Gang of Green

Six essential Irish acts that would win St. Paddy’s approval.

With another St. Patrick's Day upon us, we'll once again don the green, approximate some lame Irish accents, and prepare to ingest massive amounts of oddly tinted beer. Worthy pursuits all, but why not add some music to the mayhem? The Irish music of today effectively merges irreverence and tradition. As proof, we present six cutting-edge Irish acts certain to shake your shamrocks.

The songs of the Saw Doctors revel in the joys of the Emerald Isles, specifically the innocence and exhilaration of their youth as spent in those idyllic environs. Their up-tempo tunes will rouse the masses from their drunken stupor just as their sentimental ballads will put tears in their beer. That Takes the Biscuit gathers various outtakes and rarities, but this isn't a trifle bunch of throwaways. "She's Got It," "Fortunately," and "Good News" offer an excellent introduction for the uninitiated.

Based in Brooklyn but borne by Irish expatriates, Black 47 is dark indeed. Meshing fierce tenacity with stirring sentiment, the band's latest, Iraq, is its most affecting effort yet, voicing the fears and frustrations of troops serving in that faraway hellhole.

Anchored by Dublin-born Dave King, Flogging Molly calls Los Angeles home, but laid-back La-La Land hasn't muffled the band's fierce invectives. Combining rugged anthems with double-time rhythms, the latest album, Float, typifies the group's ability to tout punk platitudes under the guise of Celtic tradition.

The same can be said of the Dropkick Murphys, another bunch of reckless rowdies whose music oozes spit and snarl. Bred in Boston — where Irish ancestry is as much a part of the city's heritage as Paul Revere, the Kennedy clan, and Harvard Yard — they blend standard rock regalia with bagpipes, bodhran, and plenty of bluster. The Meanest of Times lives up to its title, tossing out songs that rant, rumble, and rail about angst, anger, and oppression.

Born into poverty, turbulent troubadour Damien Dempsey transforms his bitterness and frustration into a form of eloquent insurgency. Hailed in his native land — he's been named best male artist by the Irish press — he combines the over-the-top ferocity of Bono with the poetic intellect of Bob Dylan. Dempsey's fourth studio set, To Hell or Barbados, is as far-reaching as its name implies, running a gamut from rants ("Kilburn Stroll") to reggae ("Your Pretty Smile") to pure rumble ("Serious"). Menacing — but mesmerizing.

 
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