Since it is St. Patrick’s Day and a celebration of all things Irish, why not celebrate by thinking of your favorite Irish bands and their contributions to our culture. I’m thinking mainly of rock bands, but you don’t have to necessarily limit yourself. (I’m sure there are some Ronan Tynan fans out there!) Here’s a quick list of ten of my favorites.
1. U2 – “Sunday Bloody Sunday” (From “War” 1983) Never have U2 sounded more biting and vital than they do here. “Achtung Baby” may be my favorite album by them, but here is where they really established themselves. The song is dead-seriously political, but it manages to rock viciously. If you are looking for an example of Bono blending both his worlds of expertise, it doesn’t get crisper and clearer than it is here.
2. Van Morrison – “Brown Eyed Girl” (From “Blowin’ Your Mind!” 1967) Has there ever been a song more abused in movie-trailers? As culturally ubiquitous as this song is, as much as it’s been shoved down our throats, it’s undeniable partly because of Morrison’s righteous rasp and that plucky guitar-line.
3. The Boomtown Rats – “I Don’t Like Mondays” (From “The Fine Art of Surfacing” 1979) Does anyone else find it weird that Bono’s brother-in-charity, Bob Geldof rose to fame singing a darkly witty song which seems to be about a school shooting? I’m sure many radio DJ’s and tired workers have missed this point at some point or another. The song is actually better in many ways if you haven’t figured that out, but it still has earned its place in history.
4. Damien Rice – “The Blower’s Daughter” (From “O” 2003) Damien Rice is the modern face of sensitively poetic Irish singer-songwriter-dom. “The Blower’s Daughter” may not have been a huge hit, but it’s cemented in the heads of anyone who happened to see the movie “Closer” a few years ago. It’s nearly impossible for me to hear that song without imagining Natalie Portman walking down the street in slow motion. It’s a powerful cinematic moment, and it shows how important a good soundtrack can be. Please also note, Rice’s too-often unsung co-hort, Lisa Hannigan, who on this track delivers an excellent closing, background-vocal performance.
5. Sinead O’Connor “Nothing Compares 2 U” (From “I Do Not Want What I Haven’t Got” 1990) The song may not be Irish, but that’s OK. Sinead makes the song her own. When you consider, Prince wrote it and originally recorded his own falsetto-soaked version of it, that’s a pretty impressive feat.
6. Glen Hansard and Markéta Irglová “Falling Slowly” (From “Once” 2007) Only Hansard is Irish, but I figure Irglová should get a pass considering she lives in Ireland and the Oscar winning tune was the centerpiece for “Once,” a film all about two musicians in Dublin. It’s a dynamic example of scales working well as melody. The song gets more beautiful and haunting with every listen.
7. The Cranberries “Linger” (From “Everybody Else Is Doing It, So Why Can’t We?” 1993) This was the Cranberries’ first hit and it shines a little brighter than their others. Some may find it highly mock-worthy, but consider how serene it is in comparison to later hits like “Zombie.” It bounces along in an echo-drenched sweet-universe of its own.
8. The Pogues “Summer In Siam” (From “Hell’s Ditch” 1990) The Pogues formed in London, but Shane MacGowan’s delivery is distinctly Irish. This track is a slick dose of raining-down piano sounds, drums and saxophone. It may not be their most famous track, but it is among their best.
9. The Undertones “Teenage Kicks” (From “The Undertones” 1979) Quite simply, “Teenage Kicks” is a fresh dose of Irish punk. Three-chord fuzz at its best!
10. Bell X1 – “Eve, The Apple of My Eye” (From “Flock” 2006 – U.S. Edition 2008) “Flock” was a big hit in Ireland, and it just hit U.S. shelves a few weeks ago. “Eve” received some U.S. attention a few years back when it was featured on an episode of “The O.C.” and on one of that series’ soundtracks. Like many other of Bell X1’s songs, it has a larger-than-life stately elegance to it. This is a sadly beautiful love song of the highest order.
What do you think? Happy St. Patrick’s Day.