Song Mix Sundays #8: Sláinte!

March 13, 2011 § 2 Comments

I’m Irish. Very Irish. So Irish, in fact, that native Irish residents almost asked what part of Ireland I was from until they heard my American East Coast accent. Needless to say, St. Patrick’s Day is my third favorite holiday after my birthday and Christmas (I consider it a lucky coincidence that my birthday happens to be a week after St. Paddy’s Day).

In honor of my heritage and the biggest Irish Day of the year, I’ve compiled 17 songs in several genres that everyone can party out to all week long. This week’s Song Mix Sunday ranges from your traditional Irish pub song fare to some modern alternative and indie bands you may not have known were Irish.

Éirinn go Brách!

Modern / Alternative

Some Irish modern / alternative / punk / rock / indie bands of note.

1. Snakes and Snakes – Bell X1, Music in Mouth (2003) These guys hail from County Kildare and remind me an awful lot of Snow Patrol (who, incidentally, is based in Northern Ireland). The album this song is from went double-platinum in Ireland and the band gained some attention in the US when “Eve, the Apple of My Eye” – another song from the same album – was featured in an episode of The O.C. [download]

2. Honey Power – My Bloody Valentine, Tremolo – EP (1991) Based in Dublin in the 80s and 90s, My Bloody Valentine are one of the originators of shoegaze – that lo-fi, dreamy, layers of fuzzy guitars sound that’s getting popular again under the guise of nu-gaze.  [download]

3. The Irish Keep Gate-Crashing – The Thrills, Let’s Bottle Bohemia (2004) “Lust, Top 40 fame / I can smell your Catholic shame / But it goes on and on and on and on and on, oh my darling…” Another band originating in Dublin, The Thrills have a relaxed perky sound that takes cues from classic pop in the 70s and 80s. A little head-boppy, a little dancy, a little jangly, and a lot of goodness. Trivia bit: R.E.M.’s Peter Buck contributed a guest mandolin performance on this album. [download]

4. What You Know – Two Door Cinema Club, Tourist History (2010) Two Door Cinema Club formed in Northern Ireland in 2007. The name comes from vocalist Sam Halliday’s mispronunciation of the nearby Tudor Cinema. They stopped by the Y-Not Radio bunker in October last year to record a live acoustic session and interview, where they discuss recording, touring, and their appreciation of cats. Check out the live session here. [download]

5. Let There Be Love – Oasis, Don’t Believe the Truth (2005) *gasp!* A classic Brit-rock band on a St. Paddy’s Day mix? Well, yes, but that’s only because frontman Liam Gallagher is actually Irish: He was born in Manchester, England to two Irish parents. And Wikipedia includes him on their list of Irish musicians. So there. [download]

6. Alternative Ulster – Stiff Little Fingers, Wasted Life (2007) “Take a look where you’re living / You got the Army on your street / And the RUC dog of repression / Is barking at your feet / Is this the kind of place you want to live? / Is this where you want to be? / Is this the only life we’re gonna have? / What we need is / An Alternative Ulster / Grab it and change it, it’s yours…” Stiff Little Fingers is a punk rock band that formed in Belfast during the height of The Troubles in 1977. This song was originally recorded in 1978 and speaks to the anger, frustration, and turmoil in Belfast at the time. The Troubles were a time of extreme political unrest in Northern Ireland rooted in centuries of British occupation and religious and social oppression. Catholics fought violently for civil rights and Irish nationalism while Protestants fought just as violently for British loyalism. “Alternative Ulster” speaks to and against the violence of the time, advocating a sense of creative non-violence in seeing the North however you wish to embrace it instead of giving into violent factions. [download]

Pub Songs

You don’t belong in a pub on St. Paddy’s Day if you don’t know at least some of these songs.

1. Fields of Athenry – Dropkick Murphys, Blackout (2003) “Low lie the fields of Athenry / Where once we watched the small free birds fly / Our love was on the wing / We had dreams and songs to sing / It’s so lonely ’round the fields of Athenry” This ballad was written by Peter St. John in the 1970s. Rife with political meaning, it tells the tale of a young man sentenced to prison for stealing food for his family during the potato famine. Don’t sing this song anywhere in Northern Ireland, as it’s often tied with pro-IRA chants. Do belt the chorus if you’re a big fan of the Republic of Ireland national football team, or the Connacht, Munster, London Irish, or Ireland rugby union teams. [download]

2. Tell Me Ma – Gaelic Storm, Special Reserve (2003) “She is handsome, she is pretty / She’s the belle of Belfast city / She is a-courtin’, one-two-three / Please won’t you tell me who is she!” [download]

3. Dirty Old Town – The Pogues, Rum, Sodomy, and the Lash (1985) “I met my love by the gas works wall / Dreamed a dream by the old canal / I kissed my girl by the factory wall / Dirty old town, dirty old town” This song was originally written in 1949 about a town in England. Because bands like The Dubliners and The Pogues made it popular, most people think of it as Irish. [download]

4. The Leaving of Liverpool – Gaelic Storm, Special Reserve (2003) “So fare thee well, my own true love / When I return united we will be / It’s not the leaving of Liverpool that grieves me / But my darling, when I think of thee!” [download]

5. Wild Rover – Dropkick Murphys, Live on St. Patrick’s Day (2002) “And it’s no, nay, never! / No, nay, never, no more! / Will I play the wild rover / No never, no more!” A temperance song that turned into a drinking song. Naturally. Don’t sing it unless you know how to sing it right: Clapping four times after the first “no, nay, never!”, twice after “no, nay, never, no more!”, once after “wild rover,” and twice more after “no more.” Pounding your glass on the table is an acceptable substitution for clapping. [download]

6. Tim Finnegan’s Wake – The Clancy Brothers, Irish Drinking Songs “Whack-fol-de-dah now dance to your partner / Welt the floor your trotters shake / Wasn’t it the truth I told you? / Lots of fun at Finnegan’s Wake!” This is my favorite Irish drinking song ever. A fine Irishman dies, his friends gather at his wake, a fight breaks out, and Tim Finnegan is brought back to life by the powers of whiskey. My favorite performance of this was at The Brazen Head in Dublin where I sat next to the musicians and the spoon player played the spoons on my knee. The band sang the verses all slow and dramatic and rushed through the chorus – the only time when the audience was allowed to participate. Anyone caught clapping after the chorus finished had to take a drink. [download]

7. Rocky Road to Dublin – The Young Dubliners, Rocky Road (1994) “Hunt the hare and turn her down the rocky road and all the way to Dublin whack-fol-la-de-da!”  [download]

Traditional Irish Music

Because it’s not St. Patrick’s Day without some traditional instrumental tunes you can clog or start a reel to.

1. Diddling Set – Bill Jones, Two Year Winter (2003) Bill Jones is actually a British folk singer. She wrote this song in the style of “mouth music,” a way of singing that developed in Scotland and Northern Ireland where the occupying English government repressed forms of traditional cultural music. Certain instruments were banned from being played publicly, so singers would imitate these instruments with nonsense syllables instead. [download]

2. Live from Matt Molloy’s Pub – The Chieftains, Water from the Well (2000) [download]

3. Bodrhan – The Young Dubliners, Red (2000) [download]

4. The Devil Went Down to Doolin – Gaelic Storm, Herding Cats (1999) [download]


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