Happy St. Patrick’s Day, everyone! We’re not asking you to put a mint rinse in your hair, dirty up your drinks with green food coloring or drive the snakes out of your hometown by blasting the 1975 out of your sister’s Kia. We do suggest you check out some great music that uses Celtic and Irish signifiers as a great point of sonic and social inspiration.
The cornerstone of Celt-punk genre, the Pogues mixed traditional Irish instrumentation and rapid tempos and imbued it all with snarling punk attitude. If you don’t have at least one Pogues song on your music playback device, don’t brag about it. You’ll get more than a few pint glasses thrown at you.
Nine albums in, and the Boston (okay, Quincy, Massachusetts) Celt-punk outfit are just as boisterous, relevant and fired up as ever. Big amps, big sounds and big hearts are what make the DKs an enduring name in punk rock, period. You’ve heard “I’m Shipping Up To Boston” a bunch of times already, but it’s “Blood,” that truly rings as a personal anthem.
The Chicago-based sextet are a force in the genre and recently had their 10th album, Smash The Windows, released earlier this month on Victory. Frontman T. Duggins has a voice best described as “classic,” offering both melodic expression and a gruff barking that puts 88.8 percent of all street-punk frontmen to shame.
Formed at the beginning of the century, Flatfoot 56 have evolved as players and songwriters, from their early rough-housing to the spirited rave-ups that make up 2012’s Toil. And sorry Jonathan Davis, the 6’ers Eric McMahon could take you on in a bagpipe faceoff. The band’s new album, Odd Boat, wil be released on Sailor’s Grave Records on April 28.
Rock crits scratched their head when Dave King—formerly of ’80s metal act Fastway alongside former members of UFO and Mötorhead—unveiled Flogging Molly to the LA club scene in 1993. He and life-partner/fiddle player Bridget Regan have turned FloMo into an Irish-punk juggernaut with five albums, Warped Tour stints and sold-out tours to their name. The follow-up to 2011’s Speed Of Darkness is due this year.
Although Waterboys founder Mike Scott is a card-carrying Scotsman, he and his band have used various Celtic, Scottish and English folk tropes as launchpads for his inspired songwriting. The bittersweet “Whole Of The Moon” is a bona fide classic. (You should also check out their track “I Will Not Follow,” a swipe at a superstar Irish stadium-rock band.)
The Real McKenzies
This Canadian Celt-punk delegation have been at it since their inception in 1992, with frontman Paul McKenzie as the only constant. Their latest, Two Devils Will Talk, is arguably the best current-day amalgam of contemporary punk energy and traditional Celtic folk. For folks who keep the Chieftains and Bad Religion on the same playlists.
The Levellers formed in 1988 and have been inspiring and exciting audiences all over Europe to this day. Their last studio album, Static On The Airwaves, came out in 2012; recent releases were focused on renditions of their classic releases like their definitive LP, 1991’s Levelling The Land.
Shane MacGowan And The Popes
The genius literary madman from the Pogues left the band in 1992 to strike out on his own with a new outfit called the Popes. Their 1994 album The Snake is truly a benchmark of the genre.
Frontman Gregory Grene has been the only constant in this long-running outfit that started 30 years ago, but their brisk and fervent sound feels like they formed last year. Grene and his crew consistently create tracks that are melodically resonant and fueled with a crashing punk energy.
The Boys From County Hell
Yes, they’re very much a Pogues cover band. They’re on this list because these guys have never turned in a bad gig, showing supreme musicianship while navigating the psychic seas that churn in the wake of crowds impacted by too much beer consumption. And they’re from our hometown of Cleveland. And if you don’t like that, well, pogue mahone.