. The sound that has served them so well has been expanded on and developed and I can only see Sigelpa getting bettter and better. The band have generously made it available for free (or ‘name your price’) so its not even a gamble like the ‘Bottle Of Smoke’ get it downloaded now and sit back (or go mental!) to one of the best, and certainly one of the most inventive, celtic-punk bands in the scene right now.

(you can listen to the entire EP below by pressing play below. Its available to download on ‘Name Your Price’ so please be generous if you can but if you are short then download for free… guilt free!)

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INTERVIEW WITH THE RATHMINES FROM BERLIN

The Rathmines

Firstly, can you tell how you guys decided on your name?

Oh, we had a short phase in which we brainstormed about naming our band, shouting out names at random. Somebody suggested The Sporting Jennies, another said: Let’s search the lyrics of the songs for something. But our accordion-player remained silent – and when we finally stopped shouting he said: The Rathmines. Why? ‘Cause he had lived there a while ago while in Dublin. He liked it there very much and had heard stories about it being the artist’s borough and so on… So we said: Okay, even Berlin has bands naming themselves after boroughs of the city (like Pankow for instance). Why shouldn’t we? With that we’re paying respect to a part of Dublin, the past of one of our band members – and we have all the people in Germany constantly asking: What does that mean? How do you pronounce it? What is this? – And it sounds sooooo cool, don’t you think?

(left to right) Marcus - Bass, Vocals; Rene - Cajon; Egidio - Accordion; Martin - Guitar, Vocals

(left to right) Marcus – Bass, Vocals; Rene – Cajon; Egidio – Accordion; Martin – Guitar, Vocals

When did the band form and what inspired you to start the band?

Text?

The bass-player, Marcus, and the singer/guitar-player Martin had a band called Stainless Bones, which kind of broke apart in 2011. We two attended a Pogues-concert in August 2012 , wanting to see Shane for at least one time before he kicked the bucket. Afterwards we sang (or maybe: growled) Irish Folk in the underground on our way home. As we got off the train, a guy approached us asking: You guys make music? So we met our accordion-player, Egidio. He had attended the same concert and rode the same train. The three of us exchanged numbers and decided to focus on Irish Folk which we all liked very much. Some obstacles had to be overcome (Egidio forgot his cell in a cab that very night, so for a while we heard nothing of him and he couldn’t be reached), but we managed to play some small gigs in Berlin. On a gig in January 2013 we found out that a friend of ours, René, had played punk drums years ago. We offered him a Cajon and he agreed. Hence: The Rathmines completed.

Describe your music in three words?

Stolen Songs (of) Struggle

There’s so very much to say right here. We kind of ‘stole’ our material for the most from The Dubliners, The Pogues, Clancy Brothers – from your rich and colourful history and culture. And even when we produce our own stuff, it’s assembled with bits and parts of the tradition of folk, country, rock, blues and punk that already exists. What we do is mostly songs, telling stories of tragedies, wishes, longings, achievements, fights and fates. And struggle? We struggle with the instruments, stages, lights, electricity, audiences, landlords, bartenders, pints, cigarettes, ashtrays, cabs, each other… the audiences struggles with us and among themselves… and the material speaks of struggles way across centuries, ringing on to this very day, and we try to connect them with present struggles. For still the oppressed are fighting their state of existence. You see them when you open the news… We’d like to be one of their voices.

Have you guys ever played in Rathmines, and if the answer is no, why the hell not?

Egidio has. The rest of us? Well, frankly, we lack the means and, yet, the courage. Although we once played ‘The Fields Of Athenry’ in a very small venue in Berlin and afterwards a guy walked up and said: “Hi, I’m David, I’m from Athenry. Can I get you something to drink?” That was kind of the knightly accolade for us, you know? We’re slowly building up the confidence (and band fund) to come. In fact, we were planning a trip to Dublin this summer, but due to money problems we had to put it on ice for now. Would you like to invite us? We’d love to put in the travel costs, if Rathmines offered beds and meals and drinks. 😉

Tell us who are all the members of the band and where are you all from?

Okay, who we have here?

– Marcus – plays bass, acoustic as well as electric, and sings the second voice in many of the songs. He was born and raised in Eastern Berlin (GDR) and works as a nursery school teacher.

– Egidio – plays the accordion. He’s from Italy, was raised partly in Kassel, Germany, and travelled a lot more than the rest of us Europe-wide. He’s currently jobbing his way around Berlin for the summer but usually works in sales.

– René – plays the Cajon – he regularly gets the most attention for doing what he does. Everybody is astonished by what he can do with his hands on a box. He’s also from the GDR, Brandenburg – that’s kind of the landscape surrounding the city limits of Berlin (we tease him by calling him peasant). He works in an Internet Gaming Company.

– Martin – does the singing and plays the guitars. Occasionally he tries to tin-whistle some tunes. He’s the third born and raised in the GDR, Eastern-Berlin, and works as an accountant and employee representative.

The Rathmines

What was it about The Pogues that got you guys inspired??

Who told you that we got inspired by… oh, okay, got us there, we did. Well, looking at the folk scene in Germany it becomes obvious that it’s not very – vivid in the area of Irish Folk. Something like The Pogues have been missing since the eighties. They were very big around these parts… I personally got to know them by my obsession with Tom Waits. His biography stated that he was a big fan of The Pogues and used to hang out with them. So naturally I thought, hey, might be worth it to look these guys up. The rest’s history… And since we got together after a Pogues concert – that’s fate, right? And their ‘Streams of Whiskey’ comes in handy when we decide to arouse the audience, shake the house, break the floorboards and tear the roof down on our heads… Let’s face it: Shane MacGowan is one of the best songwriters in history – and it’s doing his songs a favour singing them yourself rather them hear them be sung by him nowadays…

What is the biggest and smallest gig you guys have played??

Oh we never did small gigs, you know? It’s all about the attitude… In fact our biggest gig was just the other weekend in a little town south of Berlin called Jüterbog. We had been there a couple of times playing so called Pub Nights – 6 hours of playing for an audience that was barely listening the first 3 hours and kept yelling for more and louder and faster songs the other 3. This time we were invited to do the music to accompany an open air communal drinking orgy called ‘Irre Irisch’. We entertained roughly 250 people in a farm yard over 4 hours or so. A little concerned about the weather – but the only time a little rain fell was while we played ‘Rainy Night in Soho’. Lovely coincidence. The hardest gig lately was our trip to a pretrial detention jail to play for a hundred inmates – sitting there with folded arms and frowns on their faces for 45 minutes and freaking out during the last 2 or 3 songs for no special reason. Just before the concert two guards got in a fight and one lost a tooth. You can imagine the mood and the vibes in that place. The smallest gigs are usually the little private party concerts we do for friends or colleagues. Birthdays, weddings, divorces, anniversaries of any kind – we’re not too shy to get close and acoustic and intimate. Our best shows we naturally do in pubs of course. Last year we did a tour through the middle of Germany and played in Weimar in a shed called the Smugglers Pub. Really nice. So we played a couple of hours, had a couple of drinks and decided to lift the mood with the wonderful song about the British Army. You know? “When I was young I used to be…” And this song ends of course with a hearty “Fuck The British Army!!!” So we do it and afterwards a guy arises in the back of the pub, comes up to us, reaches in his pocket and holds a military ID in front of our gin-soaked eyes and says in a low-down intimidating voice: “British army.” – – – Silence. – – – We kind of apologized and laughed insecurely. He sat down with his friend and stayed for the rest of the night, sometime glancing at us with unfriendly eyes. Lucky there weren’t a dozen of them that night…

Have you ever played in Ireland at all?

No, except for Egidio. See question 4. But since this is the second time you ask, we consider that a serious invitation now. So expect to see us soon. No, sincerely, we’d love to as soon as we can manage. After all it’s kind of our Mecca, you know?

Favourite song to play at a gig and why?

Oh, depends on what you are trying to do. To get them stomping? ‘Drunken Sailor’. To get them dancing? ‘The Irish Washerwoman’. To shake down the house? ‘Streams of Whiskey’. To get them to sway to and fro? ‘The Wild Rover’. To show off? Our own stuff. To get them drinking? All of them. But you have to know that every song requires the right timing and moment to work as intended. It’s a guess every night. And fortunately every band member has his own little secret favourite he tries to push to a prominent place on the set list. Now that I think about it, ‘Leaving of Liverpool’ must be the one song that very close to a hundred percent of the times worked, was well received by every audience and was welcomed to be played by every member of the band on every occasion. It just has something to it… and not many popular bands have done it since The Dubliners.

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FromTheBand

‘JUSTICE FOR THE CRAIGAVON 2’ SINGLE TO BE RELEASED BY POL MacADAIM

“The case of the Craigavon 2 will not fade away as is hoped by the establishment but it will continue until justice is done and seen to be done. Those politicians who claim to represent and speak for nationalist, republicans and the working class should be outraged by this judgement, they now have an opportunity to voice their concern and outrage at this blatant injustice” -Gerry Conlon

Justice for the Craigavon Two 2

Pol MacAdaim a singer song writer living in County Louth in Ireland has written a protest song called ‘Justice for the Craigavon Two’, a truly remarkable and inspirational song which highlights the miscarriage of justice of John Paul Wootton and Brendan McConville.
The song also pays homage to Gerry Conlon who campaigned tirelessly for the Craigavon Two before his untimely death last year. With the Craigavon Two case due before the UK Supreme Court (date not yet set) the Craigavon Two committee has chosen Saint Patricks week to launch the song on digital formats, in an effort to have it chart in the UK top 40.
‘JFTC2’ were inspired by the success of the Celtic supporters end criminalisation of supporters campaign when ‘Roll Of Honour’ successfully entered the UK charts last year . You can read our articles about that here and here.
The Launch of the Craigavon Two single will take place on the 15th of March following the BBC Radio 1 official chart show and the group will campaign for the public to download the song over the following week.
We call on everyone to join the #DownloadJustice campaign. Justice must be done and be seen to be done #JFTC2
Justice for the Craigavon Two
We will post the links for iTunes, Google Play and Amazon here on Sunday 15th March so please come back then and buy the single and do your bit to aid the release of these two innocent men. The Irish here in England know everything there is to know about miscarraiges of justice so don’t stand by and watch more innocent men rot in jail for a crime they did not commit.

JUSTICE FOR THE CRAIGAVON 2

Craigavon 9th March the news man read,
constable Stephen Carroll was shot dead
A police investigation soon began
and they would stop at nothing to get their man

(Chorus)
Here’s what I’ve got to say to you,
Justice for the Craigavon Two
Next time it could be me or you,
Let’s have justice for the Craigavon two.

Mc Conville and Wooton got the blame
Since that day their lives have never been the same
The spooks have framed before and they’ll do it again
Unless we come together and break their chains

The trial of these two inoocents was a sham
Justice without a jury was the scam
They produced a single witness with bad eyesight
And claimed that he saw everything on that dark and rainy night

Witness ‘Z’ was the father of witness ‘M’
‘My son’s a Walter Mitty’ was his claim
An eye specialist cross examined said the same
That he could not have see clearly in the dark and through the rain

Gerry Conlon, thank you and farewell
You rotted 14 years in a prison cell
For something that you had never done
You drove this campaign hard so it wouldn’t happen to another one

While the British injustice system does prevail
Any one of us can be framed and sent to gaol
The Birmingham 6 and the Guildford 4
Are among the many of whom the Brits have done this kind of thing before

Justice for the Craigavon Two. Words and Music Pol Mac Adaim. 2015

WE ARE INNOCENT

On the 30th of March 2012 we, Brendan Mc Conville and John Paul Wootton, were convicted, and sentenced to spend the rest of our lives in prison, for the fatal shooting of Constable Steven Carroll in Craigavon on the 9th of March 2010.

While We fully understanding and empathise with the grief of the Carroll family and with no desire to exacerbate that grief, we wish to take this opportunity to state publicly that we have been convicted of something that we had nothing to do with, we are innocent and we do not believe that we received a fair hearing at our trial under a diplock court.

Further to this we also believe that Justice Girvan erred in his judgement of the information presented and convicted us more on the emotional and political furore created by the case than on the evidence presented. For this reason we have instructed our legal teams to appeal our convictions.

This appeal will centre on the following pieces of evidential information that were never fully dealt with by Justice Girvan, they are;

  • The prosecutions’ key witness, witness M, despite having a prescribed impairment of his sight, claimed that he seen Brendan Mc Conville at a distance that would be medical impossible,
  • It took witness M almost a year to come forward with this information and since that date he has been given anonymity and provided for in protective custody.
  • Witness M’s eye-witness account described Brendan as wearing a coat of a different style and colour from that presented by the prosecution,
  • This coat, recovered within hours of the shooting, was dry yet the weather conditions at the time  were rainy,
  • The forensic examination of this coat and the fire-arm recovered after the shooting did not match,
  • Although multiple sources of DNA were found on the coat only Brendans’ were followed up on,
  • A tracking device that had allegedly been planted on John Paul’s car by MI5 and was used as evidence to place us at the scene of the shooting, went ‘missing’ for a period of time, only to be returned in an altered state and “with data missing”,
  • Although the assault rifle and several rounds of ammunition used in the shooting were recovered no forensic link was made with either of us.

In short a case that placed us at the scene and attributed any role to us was never made, let alone proven. Rather, because the PSNI/MI5 were under so much pressure to obtain a conviction, evidence was constructed and altered to ‘fit the case’ and not examined as pieces of information that could prove or disprove our innocence.

Hopefully this miscarriage of justice can be over turned at our appeal and this nightmare of suffering for us and our families ended. However, after the experience we have already had we do not have a great deal of confidence in the criminal justice system, hence, we are asking you, the public, to follow the course of our appeal and to see for yourself the manner in which information is dealt with and how ‘justice’ is being administered in your name. Let’s not wait 15 – 20 years to deal with a miscarriage of justice, let us do so now.

Yours

Brendan Mc Conville and John Paul Wootton.

Maghaberry Jail Co. Antrim

For More On The Campaign To Free Brendan and John-Paul

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*Pol MacAdaim deserves a special mention here also. Pol has worked tirelessly over the years gigging relentlessly his music addresses various political issues and his lyrics carry a radical punch to the eardrum. He is blessed with a superb folk voice and sings with a real heartfelt passion that often belies the subjects he sings about. Comparison’s with Kelly, Drew, yer Behan’s and more recent Moore and MacGowan stand out a mile. A traditional story telling style of writing songs its the words that come first with Pol with what he has to say the important thing. Born in Belfast he first became involved in playing music at the age of 9. Through the years he has learnt to play in a wide range of styles including folk, Appalachian, Cajun, rock, soul and contemporary. He is also skilled in a variety of instruments ranging from tin whistles, traditional Irish flute, low whistles, uilleann pipes, harmonicas, guitar, mandolin, and the tenor banjo to bodhran. Pol is a real champion of the people having suffered under the occupation of Ireland he has grown up suffering oppression and worse, including personal tragedy, but his music speaks of not just a past to be mourned but of a bright future ahead of us too. Of a land where equality and fraternity rules and peace and justice is for all.

Folk music as it should be played by all folk singers…

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ALBUM REVIEW: THE FIGHTING JAMESONS- ‘Every Day Above Ground’ (2014)

traditional Irish music with an aggressive and energetic modern-day approach

The Fighting Jamesons- 'Every day Above Ground' (2014)

Every Day Above Ground was released way back in March but as I only just got to hear it I’m rushing it in before the year ends. Don’t want to break the rule of only reviewing albums in the year their released do I? The Fighting Jamesons come from the resort town of Virginia Beach in Virginia, the 39th most populous state in America, and they embrace their Irish roots with obvious relish. The band inhabit the folkier side of celtic-punk and play mostly acoustic but like the band they probably sound most alike, Flogging Molly, they can kick up a real storm and would leave plenty of punk bands in their wake. Heads down and fast as humanly possible is how The Fighting Jamesons like it and we have to say we bloody love it too!

The band members have an interesting history as lead guitarist Geo tells me

“we have always been an interesting mix of dudes when it comes to our musical backgrounds. Of course we have Irish and then it gets fun… punk, metal, hardcore, alternative, classic rock, classical, old time folk, new folk, reggae, world & Kiss. Hahaha”

The Fighting Jamesons

that first album

I got their first album last year and was suitably impressed. A eight track mini album with three covers and five original numbers that comes up just a few seconds short of half an hour. Have to say though it was a wee bit disappointing to hear so many covers that were the usual celtic-punk standards. This is no way a slur on the band as they’re no way on their own as virtually all celtic-punk bands seem to kick off their recording output by overdoing the most popular covers.

Geo again told me by explaining

“I’m originally from New York from a proud Irish family who loves this music! There is no better feeling than hearing Ronnie Drew, Shane MacGowan, Luke Kelly or Liam Clancy sing. So here we are playing our own form of Irish Music. We love to reconstruct the Irish classics. It’s always a challenge to come up with your very own version of these timeless songs”

So the feeling that I had was can The Fighting Jamesons produce the goods themselves. The signs were there on that first album and with the release of Every Day Above Ground we can safely say that the bhoys can take their place amongst the American celtic-punk greats!

As singer-songwriter Michael Powers puts it

“the new album is darker than the first one. I feel as if we built off the first album, arranged better songs with a lot more depth. I wanted to make a real honest record. I had been writing the album every day of my life for about two years. If I had an idea or inspiration I stopped and wrote it down or played/hummed the melody into my phone. Sometimes life throws you a giant curve ball and everyone deals with it differently. I wrote my way out of it with this album”

The album starts of with ‘Year Gone By’ and its a manic start with the accordion to the fore and the rest of the band rocking out alongside. It has a slight ‘gypsy’ touch to it and is one of the most celtic-punk tracks of the entire album. In fact those comparisons to Flogging Molly are undeniable but its the Molly’s as trapped between 2000 and 2005 which lets face it was easily their best years. ‘What Does It Mean’ follows and the quality of the lyrics hits you hard as their mostly downbeat despite the music so they demand a proper listen. This is the albums standout song but hard to choose believe me. The albums first cover is ‘Rocky Road To Dublin’ a 19th century song about a immigrants experiences as he travels to Liverpool in England from his home in Ireland. Made most famous by The Dubliners, the lads certainly give it a good seeing to and whip up quite a frenzy that will leave you unable to keep up with the words by the end.

“The boys of Liverpool, when we safely landed
Called myself a fool, I could no longer stand it
Blood began to boil, temper I was losing
Poor Old Erin’s Isle they began abusing

Hooray me soul, says I, me Shillelagh I let fly
Galway boys were by and saw I was a hobble in
With a loud hurray, they joined me in the affray
Quickly cleared the way on the rocky road to Dublin”

‘Mid The Green Fields Of Virginia’ comes next and starts off with a real country feel to it before going off on one and the guitars come in and kick off. A great mixture of Irish, country and punk rock its a song over eighty years old from The Carter Family and pays tribute to the place they all call home now. ‘Last Thing I Remember’ keeps up the pace and even more darkness envelops ‘Every Day Not Wasted’ the well known story of a life lost in alcohol and oblivion. Slow and angry this song is for wrapping your arm round your mates and swaying with your beer held high. There but for the grace of God…

“Every day not wasted is a wasted day”

‘How I Ended Up This Way’ tells of drinking with your family and how it can get out of hand. ‘Around The Bend’ is a banjo led fury of a song and once again Michael’s great voice dominates. The Fighting Jamesons are one of a select group of bands (fortunately we have most of them in celtic-punk) whose lyrics are as important as the music wrapped around them. Each song is a story worth telling and hearing and lucky for us the musics just as good too. Next up is another Irish classic ‘Johnny I Hardly Knew You’. Made most famous in celtic-punk by The Dropkick Murphys who play a version in each live show. An anti-war anthem for each generation since it first appeared in 1867.

“You haven’t an arm, you haven’t a leg,
Hurroo Hurroo
You hadn’t an arm, you hadn’t a leg
You’re a armless, boneless, chickenless egg
You’ll have to be put with the bowl to beg
Johnny I hardly knew ya”

‘A Song For Letting Go’ swiftly follows the whispered last words of ‘Johnny’ and banjo begins the familiar story of a selfish man and his wife/girlfriend. The song again moves at a grand old pace and it would be interesting to see if the bhoys can keep it up live as its wearing me out just listening to the fecker! ‘Isn’t It Grand’ slows things down and its in right proper traditional country’n’Irish territory but still with that punk twist on it. Originally recorded by the Clancy Brothers and Tommy Makem there’s a nice bit of dark humour here before ‘The Ramble Home’ brings the album to a close with a rather jolly uplifting fiddle led tune that draws you in before punky guitars leap out of nowhere and before we know it we’re listening to a song Flogging Molly would have loved to have written back in their Swagger/Drunken Lullabies days.

Every Day Above Ground is twelve tracks lasting a staggering fifty minutes that barely pauses for breath for a minute. Even the ballads have a sort of haste to them and as soon as their finished there’s another blistering track of full on Irish following straight away. Bands like The Fighting Jamesons earn their bread and butter on the live circuit and its there that they are best experienced so to be able to even capture a small bit of that on record is a great achievement and this they have managed. Their hybrid sound of American and Irish really hits the spot but if i could redefine them even further I’d guess I’d call it Irish-country-punk as even at their most punky or most Irish there’s still a wee something underneath that anchors it down. Once again Geo tells us

“I’m really not sure how I would categorize the band anymore. We have a ton of punk elements especially live. We tend to play a bit faster when we get out on the road (never a bad thing) but, I know we are a band that plays Irish music…. after that it’s up to the individual listing to put us in their own Irish category. The Pogues are a great example of this…. they play Irish music and then mesh it with so many different styles. As a songwriter I love that and hope people checking out the new album can hear it. So if someone hears Irish Punk when listening…awesome. If someone else hears Irish gypsy music that’s awesome too”

This is a fantastic album and will send you into uncontrollable foot tapping if you’re anything like me and if you’re a bit more normal you’ll be jigging round yer living room! The Fighting Jamesons are made for a good time plain and simple.

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UPDATE ON PAUL ‘mad dog’ McGUINNESS FROM THE POPES RECOVERY

 

Paul McGuinness

recent photo of Paul

The great news is that Paul was eventually discharged  from Homerton Hospital in North London and continues to make great progress with his physical strength and mobility improving daily and also his cognitive skills. He has moved into a self contained flat and is well on the road to recovery.

To those who hadn’t heard Paul was sadly involved in a serious car accident late last year and was hospitalised for quite a long time afterwards so serious were his injuries. Paul is the singer from The Popes, best known as Shane MacGowans backing band but also a God damn brilliant celtic rock/punk band in their own right and the loss of them, while Paul recovers, to the scene in London has been immense.

Ian Bramble (The Popes), Will Morrison (The Popes), Paul 'Mad Dog' McGuinness, Charles (Popes Web Design)

Ian Bramble (The Popes), Will Morrison (The Popes), Paul ‘Mad Dog’ McGuinness, Charles (Popes Web Design)

Paul would like to thank everyone for their support and best wishes over the last few months, and looks forward to seeing everyone again before too long. He thanks everyone from London Celtic Punks for writing and said thanks for our giant get well card you all signed at the benefit gig we put on for Paul. As Dave said on visiting him last weekend

“He was in great form, and looking really well”

We all at London Celtic Punks wish Paul all the very best and our thoughts are with him. It will be a long process and we’ve another another benefit gig for Paul shortly but in the meantime you can send a donation to Paul via PayPal here

click here and then scroll down the page to find the PayPal logo

So keep Paul in your prayers for a swift and speedy recovery and please send whatever you can to help.

we are holding a benefit gig for Paul on Saturday 29th November in London. theres gonna be a shitload of Irish music with bands and artists galore going on into the early hours and every penny going to Paul. we’re privileged to be chosen to do the official release show for Anto Morra’s new EP ‘The Patriot’ (more on Anto here and here). so join the facebook event page and keep up with all the updates going on.

facebook event for Paul McGuinness here

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FILM REVIEW: IF I SHOULD FALL FROM GRACE- THE SHANE MacGOWAN STORY (1997)‏

Directed by Sarah Share

Cinematography by Colm Whelan

Editing by Orla Daly

Ireland, 2001, colour, 91 min.

Shane MacGowan- If I Should Fall From Grace With God

click on the picture to watch. if the link doesn’t work please leave a comment and we’ll fix it soon as we can

IF I SHOULD FALL FROM GRACE is a candid portrait and artistic overview of Ireland’s ‘punk poet laureate’ that traces the singer-songwriter’s life from his childhood in Ireland, through his troubled teenage years in London, on into his explosion on the punk music scene fronting the Pogues and beyond. On a deeper level, the documentary examines distinctly Irish themes of the diaspora and displacement, anti-Irish racism, ‘the Troubles’, Irish Nationalism, Alcoholism, the legacy of Irish folk music and culture, and the Faustian price paid for artistic genius. Did I mention that it has some of the finest songs ever written? Featuring insightful commentary from his closest friends, family members and collaborators, and at once heart-breaking and inspiring, the film suggests that despite the hard road taken, MacGowan has yet to fall from grace.

Never forgetting that his family’s land in Ireland is his true spiritual home, young Shane MacGowan found himself uprooted at an early age when his parents moved to London for work. Suffering from displacement and the anti-Irish sentiment of his new environment, MacGowan found acceptance and community in London’s emerging punk subculture and quickly realized that playing traditional Irish Republican fight songs to a frenetic rock beat was perhaps the most punk rock thing one could do in the anti-Irish climate of England in the 1970s and 80s. At once a poet in the ancient Irish folk tradition; a mesmerizing performer; a godfather of British punk; a contemporary songwriting genius in the tradition of Cave, Dylan, Reed, and Waits; and a fierce Republican fighter with the soul of a hopeless tragic romantic, the film is testament that popular music will not see the likes of Shane MacGowan’s magic again. Long may he play!

30492-LONDON CELTIC PUNK’S TOP TWENTY CELTIC-PUNK ALBUM’s OF ALL TIME‏

HAPPY BIRTHDAY TO US!

Where We Going?

Today we celebrate the blog’s first anniversary so, in a case of obvious self-indulgence, we thought we’d share with you our TOP TWENTY CELTIC-PUNK ALBUM’s OF ALL TIME. The last year has flown by and, even better, feedback for the site seems to have been universally good. As long we’re appreciated it’s all well worth doing. The celtic-punk scene has gone from strength to strength over the last twelve months and hopefully we’ve helped toward that in a small way. Big thanx to all who sent in stuff for review and also to our wee gang of reviewers and contributors.

Now before we get going thought I’d chuck in a couple of things. We’ve only chosen one album per band as let’s face it otherwise it would be dominated by 3, maybe 4, bands at best. There’s no time limit on it although it does tend to be the older rather than the newer albums chosen and their picked not just on music on the albums themselves but sometimes on the circumstances around hearing them for the first time, which I’m sure your all dying to hear!

 NUMBER 20

SAINT BUSHMILLS CHOIR- ‘S/T’ (2004)

Saint Bushmill's ChoirAttending the Anarchist Bookfair back in 2004 an old mate Booksie sez get yourself to the Active stall and get this album. So off I trot and I find it and its got a lovely celtic design on the front and a even lovelier Irish tricolour on the back. Not the sort of thing you’d expect to find at a Anarchist event! The song titles were all known to me and mostly Dubliners songs. Problem is its the last one so I have to buy it and lump it around for the rest of the day, and night!, trying not to lose it/break it/cover it in Skol Super. Any road I gets it home and play it and its f’king brilliant. Extremely well played Irish folk punk with great left politics and the only Anarchist celtic-punk song I’ve ever heard. I find out later that Saint Bushmills Choir are a kind of punk-crusty supergroup and that’s why the label Profane Existence released it. I did wonder why as everything I’d ever heard from the label before was an unlistenable racket! And it’s on very nice green vinyl!

 NUMBER 19

THE GENTLEMEN- ‘Stick To Your Guns’ (2009)

The GentlemenFirst time I came across these was a video on YouTube of them at a West Virginia American Football game racing around with a Irish flag to ‘Country Roads’ so when their album popped up on the now defunct Paddy Punx web-site i downloaded it immediately. For such a young band they really were very very good but nothing has been heard from them in a long time and there’s not much to be found on them on the internet either. Aggressive celtic-punk but plenty of emphasis on traditional instruments too. ‘War Time In North London’ and ‘Under The Rowan Tree’ show their style at either end of the celtic-punk spectrum.

 NUMBER 18

CHARM CITY SAINTS- ‘Hooligans And Saints’ (2009)

Charm City SaintsEmerging from the seedy punk rock clubs of Baltimore the Charm City Saints were one of a bunch of American celtic-punk bands inspired by the Dropkick Murphys. The LP begins with ‘Egans Polka’ which wouldn’t be out of place on one of your nanna’s records before blasting into the blistering ‘Night Paddy Murphy Died’. Catchy hooks and fist in the air choruses ensure the LP whizzes past as fast as anything. Blue-collar working class Irish American pride aplenty! Chuck in a couple of rebel songs and more trad punked up to 11 and you got yerself a classic of American celtic-punk. Far from the polish of the Murphys and the Mollys and all the better for it.

 NUMBER 17

KEVIN FLYNN AND THE AVONDALE RAMBLERS- Live At the Double Door 09-15-09

Kevin Flynn And The Avondale RamblersTill they released ‘Broken Pavements Of Avondale’ last year all anyone had of these was a couple of EP’s and this fantastic live album, which consists only of the songs on the EP’s. Once again I came across it on the Paddy Punx blog and despite the name sounding like a old fogies band i thought i’d take a chance, and boy was i was not disappointed. I’m not normally a fan of live recordings but this is one of those rare occasions where the sound and music is immaculate. The bands mix of celtic-Irish-Americana and Chicago folklore plus solid working class roots and politics really hit the spot with me. Great sense of humour, as evident on crowd favourite ‘You Don’t Want Me’.

We reviewed their new album earlier this year here.

NUMBER 16

BETWEEN THE WARS- ‘Carried Away’ (2010)

Between The WarsMelbourne based celtic-folk-punk band who have now sadly broken up. They’ve left us a discography of great records of which this, for me, is the pick of the crop. Great story-telling from lead singer Jay with dark and light themes battling it out with understated humour! A few trad songs ‘Ride On’ and ‘Come Out Ye Black And Tans’ are in turn beautiful and uplifting but its when Between the Wars play their own songs they come into their own. ‘Ciaran’ about the love of a father for his son and the son for his father is heart achingly good while ‘Superherosong’ and ‘You Were The One’ raise the roof with that distinct Aussie celtic-punk sound but with a tinge of country.

Plenty more on the blog including a review of their last LP here and a interview with Jay, the lead singer, here.

NUMBER 15

CRAIC HAUS- ‘Whose Yer Paddy Now?’ (2009)

Craic HausNow this was a first for me and for anyone else whose ever come across Craic Haus too I bet. What you get is a album of ‘shamrockabilly’ that’s right 12 songs of celtic-rock’n’roll. They ought to be Imelda May’s backing band truth be told. Mostly self-penned titles like ‘Bottom Of A Guinness’ and ‘Shilleagh Bop’ show the bands great sense of humour plus theirs two incredible covers of The Wild Rover and Danny Boy with the original words but to the tune of something equally as famous. Hard to explain. Great production too and quite incredible work considering that their only a trio!

 NUMBER 14

THE MEN THEY COULDNT HANG- ‘How Green Is The Valley’ (1986)

The Men They Couldn't HangThe day this came out I legged it back with the LP under me arm to me Nanna’s house in town. She had an old record player encased in a big massive cabinet about 5 foot long. The sound that came out was crystal clear but it was only ever use to playing country’n’western so how was it gonna handle ‘The Men’? Putting it on and the first song ‘Gold Strike’ came out and the guitar and mandolin giving it the impression of a folky LP she relaxed and then nearly fainted as it kicked into ‘Gold Rush’ a punky folky celt rocker. Things got worse for her as anti-fascist anthem ‘Ghosts Of Cable Street’ advocated hitting fascists and then miners strike song ‘Shirt Of Blue’ advocated attacking the police…she also found some of the language appalling!! Looking back it was nowhere near as punk as I thought it was at the time but The Men are still rocking out and recently celebrated their 30th anniversary with a grand sell-out big London gig. Definitely one of the early pioneers of the celtic-punk scene.

 NUMBER 13

JASPER COAL- ‘Thousand Feet Closer To Hell’ (2010)

Jasper CoalMy dad was a coal-miner and so was his dad and his granddad too so coal-mining is in my blood you could say. Another album I came across via the Paddy Punx blog and it had a massive impact on me. Coming from the coalfields of Alabama these Irish-American lads sing a variety of mostly old standards and a few of their own songs. With very strong vocals and a banjo leading the way its a incredibly ‘full’ LP despite being acoustic and having no drums just the bodhran keeping the beat. Its also notable for having a song, O Caide Sin, in gaelic too.

 NUMBER 12

FLATFOOT 56- ‘Jungle Of The Mid West Sea’ (2007)

Flatfoot 56Saw these the night after the only time I ever saw Blood Or Whiskey. Can’t remember how I came across it as the London celtic-punk scene was non-existent back then, but I did, and it was a weekend that went onto change my life forever! At the BorW gig I made a great friend without whom I doubt the whole London Celtic Punks thing would even exist and the following day at Flatfoot 56 i had my first date with the lady that was to become my future wife! The gig itself was outstanding. Fuck all people in a tiny wee cellar venue but great sound and those that were there were a enthusiastic lot. First on and all over before 9pm, we legged it when they finished playing and the rest is history. A short while after I got the album off another pal with ‘Knuckles Up’ on the same CD. I played it so damn much i cannot bear to put it on anymore but if it comes up on my I-Pod shuffle then i’m instantly reminded of why i love it!

There’s a review of the album of the Flatfoot 56 off-shoot 6’10 here.

 NUMBER 11

BIBLE CODE SUNDAYS- ‘Boots Or No Boots’ (2010)

The Bible Code SundaysThe Bible Code’s are to London what The Tossers are to Chicago or The Murphy’s are to Boston. Probably more celtic-rock than punk they gig relentlessly across London and have a massive and loyal fan base. Reading about them in The Irish Post every week I first saw them play at one of their fortnightly resident shows in London’s west end. Starting off with their own stuff and then returning after a break to play ‘Irish-ed’ up pop hits they certainly had the crowd in the palm of their hands. I got the album that night and bugger me but on listening to it it seemed like it was auto-biographical!! The perfect album for the second- generation Irishman. ‘Maybe Its Because I’m A Irish Londoner’ is by far the fans stand out track but i prefer ‘Paddy Devil’ telling the story of the evil influence that makes us go on the lash instead of staying in and behaving ourselves…

 NUMBER 10

SHANE MacGOWAN AND THE POPES- ‘Crock Of Gold’ (1997)

Shane MacGowan And The PopesWith Shane kicked out of The Pogues and supposedly spiraling off into oblivion he shocked us all by teaming up with County Holloway celtic-rockers The Popes. Their first album together was ‘The Snake’ and was only so-so i thought but this album was something else. Freed from the confines of The Pogues Shane could let his pen do the talking. He calls it the Pogues fifth album. He doesn’t count anything The Pogues did after ‘If I Should Fall From Grace With God’. While hinting at nationalism with The Pogues for years this LP is defiantly pro-republican with stories of “burning London to the ground” and shooting coppers and soldiers. Received with glee by his fans and horror by the middle-class press both here and in Ireland. Dominated by jigs and reels The Popes prove themselves able to fill The Pogues shoes and even fit in a reggae song reminiscent of The Clash.

“The years they go by quickly/ I know I can’t remain here/ Where each day brings me closer/ To that final misery/ My kids will never scrape shit ’round here/ And I won’t die crying in a pint of beer/ I’m going back to Ireland/ And me Mother Mo Chroi.”

More on Shane from the blog here and The Popes here.

 NUMBER 9

BLOOD OR WHISKEY- ‘Cashed Out On Culture’ (2005)

Blood Or WhiskeyStraddling the celtic-punk fence nicely between the Molly’s folk and the Murphy’s punk is Ireland’s Blood Or Whiskey. This is their third album and they’re best one yet. Fourteen tracks of pure Irish folk ska punk. This was the first recording’s with new singer Dugs taking over from Barney and guest vocals from Cait O’Riordan of The Pogues add that special touch. Blood Or Whiskey have a instantly recognizable sound but don’t be thinking they’re stuck in a rut as they stand out in the celtic punk scene as a constantly evolving band. They are also the only band actually from a celtic nation on our list. ‘They Say No’ ends the album and is the standout track with all the BorW elements coming together perfectly!

This years new album from Blood Or Whiskey was reviewed on the blog earlier in the year, read it here.

 NUMBER 8

THE MAHONES- ‘Irish Punk Collection’ (2007)

The MahonesCatchy and upbeat this is the must have album of Irish-Canadian band The Mahones. They’ve been around for twenty years and are one of the innovators and movers and shakers of the celtic-punk world. Their is plenty here for all fans of celtic or punk music and the songs flow seamlessly from raucous punk to reflective ballad with ease. Dublin born singer Finny leads The Mahones and they are easily the hardest working band in the scene. ‘Queen And Tequila’ and ‘Drunken Lazy Bastard’ are still solid staples of the bands live set. Fourteen tracks and well over a hour long  and not a single bad track. Scruffy from the Dropkicks pops up to show exactly how widely regarded The Mahones are.

NUMBER 7

DROPKICK MURPHYS- ‘Do Or Die’ (1998)

Dropkick MurphysSeems like an age ago now (and it bloody is too) that a old skinhead mate from Belfast put me onto these and I got to see them on their first London gig before I’d actually heard anything by them. To say they blew me away is a understatement and my love affair with them only got worse on hearing this album. Yeah the Pogues and The Men They Couldn’t Hang were there first but the Dropkicks were a proper punk band. Our families all liked what passed for celtic-punk before this lot but the Dropkick Murphys? NO FACKING WAY! My mams heard them and thinks there awful racket! I use to call this album ‘celtic-Oi!’ and if you’re a recent convert to the DKM’s there’s not a lot of what passes for the band now. For a start Mike McColgan, from the Street Dogs, was the bands original singer and there’s very little celtic tunes and no instruments but plenty of references in the lyrics for those of us looking for them. By the time Finnegans Wake came on that was it for me!

 NUMBER 6

FLOGGING MOLLY- ‘Drunken Lullabies’ (2002)

Flogging MollyTheir second album and easily their best yet. After ‘Swagger’ the band realised they didn’t need a new approach. Slow songs, fast songs and combinations of both was good enough to last them right up until their last album ‘Speed Of Darkness’ when they changed it around a bit. Formed in a LA pub by Dublin native Dave King their sound is as authentic as it comes. Full on Irish folk played with the spirit of punk that captured the imagination of untold numbers of punk rock kids across the globe. Despite their success it’s as a live band Flogging Molly are at their best and they’ve released a handful of excellent live releases. The title track and the heart aching ‘The Sun Never Shines (On Closed Doors)’ show them at their fast and slow best. Listen side by side with the Murphy’s and you’ll see these are the celtic side of celtic-punk while the Murphy’s are more punk but both compliment each other enormously.

 NUMBER 5

THE TOSSERS- ‘The Valley Of The Shadow Of Death’ (2005)

The TossersA mate worked in Reckless Records in the West End and one day down the pub he announced to me “you like all that Irish folk shit, here have these” and presented me with a 1960’s LP of rebel songs, a Wolfe Tones CD and this by The Tossers. Maybe not their best album (I actually prefer ‘Emerald City’) but this has The Tossers greatest song ‘Good Mornin Da’ and a host of other Chicago South Side Irish folk-punk classics. Older than the Murphy’s and the Molly’s they well deserve their place at the top table of celtic-punk. More like the Pogues than the before mentioned bands they have The Pogues knack of playing lengthy songs that don’t bore the arse off you or go off into decadent meandering and keep your interest till the end! Saw them play once in London and they were every bit as good as i thought they would be.

You can find a review of the excellent new album from The Tossers, ‘Emerald City, here.

 NUMBER 4

CUTTHROAT SHAMROCK- ‘Dark Luck’ (2011)

Cutthroat ShamrockComing from the hills of Tennessee they mix Irish and Scots folk with their native Appalachian music. Dark themes abound on this all the way through and the vocals and music really capture the emotions of the lyrics.  Completely acoustic with superb banjo playing to the fore they would in fact go down well absolutely anywhere and with anyone I’d say. ‘Rich Insteada Pretty’ is a brief interlude of humour before ‘Dark Hallow’ takes us back to some more misery. A superb album with all the best bits of celtic-punk but with enough of Cutthroat Shamrock’s own definitive stamp to single them out as real innovators of the scene. ‘Fly Away’ would easily make my Top Ten Songs of all time.

 NUMBER 3

THE POGUES- ‘If I Should Fall From Grace With God’ (1988)

The PoguesYou simply cannot underestimate the influence The Pogues had on this nation when they came racing out of the blocks in the mid-80’s. To put it simply the amount of Irish born people in Britain was massive but few of their offspring felt in anyway Irish. Hardly surprising when the rest of the nation was stacked up against them and to be Irish meant to be either a bomber or be thick or an alkie or feckless or violent or many other number of racist epitaphs. Who then could find pride in those roots when it was something we ought to be ashamed of? Well The Pogues could. Their first two albums were met with amazement and relief that we could actually be proud of our backgrounds and shout it out as well. By the time of this their third album The Pogues had started to agitate and their song ‘The Birmingham 6’, while only reinforcing what our families had already told us, brought the issue of the many innocent Irish jailed in Britain to a wider audience. That to be in possession of an Irish accent could land you in jail for a very long time. This is the record that saw them move away from being a band only Irish people could like and includes their mega-mega hit ‘Fairytale Of New York’. Though I cant stand ‘Fiesta’ the rest are pure brilliance and Shane’s lyrics are sublime. I especially loved the Tipperary themed ‘The Broad Majestic Shannon’. But even despite all of Shane’s brilliance its the late Phil Chevron song ‘Thousands Are Sailing’ that stands out and gets you on every single level. Possibly the best song about Irish emigration of all time…and that’s a pretty congested subject. More from us on The Pogues here.

 NUMBER 2

NECK- ‘Sod `Em & Begorrah!’ (2005)

NeckNeck have been a solid fixture on the London punk scene for donkeys years now and this LP is their masterpiece. All 12 tracks are fully imbibed with the spirit of the two London bands that have inspired them the most- The Pogues and The Clash. I’ve been a major fan of Neck since the very beginning and no matter how often I’ve seen them play they never fail to give it their all and put on a great show. Lead singer and lyricist Leeson is up there with yer Shane’s and yer Christy’s and your Luke’s in the songwriting stakes and portrays perfectly what it feels to be a, so called, ‘plastic paddy’ or as Neck put it, much better, ‘PLASTIC AND PROUD’. The album has two expertly played trad songs and the rest are pure self-penned celtic-punk Neck classics. As impossible as it is to pick out a standout track, ‘Blood On The Streets’ about the racist murders of two young men in Ireland and London deserves a nod. The CD comes with a huge booklet with the lyrics and background story to each song which alone makes this a must have. More from us on Neck here.

NUMBER 1

THE RUMJACKS- ‘Gangs Of New Holland’ (2010)

The Rumjacks

Bejaysus I really wish I had heard this when I was a young gun, i would have definitely picked up a mandolin instead of untold tinnies and done something with me life! From start to finish this debut album from Sydney, Australia’s The Rumjacks kicks you squarely in the teeth. Whether its the full on celtic-punk rock of ‘Green Ginger Wine’ or the sadness of, nearly a ballad, ‘Bar The Door Casey’ The Rumjacks blue-collar stories of working class immigrant life really hits home. It isn’t without humour mind, check out their enormous (5,500,000 hits and counting!) internet hit ‘An Irish Pub’ which puts the boot firmly into fake plastic Irish pubs. The band is a mix of Scottish immigrants and others from descended from the various celtic nations which gives them a very definite authentic feel. This knocked the flaming socks off me when I first heard it and its still doing it now. Australian celtic-punk bands rule the planet and The Rumjacks rule Australian celtic-punk…that should tell you all you need to know. Plenty more on The Rumjacks here and the wonderful world of Aussie celtic-punk here.

well there you have it. hope you liked and if you like feel free to leave a comment below if you agree or disagree…maybe even leave your best ofs!

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THE TOSSERS MAKE MUSIC FOR US ALL

by Paul DeCamp

The Tossers

11 P.M. on the northwest side of Chicago, a corner at one of the city’s famous five way intersections. Or maybe its 6. Your sharpness with numbers has been dulling over the last few hours. The air is frigid and still, save for some laughs and chatter coming from the small group you’re standing with outside the bar where a trio that makes up the core of a local Irish punk band have just finished their first set of the night. The front man holds court as the unofficial discussion leader for the people taking cigarette breaks. He regales the crowd with stories about being sent champagne and Guinness to make Black Velvets by Bono in Dublin, or meeting Shane and the boys while opening for The Pogues. Perhaps a childhood memory of discovering an old Clancy Brothers record. You’re in Chicago, so a quip about Rahm or the governor makes it in too. This is perfect interlude to what you’ve been watching already this evening, you think, this sidebar on the sidewalk.

The place is the Abbey Pub in Chicago’s Avondale neighbourhood. The band is The Tossers.

For the last several years, front man Tony Duggins, Rebecca Manthe, and Tony’s brother Aaron, have played a free acoustic show at the Abbey the first Friday of each month. The trio offers up a mix of old Irish folk songs and their own punk-tinged material to a crowd of mixed age and background. Friends of the band who have made the journey from Tinley Park and other points south pepper the audience, which ranges from young punks to older Irish folk aficionados. All tend to sing along and yell requests freely, with Duggins and company usually happy to oblige.

With St. Patrick’s Day on the horizon, March always sees an increase in tour dates from bands marketing themselves as ‘Irish rock’, ‘celtic punk’, ‘rebel music’ and the like. It’s a necessity for the sort of bars that make significant profits from the holiday. Only a handful of groups have been able to distinguish themselves and make a go of it outside of the St Patrick’s Day season.

Dropkick Murphys has enjoyed huge success in recent years after being featured in Martin Scorsese’s The Departed and becoming associated with the Boston Red Sox. On the West Coast, Flogging Molly managed to entice the local skate punks with  their ‘oirish’ bravado and now have gone national. But the Dropkicks have since become better at selling t-shirts than spinning yarns, and Flogging Molly has taken a few sonic left turns and lost the swagger that distinguished their early records. In the middle of the country, in Chicago, one Irish punk organization has remained committed to not selling out.

In the Irish rock scene, which does not lack for hackneyed acts, The Tossers stand apart.

Duggins is the sole remaining poet in Irish punk and the inheritor of the tradition of Shane MacGowan, whose work with The Pogues set the precedent for all Celtic-infused rock to come. From politically-charged ballads to rousing barroom anthems, lamentations, and benedictions featuring the likes of Dee Dee Ramone and Brendan Behan, Duggins’ songwriting contains great depth and sincerity, as well as a deep understanding of history and the human condition.

While the affectations are there, such as the whistles and fiddle and Duggins’ accent, they do not distract from the strength of the music. The band is aware of the dangers of falling into kitsch, of playing too much at being drunken Paddies and singing about going out to Cal-i-forn-i-ay. The track ‘USA’ from their most recent album, last year’s The Emerald City, displays this awareness from the outset, with Duggins proclaiming

“We were born in the U.S.A.”

It goes on to document family life, teenage antics, and the loss and suffering of wartime experienced by the working class. The video features Duggins walking through Chicago’s Chinatown, interspersed with bar scenes and shots of the band playing, offering an example of how Duggins’ tunes highlight the aspects of Irish music and experience that transcend decades and borders.

A waitress assembles a line of Guinness pints, three or four of them, on the stage next to Duggins near the beginning of most Friday night gigs at the Abbey. However incapacitated he might become, Duggins will raise his pint and sing ‘The Parting Glass’ to end the evening. No matter the size of the room, the song will bring the crowd to a somber and reflective silence, the kind you might find during prayer at a wake, where it is typically sung.

It is moments like this that distinguish The Tossers from their contemporaries.

Moments where we find that there might be a mystical quality to growing up Irish and Catholic on the South Side of Chicago, living in a world where the dead never really leave us and loss and suffering remain as a reminder that we should savor the joy we find in our companions. Love, loyalty, and friendship, the Irish virtues extolled on the claddagh ring, abide in these moments and we find that they are not solely Irish, but wholly human. And perhaps that is the great gift the Irish have given us in their literature and music, a gift Duggins and The Tossers continue to give us, whether to a small barroom in Avondale or a festival stage in Germany.

Chicago is their home, Ireland is their heritage, but The Tossers make music that is for all of us and is not meant to be listened to just one month out of year.

I leave you with Duggins performing ‘The Parting Glass’

this article first appeared on ‘We Started A Band’ blog and thanks to the guys for letting us show it again… check out their great blog here

for our review of The Tossers album from last year ‘The Emerald City’ go here

another equally great Chicago celtic-punk band are Kevin Flynn And The Avondale Ramblers and our review of their last album is here

TRIBUTE TO SHANE MacGOWAN

By Beer Drinker

With our St. Patrick’s Day hangover’s fast diminishing I thought I might as well write about one of Ireland’s most legendary boozers and hell raisers, the one and only Shane Patrick Lysaght MacGowan.

Shane MacGowan

Born into a strong Irish family in Kent, England, on Christmas Day in 1957. MacGowan’s early childhood, mostly spent in the family home in the country of Tipperary, with relatives, until he was six, was steeped in Irish music, republicanism, religion and Celtic folklore. Both sides of his family were very musical. He used to learn a song a day from his mother’s family, building up a huge repertoire of old Irish songs. One his earliest memory is of singing on a table for ‘more than 40 friends and relatives’. Public performances were a regular thing for the young Shane.

His mother, Therese, was a singer and traditional Irish dancer, had him reading Hardy, Dickens and Edna O’Brien, his father went to university, also very well read, had him reading Joyce from the age of six. Most Irish people struggle to finish that book never mind trying to read it at six!

The family home was seen as an open house, a ‘shebeen’ – people would come around at all hours and there would be dancing, card-playing, boozing and singing. Supposedly his uncles gave him two bottles of Guinness a day from the age of five. He was given his first bottle of whiskey at the age of six. Shane didn’t have to go to a pub, he grow up in one! He was smoking and drinking and gambling from a young age, a very young age! These early years in Tipperary seem to have set the course for his life.

Shane MacGowan

Like quite a few children of immigrants, he ferried between the old country and the new one, but when he was six he was sent back to live with his parents in London.

But it wasn’t all drink and gambling, he was also very literate ––learning to read really young. Regarded as a gifted child he won a literature scholarship to Westminster school by writing essays. A renowned English public school close to the Houses of Parliament. He was found in possession of drugs (dope, acid n pills) and was expelled in his second year, 14, not that Shane cared much.

His early years in London were spent wandering the streets in the west end, as the legend goes, hanging out with junkies and rent boys getting up to all sorts. There is also the six months he spent at 18 in a detox clinic

Then his whole world changed in 76, when he saw the Sex Pistols, and discovered punk. Shane was very active in the early life of Punk and got his first taste of fame in 1976 at a Clash gig, when his ear was damaged by a disgruntled girl. A photographer snapped a picture of him covered in blood and it made the papers, with the headline “Cannibalism at Clash Gig”.

http://pages.cs.wisc.edu/~mroman/pics/cannibal1.jpg http://pages.cs.wisc.edu/~mroman/articles/NME110676.html

This was merely one of a sequence of remarkable punk activities he indulged in during the late 1970s, eventually deciding to give punk a go by forming his own punk rock band, The Nipple Erectors, later retitled The Nips.

In 1980 he met Peter ‘Spider’ Stacy and Jem Finer, and later Cait O’Riordan and Andrew Ranken, they were The Pogues. (Their first name, Pogue Mahone, which is Irish for “kiss my arse”.)

This new London band gave a voice to the Irish in London, a much maligned group suffering under the anti-Irish racism and resentment of the 80’s, in the midst of the IRA’s bombing campaign in Britain.

Shane MacGowan

Many of his songs are influenced by Irish nationalism, Irish history, and the experiences of the Irish in London and the United States, and London life in general.

And what MacGowan and his fellow band-members in The Pogues did, in mixing the best of a tradition – tender ballads and full-throttled jigs – and giving it a fierce, anarchic edge, smashed the boundaries between what was meant to be traditional and concrete with a real revolution from the soul. This was new Irish music married with raw high velocity punk and street poetry, the Pogues had invented Celtic punk.

But it wasn’t all loud and brash, some of the music was extremely well written and poetic. Songs such as ‘Sally MacLennane’, ‘Streams Of Whiskey’, ‘Rainy Night in Soho’, ‘Thousands are Sailing’ and, perhaps their best-known song ‘Fairytale of New York’ are highpoints from their albums. Albums – ‘Rum Sodomy And The Lash’, and ‘If I Should Fall From Grace With God’ considered must have albums.

Of course it should also be pointed out that many of the songs covered London, reminding people that they were not just a band that played Irish punk but more importantly they were a London Irish band playing punk rock.

With music that appeals to both traditionalists and punk heads. Their gigs were legendary, explosive affairs. They toured and toured, building up a cult like following.

Of course this high octane lifestyle results in many boozing sessions. The Pogues were a hard drinking band. They liked a pint, and a fight, with each other if no one else was available.

All their drinking and fighting shenanigans caused the odd problem. On a good night the gigs were amazing, on a bad night a shambles. Most concerts Shane actually performed great while being completely wasted. However it’s difficult to maintain this. Shane was trying everything; speed, smack, coke, crack every drink you could possibly imagine. The other band members of The Pogues often locked him up in his hotel room to keep him relatively sober until the concert

The famous hotel story: Joey Cashman, would order Shane to stay outside a hotel while he checked in so they could get a room before anyone saw how bad he looked. The trick usually worked. On one occasion, though, as Cashman was speaking with the receptionist, the front doors opened two men entered carrying MacGowan on their shoulders, his trousers down around his knees, and no underwear. In shock, Cashman turned to the receptionist: “What kind of hotel is this!?” He then got a much reduced price from the embarrassed clerk and the band sharply went to their rooms before the hotel could change their minds.

His fellow band members, got so tired of Shane’s drinking, lateness for gig and flights and the performances were gradually getting worse that in 1991 in a hotel room in Japan, they kicked him out. This was the infamous tour of japan where Shane was allegedly said to have taken 50 tabs of acid, three bottles of whiskey and a good quantity of Saki. No wonder he was booted out. Shane was essentially kicked out of his own group!

After The Pogues threw MacGowan out for unprofessional behaviour, he formed a new band, Shane MacGowan and The Popes. From December 2003 up to May 2005, Shane MacGowan & the Popes toured extensively in UK/Ireland/Europe. The Popes were good but essentially they were like a tribute band. And The Pogues themselves were not the same without their iconic lead singer. In 2001 they all got back together for a sell-out tour in 2001 and in May 2005, MacGowan re-joined The Pogues permanently.

The teeth! Although Shane got rid of most of his teeth during the early years of Punk, head-butting walls can do that, there is a famous story of the day he tried to eat volume three of The Beach Boys’ Greatest Hits. He was convinced that World War III was imminent, that as leader of the Irish Republic, hosting a superpowers conference, that the best way to reveal America’s cultural inferiority was to eat a Beach Boys CD.

Shane MacGowan

Shane MacGowan quotes:

‘I was smoking and drinking and gambling before I could talk.’

“Everyone drinks……….Well, unless they don’t.”

“I’ve been a babe magnet for quite a while now.”

“The British press have been giving me six months to live for the past twenty years they must be getting pissed off interviewing me by now. “

“The most important thing to remember about drunks is that drunks are far more intelligent than non-drunks- they spend a lot of time talking in pubs, unlike workaholics who concentrate on their careers and ambitions, who never develop their higher spiritual values, who never explore the insides of their head like a drunk does.”

“Bad health is a consequence of very good living”

“If you didn’t have pain, then you wouldn’t realise when you are having pleasure”

“I just live like I want and it upsets some people”

Anyway hope you all had a happy St Patrick’s Day and forward onto next years in 2015!

(Beer Drinker runs a fantastic blog of his own called ‘This Drinking Life’ don’t delay and click here to find out more)

ALBUM REVIEW: BLOOD OR WHISKEY- ‘Tell The Truth And Shame The Devil’ (2014)

Blood Or Whiskey- 'Tell The Truth And Shame The Devil' (2014)‏

Six years since their last EP and nine since their last LP news of the upcoming release of this, Blood Or Whiskeys 4th studio album, kind of took us all by surprise here. After such a long time of inactivity the news was literally music to our ears!
Formed way back in 1993 in Leixlip, County Kildare, Ireland they were one of the original celtic-punk bands and have inspired most of what passes for celtic/folk punk in the scene in the last 20 years. Sneered at by the purists at home in Ireland for trying to make traditional music more relevant they escaped to the continent and the States and years of heavy touring. Eventually that took its toil and the line up changes over the years have become legendary! Legal battles with their record labels, the untimely death of band member Alan Confrey and those line up changes all contributed to the bands lengthy hiatus. All a great shame as they seemed at the time to be well on the way to if not international stardom at least international punk rock stardom. Several appearances at Rebellion Festivals around Europe had seen their popularity blossom but then it all came to a grinding halt. So it was good news to hear the imminent release of this but is the weight of expectation too great?

Blood Or WhiskeyWell for your coin you get 11 songs clocking in at 33 minutes and from the very start its that original Blood Or Whiskey sound we love so much. Have to add though they aint just gone back and re-recorded one of their old albums because they now sound like a hybrid of Pogues/Clash/Specials. From the first track ‘Dirty Aul War’ the ska beats collide with the punk which collide with trad sounds but all in that unmistakable BorW way. The addition of brass instruments later on in the track ‘Gone Or Forgotten’ is genius.
Touches of dub in ‘Seanie O’Keefe’ show the bands progression musically despite having both feet firmly in the celtic-punk scene as Chris states in their recent interview in Shite’n’Onions

“Yes we are without doubt a part of the Celtic Punk scene simply by the instruments that we have in the group and that is a good thing, it always makes me smile when I see how far Irish music and our culture has travelled, we have played everywhere from the US to Japan and all over Europe and every where we go there is a love for this small nation it makes you proud to be Irish and proud of all the great music and musicians from Ireland that came before us and managed to influence people all over the world. Going from what I have just said the Celtic punk scene makes me personally proud to be Irish as it shows me how the rest of the world loves and enjoys Irish music and culture. I’m not sure why there has not been many other bands from Ireland playing Celtic Punk because you do get other bands mixing folk with rock etc just not so many doing the Celtic Punk thing. Maybe it’s because the Punk scene isn’t as big here in Ireland as it is in the likes of the US and Europe, mainly due to the size of our population I suppose.”

The album never gets going in a punk rock way in the same vein as say ‘Cashed Out On Culture’ but there’s plenty here to have you leaping around your living rooms and their almost certain to come rocking up near to where you live wherever in the world that is!
The boys have self funded the release themselves so they’re gonna be doing plenty of touring to flog it but you can get it from all the usual places so check the links at the end. ‘Emigrant’ is the obligatory song about the scourge of emigration that has haunted the Irish race for centuries now. ‘Cannibal Economy’ and a instrumental ‘Black Pits’ bring the album to a close and its over way too early. A massive return to form and cant wait to see them live now. Glad to have you back Blood Or Whiskey go straight to the front of the queue.

you can read the interview with Chris and Dugs original members of the band from Shite’n’Onions here

Contact The Band-

WebSite  Facebook  Twitter  YouTube

Get The Album-

iTunes

FROM OPPRESSION TO CELEBRATION- THE POGUES TO THE DROPKICK MURPHYS AND CELTIC PUNK

AGAINST MODERN FOOTBALL - AGAINST MODERN MUSIC

The history of all of the various celtic nations is one made up of oppression, intimidation and emigration. Wales, Scotland, Ireland, Isle of Man, Cornwall, Brittany (north west France), Asturias (north west Spain), Galicia (north west Spain) have all been for generations occupied by foreign countries who have tried everything to crush the culture, language and spirit of their people.

But first lets go back in time to the 17th century when the English invaded Ireland. The Irish rebelled against them but are finally subjected after many wars and battles and atrocities are committed. They never fully integrate into the English system of government in the same way the Scots and Welsh did, and rebellions carried on and with every generation their have been major uprisings against English rule.

Music was a continual form of expression which made it very important to the culture of the Celts. With the prohibition of native languages and songs just speaking or singing could see you exiled or worse.  Misrule and a deliberate policy of starvation forced millions to emigrate away from Ireland while at least another million died while hundreds of tons of food a day was shipped out, under British Army guard, to England. In Scotland the forced clearances for land to give to rich barons to exploit for cattle and sheep farming sent tens of thousands of Scots to a new life in Canada. Other celts, for example many Cornish left when the tin mining industry went into decline, emigrate to the Americas in the 19th and 20th centuries and right up to the present day it remains high. Why the Americas? Despite those early settlers facing exactly the same kind of oppression, racism and bigotry that they had escaped from, it gave the little guy a new beginning. A sense that anyone could make it in this new world with hard graft and a little luck…plus it was away from the Empire that had held them down for so long, and even in the Irish case even tried to murder them!  Later revolts in Ireland established a republic separate from England, yet the north is still in English control. This was never accepted by all and so began a bloody war to unite Ireland that continues to this day.

Just like the original Irish music pub sessions didn’t originate in Ireland neither did celtic punk. The Pogues formed in post ’77 era London during the ‘troubles’. Bombs going off in the streets of England and shootings were common, anti-Irish racism was a fact of life for many. Many Irish lived together in the same areas of London, Manchester, Glasgow, Birmingham etc., creating, for want of a better word ‘ghettos’ where Irish life carried on despite being in a foreign and unwelcoming land. Punk music started by posh art school kids rebelling against their parents soon spread out to the working class communities and the 2nd and 3rd generation Irish youth of those communities were no different from their english counterparts in lapping it up. The idea of fighting against authority made celtic music highly compatible with punk. Many of those original english punk bands had Irish members but punk bands in Ireland didn’t want to sound Irish they were just trying to sound punk (i.e. Radiators From Space, Stiff Little Fingers). Punk music was able to gain popularity from the people with celtic roots because it represented something unique to their heritage. Punk reminded them of what it is to be celtic to stand against authority, independent and defiant.

The Pogues were the original celtic-punk band. Made up of 2nd generation Irish, Irish and English members they were the first to combine the two genres of punk and traditional Irish music together creating a totally new sound. They had plenty of plaudits and recognition and even managed to break out of the ‘Irish scene’ and became a genuinely popular band here in Europe and the USA. Shane MacGowan, their iconic lead singer and writer of the critically acclaimed Fairytale of New York, is now considered one of the best songwriters of his generation! At the time though many folk ‘traditionalists’ scoffed at them as being just a bunch of ignorant English pissheads out to ruin Irish music but this was before anyone realised there was about to be a massive outpouring of ‘Irish pride’ from thousands upon thousands of second and third generation Irish from outside the isle of Ireland. The Pogues spearheaded this and along with Celtic F.C and the Irish football team (itself packed to the rafters with 2nd and 3rd generation Irish players) came to represent us in our Irishness. The thing the traditionalists didn’t understand was that even though we were into modern music we’d grown up listening to The Wolfe Tones, Dubliners, Clancy Brothers etc., (even Country’n’Irish!) as children so a band like the Pogues coming along wasn’t a shock to us but the folk establishment sure as hell didn’t like it!

Jump to today and its the Dropkick Murphys who are the worlds celtic-punks most popular and famous band. They started off as a Oi!/punk band with no Irish/celtic music only some Irish imagery on their record sleeves and merchandise. They kind of, in their own words, “started out as a joke” and didn’t seek out acclaim, but they rapidly grew in popularity due in no small part to the many, many people in the US who have celtic heritage and celebrate it. Over the years they’ve adapted Irish music and instruments and songs into the mix to create today’s celtic-punk. The Dropkick’s represent what it is to be celtic/Irish in modern day America (being working class, the fight against oppression, overcoming adversity, toughness, family bonds, religion/ Catholicism etc.,) but overall its still The Pogues that best embody celtic-punk. They were the first band of the scene and their music and lyrics are closer to the source. The Dropkick Murphys put more of an Irish-American spin on their songs, The Pogues are more about the history therefore, especially to those of us outside North America, the songs of The Pogues are more authentic with more Irish themes and fewer American ones.

The globalization of celtic music through emigration, in which oppression and poverty were the main reasons people left, has spread the influence of celtic music across the globe, even outside of the usual haunts of the Americas, Australia, NZ and here. Celtic-punk bands exist in pretty much every country where a son or daughter of a celt has set foot. It has also spread to the land of origin of the other celtic nations, with very healthy scenes in Brittany and Galicia helping to rejuvenate the native languages. Use of traditional instruments- fiddle, tin whistle, banjo, accordion, bagpipes is higher now than it has been in decades, again due in no small part to the popularity of celtic-punk.

Celtic-punk reflects the heritage of celtic people and the fight against oppression. It embodies the history of what it is to be celtic and what it is to overcome hardships and to finally come out on top.

It is where we come from but don’t you worry this is no exclusive club… everybody’s welcome to the hooley.

This isn’t meant as an introduction to celtic-punk or even a potted history it’s just one man’s small attempt to unravel what it is that makes the music so appealing to himself and countless others. If you agree or disagree we’d love to hear your comments…

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TRIBUTE TO BRENDAN BEHAN 1923-1964

Brendan Behan

‘Streams Of Whiskey’ – The Pogues

“Last night as I slept
I dreamt I met with Behan
 Shook him by the hand and we passed the time of day
When questioned on his views
On the crux of life’s philosophies
He had but these few clear and simple words to say

I am going, I am going
Any which way the wind may be blowing
I am going, I am going
Where streams of whiskey are flowing

I have cursed, bled and sworn
Jumped bail and landed up in jail
Life has often tried to stretch me
But the rope always was slack
And now that I’ve a pile
I’ll go down to the Chelsea
I’ll walk in on my feet
But I’ll leave there on my back

Oh the words that he spoke
Seemed the wisest of philosophies
There’s nothing ever gained
By a wet thing called a tear
When the world is too dark
And I need the light inside of me
I’ll go into a bar and drink
Fifteen pints of beer”

written by Shane MacGowan

If there was ever a writer who could symbolise celtic-punk it would be Brendan Francis Behan. The man who, along with Luke Kelly, our very own Shane MacGowan seems to taken most inspiration from. Today is the 91st anniversary of his birth so we thought we’d enlighten those of you who do not know him or his works.

Most famous for his earthy satire and political opinions. While he was not in jail, or the pub, Behan worked odd jobs and wrote plays and stories that depicted the life of the working classes. Several of his books were banned in Ireland and he spent most of the years from 1939 to 1946 in English and Irish penal institutions on political charges. However, his writings are lively, full of humour, and, somewhat surprisingly, do not show signs of anger or bitterness toward the world at large.

“… it was not really the length of sentence that worried mefor I had always believed that if a fellow went into the I.R.A. at all he should be prepared to throw the handle after the hatchet, die dog or shite the licencebut that I’d sooner be with Charlie and Ginger and Browny in Borstal than with my own comrades and countrymen any place else. It seemed a bit disloyal to me, that I should prefer to be with boys from English cities than with my own countrymen and comrades from Ireland’s hills and glens.”

Born into inner-city Dublin he lived his childhood in the slums of the city. In spite of the surroundings, he did not end up becoming an unlettered slum lad. Much of his education was owed to his family, well-read, and of strong Republican sympathies. Behan’s family on both sides was traditionally anti-British. His uncle Peader Kearney was the author of the Irish national anthem, ‘The Soldier’s Song’. Another uncle, P.J. Bourke, managed the Queens Theatre in Dublin, and one of Bourke’s sons was the dramatist Seamus de Burca. Brendan’s brother Dominic became a dramatist, too, and gained also success and a balladeer and singer.

At Behan’s birth his father, a housepainter and Republican activist, was in a British compound because of involvement in the Irish uprising of 1916-1922. Behan’s mother had been married before to another Republican, who had died during the influenza epidemic of 1918. Brendan attended Catholic schools until the age of 14, when he abandoned studies and then worked as a house painter. From the age of nine he had served in the Fianna, a youth organization connected with the IRA, and in the late 1930s he was a IRA messenger boy. In 1939 Behan was arrested on a sabotage mission in Liverpool, following a deadly explosion at Coventry. He was sentenced to three years in Borstal in a reform school for attempting to blow up a battleship in Liverpool harbour. After release, he returned to Ireland, but in 1942 he was sentenced to 14 years for the attempted murder of two detectives. He served at Mountjoy Prison and at the Curragh Military Camp. In 1946 he was released under a general amnesty and resumed work at his father’s trade of housepainting. During this period he also joined the Dublin literary underground, which included figures such as Patrick Kavanagh, Anthony Cronin, J.P. Donleavy, and Sean O’Sullivan. Brendan was imprisoned again in Manchester in 1947, serving a short term for allegedly helping an IRA prisoner to escape. Ironically Behan once observed, that the man with a big bomb is a statesman, while the man with a small bomb is a terrorist.

Brendan Behan

During his years in prison, Behan started to write, mainly short stories in an inventive stylization of Dublin dialect. The Landlady was written at the Curragh. Gretna Green, about the execution of two Irishmen, was produced at the Queen’s Theatre as a part of a Republican commemorative concert. In 1955 Behan married Beatrice ffrench-Salkeld, a painter and the daughter of noted Dublin artist, Cecil Salkeld. The marriage did not stop him from continuing his self-destructive life-style, even after he was diagnosed as diabetic.

Behan’s best-known novel, Borstal Boy (1958), drew its material from his experiences in a Liverpool jail and Borstal. The young narrator progresses from a rebellious adolescent to greater understanding of himself and the world:

“There were few Catholics in this part of the world and the priest had a forlorn sort of a job but Walton had cured me of any idea that religion of any description had anything to do with mercy or pity or love.”

Behan also sailed intermittently on ships, he had become a certified seaman in 1949. At the beginning of his career, Behan had difficulties in getting his plays performed in his own country. The Quare Fellow, based on his prison experiences, was turned down by both the Abbey Theatre and the Gate but eventually was produced at the Pike Theatre Club in 1954, gaining critical success. Reviewers began to talk of a new Sean O’Casey and the tragi-comedy was subsequently transferred to London’s West End for a six months’ run. The events were set during the twenty-four hours preceding an execution. This work is thought to have hastened the abolition of capital punishment in Britain. Brendan also attacked false piety behind public attitudes toward such matters as sex, politics, and religion.

Behan found fame difficult. He had long been a heavy drinker describing himself on one occasion as

“a drinker with a writing problem”

and claiming

“I only drink on two occasions—when I’m thirsty and when I’m not”

and developed diabetes in the early 1960s. As his fame grew, so too did his alcohol consumption. This combination resulted in a series of famously drunken public appearances, on both stage and television.

Brendan Behan

Among Behan’s other dramas are The Big House (1957), a radio play written for the BBC, and The Hostage  (1958), written in Gaelic under the title An Giall and set in a disreputable Dublin lodging house, brothel!, owned by a former IRA commander. This play, perhaps Behan’s most enduring work, was first produced in Irish at the Damer Hall in Dublin and then in London, Paris, and New York. It depicts events that surround the execution of an eighteen-year-old IRA member in a Belfast jail. The audience never sees him. He has been accused of killing an Ulster policeman and sentenced to be hanged. A young British soldier, Leslie Williams, is held hostage in the brothel. After the IRA prisoner has been executed, Leslie is eventually killed in a gunfight, when the police attack the place. Before it a love story develops between Leslie and Teresa, a young girl, who promises never to forget him. In the finale Leslie’s corpse rises and sings:

The bells of hell
Go ting-a-ling-a-ling
For you but not for me.
Oh death, where is thy sting-a-ling-a-ling
Or grave thy victory?

In his dramas Behan used song, dance, and direct addresses to the audience. Occasionally the author himself would appear in the audience and criticize the actors and shout instructions to the director. Several of Behan’s works were staged at Joan Littlewood’s Theatre Workshop, which left deep impact on modern theatrical style. Littlewood viewed the theatre as a collective and revised much of his script for The Hostagethe author himself approved all changes.

Notoriety and critical attention came to Behan in the mid-1950s and contributed to his downfall, fuelled by his prolonged drinking bouts and belligerent behaviour.

“An Anglo-Irishman only works at riding horses, drinking whisky and reading double-meaning books in Irish at Trinity College”

Behan once wrote. The Hostage was Behan’s last major dramahis last books were compilations of anecdotes transcribed from tape recordings. Like Dylan Thomas, he was lionized to death in the United States. A lifelong battle with alcoholism ended Behan’s career in a Dublin hospital on March 20, in 1964, at the age of the young age of 41. He was given an IRA guard of honour which escorted his coffin and it was described by several newspapers as the biggest funeral since those of Michael Collins and Charles Stewart Parnell. According to the United States Library of Congress, Behan is one of the most important Irish literary figures of the 20th century. He left behind him a solid legacy but but you’d have to wonder what else he could have achieved if he’d just laid off the bottle a bit!

‘BRENDAN BEHAN’S DUBLIN’: RTE documentary from 1966.

http://youtu.be/bCKLbHgKFBE

Brendan Behan

SELECTED WORKS:

  •  The Quare Fellow,1954 – Film adaptation in 1962, dir. Arthur Dreifuss, starring  Patrick McGoohan.
  • Borstal Boy, 1958
  • Brendan Behan’s Island – An Irish Sketchbook, 1962
  • Hold Your Hour and Have Another, 1963
  • The Scarperer, 1964
  • Brendan Behan’s New York, 1964
  • Confessions of an Irish Rebel, 1965
  • After The Wake, 1981
  • The Letters of Brendan Behan, 1991
  • The King of Ireland’s Son, 1997
The Auld Triangle…
A hungry feeling, came o’er me stealing
And the mice they were squealing in my prison cell
And that auld triangle, went jingle jangle
All along the banks of the Royal Canal.
Oh to start the morning, the warden bawling
Get up out of bed you, and clean out your cell
And that auld triangle, went jingle jangle
All along the banks of the Royal Canal.
Oh the screw was peeping and the lag was sleeping
As he lay weeping for his girl Sal
And that auld triangle, went jingle jangle
All along the banks of the Royal Canal.
On a fine spring evening, the lag lay dreaming
And the seagulls were wheeling high above the wall
And that auld triangle, went jingle jangle
All along the banks of the Royal Canal.
Oh the wind was sighing, and the day was dying
As the lag lay crying in his prision cell
And that auld triangle, went jingle jangle
All along the banks of the Royal Canal.
 In the female prison there are seventy women
And I wish it was with them that I did dwell
And that auld triangle, went jingle jangle
All along the banks of the Royal Canal.

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EP REVIEW: STANDARD UNION- ‘The Myth Of Terra Nullius’ (2014)

Folk inspired tales of love, life and culture. Working Class Street Rock’n’Roll

STANDARD UNION EP COVER

Anyone who reads my reviews will know I have a thing for Aussie celtic-punk bands (here and here) and these fella’s from Adelaide are no exception. Keeping up the extremely high quality of the other leading bands from the scene Standard Union definitely lean towards the more punky side of things. With their only full-length album coming out in 2002 they have been hardly prolific but 3 singles since 2013 must mean another is due shortly.

If not the music then one thing that Standard Union do have in common with those other top Oz bands is that they are a ‘lyrics band’.

 “We write story songs, Just like all the good ones do. Like Johnny Cash did, like Shane McGowan.”

Standard Union Acoustic Set 2013so states Owen Foley band’s principle lyricist and mandolin player. Those 11 years since that first album have seen Standard Union mature as songwriters, with a uniquely Australian working class theme, allowing their influences to transition seamlessly from one song to the next. Their live sound is as relevant and aggressive as any punk band you’ll hear, and yet it stirs feelings of nostalgia, of convict ships and bushrangers, of the old bush bands from a time gone by.

This country is harsh, if you let it, it will break you and that’s the struggle,” states Owen “but y’know the struggle’s what makes this land and the people in it so incredible and that’s the story. Those are the stories we wanna tell.”

Standard Union

There’s quite a electric rock’n’roll twang to this EP and although sounding a wee bit rough and ready maybe on your first listen it grows on you straight away. High energy and plenty of fist (or pint!) in the air moments make the EP fly by far too quickly and its only leaving us at 30492 eagerly awaiting a full lengther!

Buy The EP here from Arrest Records and pick up some of their previous releases too. They also released the Paddy McHugh And The Goldminers album too so do yourself a favour and get that too!

Contact The Band

Facebook  MySpace

there’s a very interesting interview with Owen from the band here from Bombshell zine.

Discography

Bruised Egos and Blood (2002/12 tracks) Bruised Egos and Blood re-issue (2003/14 tracks)  The Lonely Victories (2006/9 tracks)  Self-Titled promo (2010/5 tracks)  Born For Hangin’ sampler (2012/2 tracks)  Grand Gestures And Empty Promises (2013/4 tracks)

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LIVE REVIEW: THE POGUES IN BRIXTON DECEMBER 2013

LONDON YOU’RE A LADY. AND ITALY LOVES YOU

by Eddie Murchy

POGUES SOLD OUT

When I was a child and my dad used to fetch me ’round with his car, the main rule was – and, actually, still is – ‘I drive, I choose the soundtrack’ (now that I drive, it applies to my car, too).

Bored in the first place, that rule, in the end, turned out to be a sort of blessing: thanks to my dad, since my early years, I started listening to great bands. Among them, obviously, The Pogues.

When, many years later, I made my first trip to Ireland and dived deep into Irish music, memories and melodies came back to the surface, and the unmistakable mark in Shane’s voice re-exploded in my mind as if I had never stopped listening to it. It was the very beginning of a love story that is still on and that, last december, brought me from the italian countryside to the O2 Academy in Brixton. ‘London Girl’, ‘Dark Streets Of London’, ‘Lullaby Of London’, ‘London You’re A lady’, I thought to myself, must have been more than a mere coincidence. So, without telling anybody, I bought the ticket, I booked the flight and chosed an hostel nearby the venue.

I arrived in London on 19th morning and, during the whole day, I was as excited as a 5-year old child on Christmas Eve. Well, actually, we were pretty close to that day (and, actually, I’m pretty close to a 5-year old child). ‘The Sick Bed Of Cuchulain’ was echoing in my head and really couldn’t wait to hear it live. For that reason, entering the O2 Academy was a kind of dream come true. Alright, ’twas not my first Pogues’ gig, but who tells I can only dream once, who tells I can only have one dream, who tells I can only dream alone?

Forgive my lines, this is not a review, I’m not technical at all; this is a sort of ’emotional’ report, a short list of the things that I, as a simple boy madly fond of music (specially live), liked and liked not.

First of all, I must say the side-band, Crowns from Cornwall, left me unsatisfied: nice tunes but, in my opinion, the guys were a bit too cold and posers, I would have definitely preferred somebody like Frank Turner, who indeed opened the act in 2012. Then, I was shocked by the ‘no stage-diving’ sign: c’mon, I made 2000 miles to attend a rock concert, I just wanted to have fun, you can’t tell me surfing over people’s heads is not allowed! At last, even though I generally loved the tracklist, where the hell had ‘If I should fall’ gone?

POGUES- NO STAGE DIVING

Apart from these little insignificant flaws, the night was amazing. ‘Rum Sodomy And The Lash’, a necklace of 13 pure gems, played in its entirety, the way I had always listened to it; creeps when ‘Thousands Are Sailing’ was played in loving memory of Phil; first time I heard ‘Fairytale of New York’ live, surely the best Christmas wishes ever; the people, the sweat, the pogo, the Italian friend I met just before the show, the random hugs, the drunken haze, the whole concert lived exactly where rock concerts are supposed to be lived, between the stage and the third row. At the end, I was soaking wet and totally knackered, and I considered it both a prize and the proof I lived the night up.

When the gig was over, I realised my legs were not making it, my voice was vanishing but, at the same time, my emotions were doomed to remain. I spent two more days in London, whistling Pogues’ tunes, having beers in dirty pubs, enjoying the good weather the City offered me. I must say, I was happy to stay right there, on the sunny side of the street.

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ALBUM REVIEW: THE TOSSERS- ‘Emerald City’ (2013)

Emerald City

With 2013 drawing to a close it may seem a bit strange to review a album that was released way back in March in time for St Patrick’s Day but as this is by far and away the #1 Album of the year I thought I’d just chuck in my review to the many others that litter the web.

The Tossers LogoThe Tossers come from Chicago, to be exact they come from the South of Chicago. This is the area where the cities Irish catholic community have lived ever since they started arriving there after the ‘famine’. The immigrant history of Chicago is rooted among untold amount of countries and people whose struggles and triumphs have led them to the Midwest. From the days of Chicago’s founding in the 1830s, the city has been the final stop for people journeying from all over the world looking for a land of opportunity.  It may surprise people to know that the Irish constitute the city’s biggest ethnic community, especially in a city know as ‘Chicago Polonia’! While most Irish-American families in Chicago are three are four generations deep, plenty of Chicago’s Irish have immigrated fairly recently. Ireland’s economy in the 1980s and 1990s prompted many of its young people to go where many many others had gone before them and with strong Irish links Chicago was if not top of the list then very close to it.

It is with this background then that The Tossers were born in 1993 as a 6-piece celtic-punk band pre-dating both The Dropkick Murphys and Flogging Molly. Seven albums in and while most bands would be starting to tire and get stale The Tossers just continue to get better and better. Using traditional instrumentation comprised of mandolin, fiddle, tin whistle and banjo beefed up with guitar and drums The Tossers possess an unparalleled work ethic, playing ‘anywhere, anytime, for anybody, with anybody’…

The Tossers

From the albums opener with the glorious ‘The Rover’, which had me and the Mrs singing and screaming along at the top of our voices the first time I put it on in the car, its instantly reminiscent of the best of both The Dubliners and The Pogues but without copying or aping them at all. Sure sometimes lead singer Tony Duggins does occasionally slip into Shane MacGowan mode but so what. MacGowan pretty much invented celtic-punk and influences everything every band does within it. That being said Tony is no tribute act and his passion and vocal style stand him out as one of the best in the scene. His song writing is outstanding and just like the best American celtic-punk bands beats a heart fighting for the underdog and the working class. The people who do all the shit and get nothing but shit in return. The message here is have pride in yourself, your community and your class.

It’s all here on this album from acoustic to punk to folk to folkpunk. The biggest compliment I can give when reviewing stuff like this is to ask the question would my mammy like it as well as my punk mates and the truth is I can see them both hopping about to ‘The Break Of Dawn’ and slowdancing to ‘The Southside Of Town’. Of course being a Fermoy lass herself she’d love the albums only trad song ‘The Fermoy Lasses And Sporting Paddy’. For me the stand out track is ‘Johnny McGuire’s Wake’. A beautiful song about the death of an old friend and the loss of youth. The first time I heard it I played it non-stop on my walk to work with tears in my eyes. The album ends with ‘Sláinte’ another stand out track that will leave you feeling uplifted and waking the neighbours with the chorus!

the tossersWhat strikes you upon listening to Emerald City is the way The Tossers have the ability to change tempo and go from raucous Irish punk to solemn reflective Irish ballad without you even noticing. The Tossers tell the tale of both Chicago and America’s Irish community in both a serious and a joyful and upbeat way, celebrating everything the Irish have done wherever they’ve roved!

One more thing to add. to us here in Britland The Tossers is an unusual name and the kind that would make your mammy refuse to wash their t-shirt (happened to me with once with a Pogues top!) but rest assured it’s not rude the band chose their name for its American derogatory meaning, “throw away.” The term dates back to Shakespeare, and depending who you ask it also means commode, drunk, to agitate, disturb, or disquiet.

Discography

On a Fine Spring Evening (Victory Records, 2008) Gloatin’ & Showboatin’: Live on St. Patrick’s Day CD/DVD (Victory Records, 2008) Agony (Victory Records, 2007) The Valley of the Shadow of Death (Victory Records, 2005) Purgatory (Thick Records, 2003) Communication & Conviction: The Last 7 Years (Thick Records, 2001) The First League Out From Land EP (Thick Records, 2001) The Tossers/Citizen Fish split single (Thick Records, 2001) Long Dim Road (Thick Records, 2000) The Tossers/The Arrivals split single (Smilin Bob Records, 1998) We’ll Never Be Sober Again (Folk You Records, 1996) The Pint of No Return (1994)

Contact The Band:

Web-Site   Facebook  MySpace  YouTube

NECK IN SEISUIN SUNDAY 22 SEPTEMBER 2013

Next month (20-22 September) is the annual North London Punx Picnic festival. Its basically a DIY punk festival in the spirit of the old picnic’s not what passes for them now as they’re more like wee mini Rebellions! its all done as non-profit with cheap gigs that are all benefits for decent causes with a picnic in the middle… beware though the picnic doesn’t involve much food!

This year the whole event is in Tottenham in North London within a few minutes walk from Seven Sisters tube station. For more info and times and transport details check out the official picnic facebook events page here

neck punx picnicTo bring down the curtain on the last day of the Picnic are London-Irish ‘psycho-ceilídh’ punks NECK led by a former member of Shane MacGowan’s The Popes, they’ve forged a (well-earned) reputation as a great, tried and tested, festival band – from Texas to Moscow! Released four albums, plus their Anti-racism single charted in the UK. Bring ‘The Hooley’!

neck reviewAt the very forefront of the international celtic folk-punk scene NECK’s music reflects the life experience of the emigrant and second-generation Irish. Their 19 years have seen them tour right across the globe spreading their message. The band takes their lead, both musically and ideologically, from two other great London rebel bands: The Clash and The Pogues, blending full-on punk rock with swirling traditional Irish music, and distilling it all to come-up with their own unique, intoxicating London-Irish brew known as ‘Psycho-Ceilídh’. For full details on the gig go to our events page-

plasticOccasionally though the band play a completely stripped down acoustic seisiún like what our mammies and da’s met at! Such is their flair, energy and passion you may be forgiven for thinking you’re at a full on punk gig. It’s all free on the afternoon of Sunday 22nd September so pop down after mass. The beer is cheap the sun should be out  and the music is guaranteed!

slainte!

contact the band Web Site or Facebook