2015 has been another exciting year for celtic-punk releases but sadly we haven’t had a chance to review everything we received or heard so here’s the last of our ‘Round-Up’s’ catching up with some of of the more obscure records we missed first time round as well as a couple of the scene’s major celtic-punk hitters. These releases prove that celtic-punk has gone global!
THE CHERRY COKE$- ‘Self Titled’
Now The Cherry Coke$ won’t win any awards for Best Name but when it comes to celtic-punk then that is more than possible. Formed in 1999 in Tokyo in Japan they play extremely tight and fast traditional Irish music. Absolutely huge at home, they regularly appear on TV, and this is their ninth release since forming. I have only heard two of their previous records but I can tell you that this self titled album is at least as good as what I have heard before. As mentioned they are tight and powerful and as clear an example of what James Stephens said back in the 1840’s that “it is not blood that makes you Irish but a willingness to be part of the Irish nation”. Easily as good as anything in celtic-punk this is proper party music and a perfect example of what the album has in store is the opening track ‘Rise Again’ for which they and Japan MTV produced this great video.
Ten songs coming in just shy of forty-five minutes so the songs gets plenty of time to develop and like all the best bands in celtic-punk they know how to play a ballad or a traditional folk number as well as punk it up to the high hills! The quality of the playing is amazing, especially the folk instruments. To be put in the same bracket as Flogging Molly but having grown up in different continents its hard to say who is following who here. Absolutely brilliant and well worth checking them out. Couldn’t find a link for you to buy the album but have a look round and see if you can.
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SMZB- ‘A Letter From China’ (BUY)
Now for something well out of ours (and yours too no doubt) comfort zone. Its one thing to review a Japanese band in The Cherry Coke$ but they been around for years and most celtic-punk ‘knowitalls’ would have heard of them but SMZB are the real underground celtic-punk band… from China. Yes China and they have been playing punk rock since 1996. Their lyrics and music are not appreciated much by the Chinese authorities so three of their albums have been banned. They toured Europe in 2005 and around this time took the decision to move away from their original raw sound of early British punk, ska and ’80s hardcore and add bagpipes, flutes and fiddles to their sound. How or why they decided this is unknown as the internet don’t have an awful lot on them. They have though received plaudits galore from the various celtic-punk sites and sounding like a combination of The Pogues, the Murphy’s and Rancid they have gone on to be absolutely huge in their native country. Previous releases include a split LP with celtic-punk legends The Greenland Whalefishers. A Letter From China makes the bands intentions clear. The cover features a red tank with the caption ‘1989-2014 25th Anniversary’ as well as their rather interesting band logo (have another look!!) Its basically well played melodic punk sung partly in English but with bagpipes chucked into the mix. Its all very very catchy and opener ‘A Song for Chen Huaimen’ seems to be about the singers grandfather where he compares himself to a Chinese fighter pilot who fought against the Japanese. Fourteen songs in just under a hour and some real beauties especially in ‘Smash His Statue’ SMZB hit the real celtic-punk highlights and its songs like this that get them into trouble and long may they rebel! There’s an oldish interview with Wu Wei from SMZB here from The Guardian in England
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THE GO SET- ‘Rolling Sound’ (BUY)
If there was an award for most hard working on the other hand then I think it is The Go Set who would deserve it. Yeah I know The Mahones never stop touring but for an independent DIY band to be able to finance themselves to be able to tour quite as much as The Go Set do is quite an amazing achievement. This year not only did they play a pretty long tour of the USA but they also made in over here to Europe including Blighty to play a few gigs around the big Rebellion punk festival. Formed in 2003 in Melbourne in Australia we have long been big fans of the Aussie celtic-punk scene and The Go Set are one of the biggest and best bands among them. With a bunch of first rate and critically acclaimed albums The Go Set released seventh album Rolling Sound to a helluva lot of expectation and it didn’t disappoint at all. The album begins with a bagpipe dirge that grows in sound before exploding into ‘Bones’
which has all the trademarks of The Go Set’s fantastic sound. Justin’s clear and distinctive Aussie accented vocals atop of catchy tuneful punk rock accompanied by great bagpiping and mandolin from Lachlan and Ben. Politics is never too far away and the lyrics deal with the social and political plights of the working classes, speaking out both for them and with them. The music doesn’t stand still for a second but the boys spread their wings beyond celtic-punk and as is the way for a typical Go Set album it’s their slower stuff I actually prefer more than their full on punk. Stand out punky tracks include the title song, ‘Bones’, ‘The Struggle And The Fight’ but its the working class celtic ballad ‘In The Streets’ that gets me. Yet another blinder from The Go Set and further cements their place as one of the best bands in the celtic-punk scene.
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LEXINGTON FIELD- ‘Greenwood’ (BUY)
Lexington Field formed in 2009 in San Diego, CA and Greenwood is the bands fourth album so they have been pretty prolific in their short existence. They describe themselves as ‘Fiddle Rock’ and while it is true that the fiddle does loom large in Lexington Fields sound it by no means dominates and when its quite hard to pigeonhole a band then it makes sense to invent your own genre! Having followed the band since their early days I am again happy to say that Greenwood has hit the spot nicely. Thirteen tracks and forty minutes gives the songs plenty of time to develop and Beau’s great vocals and lyrics stand out as usual giving Lexington Field that extra bit more. Their has been a fair amount of personnel change in the last couple of years but finally the band are settled down and Greenwood is the result. The more celtic-punk days are behind them and Lexington Field are another band who have spread beyond the genre while at the same time keeping one foot firmly in place. The album starts with the furious ‘Ghostwriter’ and the rest of Greenwood keeps up the place with ‘The Hitchhiker’s Guide Out of Suburbia’ following.
The catchy, fist in the air music coupled with the dark lyrics is sometimes at odds with the almost jolly sometimes music. The fiddle and the banjo keep them in folk-punk land and they are signed to folk-punk friendly East Grand Records who have no end of great bands on their roster, including more than a couple excellent celtic-punk bands. From the pounding and metalesque ‘Target Rich Environment’ to the slow punk rock ballad ‘Calarity Jane’ this is a fantastic album and Beau further shows his talents as one of the best lyricist’s in celtic-punk.
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MICKEY RICKSHAW- ‘No Heaven For Heroes’ (BUY)
Well well well we all know The Dropkick Murphys can’t go on for ever and with Boston’s place secured in celtic-punk folklore who then will take on their mantle when they have gone? Well fellow Bostonians Mickey Rickshaw are up for the job. A team of young fired up blue collar Irish Americans in touch with both their working class American lives and their roots back in the auld country. With Boston’s massive Irish population as well as its place in the history of punk then traditional celtic folk and punk rock aggression equals the 100% perfect sound for the Boston Irish and if the Murphys invented celtic punk post Pogues then its bands like Mickey Rickshaw that will carry for the flame for the next generation. The EP ’16 Down and Back Again’ came out in 2013 but it has been No Heaven For Heroes that has seen their name explode onto the celtic-punk scene with universal great reviews and plaudits heaped upon them from all corners of the globe. The first of the album’s twelve tracks starts with an eastern European flavour before ‘Sapphire Hills’ hits you in the jaw. The album flows mercilessly at at breakneck speed with no let up and the few times you think a ballad is on its way you are resoundly proved wrong!
‘Sapphire Hills’ is an early standout as is ‘I’m Sorry Mrs Mahoney’ but after a few listens you begin to realise that the whole album is one big standout. The album takes in some nice touches of ska as well as hardcore and will leave you out of breath and ready to swop all your Dropkick t-shirts for Mickey Rickshaw ones. Unbelievably the album is available to download for just a single dollar so get on there as quick as you can and make haste to get it into your earholes! LONG LIVE BOSTON CELTIC-PUNK!!!!
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So ends Part 3 and again apologies to all the bands that we weren’t able to give each album the full London Celtic Punks treatment but was just not possible with time on our backs. If you missed Parts One and Two check them out (Part One here and Part Two here)but if you don’t want to miss any of our posts in future then you can follow us by simply filling in your e-mail address in the box that is either below or to the left depending how you are viewing and you will receive every post to your in-box.