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Friday, March 14, 2008

Music: Shamrock Shake Rattle and Roll

Green beer, green face paint, green vomit, it must be St. Patrick's Day. Or so you'll be saying on Monday when the shamrock tramp stamps are on display on the lower backs of young Irish lasses across the nation.

But Irish culture is about more than just a hangover and the movie Leprechaun 4: In Space -- it's about great literature and music. So with that in mind I'm taking the low road this year and giving you a list of great Irish musical acts -- this does not include traditional Irish acts like the Clancy Brothers or Clannad or people of Irish heritage like Johnny Rotten or O'Shea Jackson.

1) U2
I know, big shock. Still these guys are clearly the biggest Irish musicians in the world. Despite hobnobbing with Kings and Presidents and being all earnest and righteous they still have a sense of humour. They also put on a blazing live show. Here's the foot fetishy weirdo video from their Berlin phase era song "Numb":

2) The Pogues
Just look at the picture of Shane MacGowan above. Walking stereotype though he may be, The Pogues took traditional Irish music and jammed punk rock up it's wee arse to create some of the best albums of the 80s. Here's the video for "White City":

3. The Undertones

The Undertones catchy punk rock is a major influence on much more successful later bands like Weezer. Famed DJ John Peel asked for their song "Teenage Kicks", as potent an ode to masturbatory fantasies as ever done, to be played at his funeral. They cleverly tweaked their own lyrical concerns and the title of fellow Sire Records label-mates Talking Heads' second album with the song "More Songs About Chocolate and Girls". Behold, the vid for "Teenage Kicks":

4. Stiff Little Fingers

While the Undertones took the pop-punk approach, Stiff Little Fingers were bracingly political and uncompromising. Their debut Inflammable Material is a genuine punk classic and their sharp lyrics took on the religious and class divides that were pulling Northern Ireland to pieces in the late 70s and early 80s. Here they are in 1980 doing "Gotta Getaway":

5. Van Morrison

Van Morrison first became a star as frontman of the garage rock band Them in the mid- 60s, pounding out stompers like "Gloria" and "Mystic Eyes". He then embraced hard American R & B, combining it with hints of pastoral folk on groundbreaking albums like Astral Weeks and his biggest hit Moondance. Here he is as a teen with Them doing "Baby Please Don't Go":

6. Sinead O' Connor

Strip away all of the silliness about ripping up the Pope's picture and her infatuation with Rastafarianism etc. and you have one of the most powerful voices in rock, with at least two fantastic albums to her name. Her feistiness prefigured the riot grrl and confessional Alanisette movements of the mid-90s. Here she is at the Grammys in 1988 doing "Mandinka" -- happy birthday Billy Crystal:

7. Thin Lizzy

Best known for their hit "The Boys are Back in Town" Thin Lizzy were like an Irish E-Street Band, taking some of the same sounds that influenced Van Morrison and hardening them up. The Irish have sometimes been described as the blacks of the British isles but leader Phil Lynott was black and Irish so that makes him doubly-cool. Here they are doing "Dancing in the Moonlight":

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