Dropkick Murphys: The Meanest Of Times

Dropkick Murphys are back with their sixth full length album, The Meanest Of Times. The new CD features guest vocals by Spider Stacy of The Pogues and Ronnie Drew from The Dubliners. The Murphys are probably the most famous and loudest of the post-Pogues “Celtic punk” bands – followed closely by Flogging Molly and The Tossers – and their music is still as fiery as ever.

From beginning to end, the new disc is bursting with high energy tunes that show off the band’s signature rough and rowdy blend of punk rock noise and traditional Irish instrumentation. Among them are the parochial school anthem “Famous For Nothing”, the pounding requiem “God Willing”, and the socially conscious whirlwinds “The State Of Massachusetts”, “Vices & Virtues”, and “Shattered”.

All but three of the album’s songs are originals – “(F)Lannigan’s Ball”, “Fairmount Hill”, and “Johnny, I Hardly Knew Ya” are warped arrangements of the traditional “Lannigan’s Ball”, “Spancil Hill”, and “When Johnny Comes Marching Home” with new lyrics by the band. I’ve always preferred when the Murphys twist traditional tunes – such as their awesome version of “Rocky Road To Dublin”.

Spider Stacy of The Pogues and Ronnie Drew from The Dubliners lend their voices to “(F)Lannigan’s Ball”, which was recorded in Dublin. “Fairmont Hill” is the calmest moment on the album, but the track keeps a firm grasp on the Murphy’s trademark growl while taking on a sea chantey rhythm. “Johnny, I Hardly Knew Ya” is the most affecting piece, as the Murphys strip off the genteel sentimentality of the traditional war hymn and paint it over with the harshness of reality.

Dropkick Murphys Official Site

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The Tossers: Agony

The Tossers are among the growing number of bands that have been labeled as “Celtic Punk”, a genre which also includes The Pogues, Flogging Molly, Darby O’Gill And The Little People, and Dropkick Murphys. Like their musical compatriots, The Tossers incorporate traditional instruments such as mandolin, fiddle, tin whistle and banjo into a modern punk-rock style. I came to know of the Chicago band from a comment left on my review of Flogging Molly’s Within A Mile From Home, though their sound more often resembles the harder rock edge of Dropkick Murphys – with whom they’ve shared the stage.

The album’s opening track, “Never Enough”, weaves rock whirlwinds with dramatically quiet intervals that emphasize the stringed instrumentation as well as the growling voice of singer T Duggins.

Tracks like “Pub and Culture” and “Where Ya Been Johnny?” lean more toward the snarling punk-rock side, while “Shade” and “Not Forgotten” tone it down for a more traditional strum. Lively tunes like “Did It All For You”, “Siobhan”, and “Romany” find a nice balance in between the two extremes. And “The Sheep In The Boots” is a spine-chilling instrumental that mixes a shrieking violin with what sounds like human cries.

Agony may sometimes lack the authenticity and charm found elsewhere in the Celtic Punk genre, but it’s still grand craic altogether.

The Tossers – Siobban (mp3)

The Tossers Official Site
The Tossers MySpace

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Darby O’Gill And The Little People: Traditional Irish Dance Music Vol. 1

Darby O’Gill And The Little People’s sound is a mix of traditional Irish music and modern rock. Similar to Flogging Molly or The Pogues, but Darby’s band doesn’t take themselves so seriously. Their humorous take on traditional music is more akin to Tiger Lillies. Their debut studio album, Traditional Irish Dance Music Vol. 1, is a well rounded mix of hilarity, rock, and traditional instruments and melodies. It would have topped my 2006 album list, but it was released in 2003.

Darby O’Gill And The Little People’s moniker was taken from the Disney movie based on Herminie Templeton Kavanagh’s stories about an Irish man named Darby O’Gill who enters the kingdom of the Leprechauns. I first heard the band on the podcast Coverville, which featured their cover of Radiohead’s “Creep”. The band’s name alone was enough to catch my attention. After all, my boy was born and bred in County Meath, I lived there myself for a time, and we have a cat named after the Darby O’Gill character.

The band is composed of five musicians with obviously fake names. As the stereotypical names and four-leaf clover symbol (real shamrocks only have three) indicate, they are not an authentic Irish band. Drummer “Paddy O’Furniture” (real name Paul Sinnott) is the only member of the band who is actually from Ireland. The rest of the musicians, including the lead singer Darby O’Gill (Andy Morris), are natives of Las Vegas. But their fake Irish accents and pub style are plenty good enough to fool most people.

“Boys From County Hell” begins the album with a bang. Probably more than any other track, this sounds like Flogging Molly. Fast pace, hard drums, loud Irish-accented harmonies.

The pretty “Ocean Away” has male and female vocal harmonies that call to mind “Fairytale Of New York”. “Gates Of Hell” picks the pace back up with a Poguesque sound featuring lots of accordion, fiddle, and funny lyrics.

Next is an accordion heavy, inappropriately and wonderfully upbeat cover of TLC’s “Waterfalls”. The verse vocals are a little monotonous, but the album is worth purchasing solely for Darby’s comical take on Lisa “Left Eye” Lopez’s rap.

Then there’s “Wild Rover (Dirty Version)”. The music is true to the traditional Irish ballad, but the lyrics are quite raunchy and funny. “The Thistle” is a softer, pretty fiddle tune. Most of the band’s songs would fit well in an Irish pub, but especially this one.

“15Pints (And I’m Still Standing)” is the stand out track on the album. It has a strong rock beat mixed with fiddle and a loud, harmonic chorus worthy of Saw Doctors. “Whiskey In The Jar” is a traditional Irish song, which may surprise Thin Lizzy or (cringe) Metallica fans. Darby’s cover of the song is cheerier than most.

The cover of Radiohead’s “Creep” follows, at first sounding like a standard woe is me cover. But when the chorus kicks in, it’s brilliantly jolly thanks to the faster pace, accordion, and fiddle. And Darby’s tongue in cheek vocals give Richard Cheese a run for his money.

Call me crazy, but the music of “Drink The Night Away” reminds me of the Fraggle Rock theme. Their cover of Outkast’s “The Whole World” begins with a traditional jig sound before breaking into an Irish rap.

The lyrics of “I Got So Drunk I Crapped Myself” are every bit as funny as the title suggests. The song officially ends the album on a very high note, followed by a short, sweet hidden track that we’ll just call “Bitch Give Me My Money”.

Darby O’Gill And The Little People – Gates Of Hell (mp3)
Darby O’Gill And The Little People – Wild Rover (mp3)
Darby O’Gill And The Little People – Boys From County Hell (mp3) *

*mp3s hosted by & posted w/ permission of band

Darby O’Gill’s Official Site
Darby on MySpace

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Flogging Molly: Within A Mile Of Home

If you’ve been reading this blog for a while, you probably already know that Flogging Molly is one of my very favourite bands. I’ve posted about them here frequently throughout the years, and any friend who rides in my car is usually forced to listen to my Flogging Molly mix at full volume. Until recently, I only had heard their music via mp3. I finally got one of their albums, Within A Mile Of Home. Though I was already familiar with a few of the songs, it’s been great fun acquainting myself with the rest of the album.

Flogging Molly’s music has accurately been described as Irish Punk and Celtic Punk. They combine traditional Irish instruments and historical lyric themes with a modern punk-rock sound. They’re often compared to Dropkick Murphys, but their sound is closer to The Pogues or The Clash.

The band is composed of Dave King on vocals and acoustic guitar, Bridget Regan on fiddle and tin whistle, Dennis Casey on electric guitar, Matt Hensley on accordion, Nathen Maxwell on bass, Bob Schmidt on mandolin and banjo, and George Schwindt on drums. King is originally from Dublin, Ireland, but has been living and playing in America since the late 1980s.

Within A Mile Of Home was released by SideOneDummy Records in 2004, and was Flogging Molly’s third studio album. Like all of Flogging Molly’s albums, the lyrics are full of historical drama and the music is charged with energy.

The album opens with “Screaming At The Wailing Wall”, a song heavy with poetic lyrics and political anger.

“The Seven Deadly Sins” is a pirate sea chanty in tribute of Joe Strummer, to whom (along with Johnny Cash) the album is dedicated. The frenzied pace of the song is classic Flogging Molly, calling to mind “Devil’s Dance Floor” from the Swagger album.

“Factory Girls” is a duet with Lucinda Williams. As you’d probably imagine, the sound is a combination of traditional Irish and American alterna-country. It’s a bit more laid back than most of the album.

“Whistles The Wind” is a swaggering Irish drinking ballad with cello and viola. And “The Light Of A Fading Star” is a kind of war-torn love song with upbeat music and bittersweet lyrics.

The foot tappin’ music of “Tobacco Island” masks the lyrical tale of Irish slaves being shipped to Barbadoes by Oliver Cromwell to work on sugar plantations in the seventeenth century. The song is another highlight of the album, and I imagine it’s spectacular live.

“The Wrong Company” is a short acapella Irish drinking song. “Tomorrow Comes A Day Too Soon” has a Cajun flavor to it, thanks to fiddles and washboard. “Queen Anne’s Revenge” features bassist Nathen Maxwell on lead vocal, with a little more punk than Irish in its music. And “The Spoken Wheel” is a lovely, mournful tune that features guest vocals by Noel O’Donovan.

The album closes with “Don’t Let Me Die Still Wondering”, which was inspired by the life and death Johnny Cash. The song is about living life to the fullest.

Flogging Molly Official Site

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