There are the great love songs, like "I'll Take You Home Again Kathleen"

the haunting "Danny Boy/Londonderry Air"

The tragic final words of a condemned man to his lover in "Grace"

and the utterly bewitching "She Moved Through the Fair".

Of course, there are the more serious, sombre ones too, like "The Mountains of Mourne"

"Spancil Hill"

and of course "Cockels and Mussels" (usually mistitled as "Molly Malone", for obvious reasons).

Though it's relatively recent (1967) I like "Four Green Fields"

And for those of you who doubted it existed, here to close this section is the traditional, original version of the song made world-famous by Thin Lizzy, "Whisky in the Jar".

There's even the odd metal band knocking around Ireland.
Most are better than these guys.

A Brief Crack of Light - Therapy? - 2012 (Blast Records)

One of the unsung survivors of the Irish rock scene, Therapy? have forged ahead in the face of decreasing media interest but decent record sales, to produce thirteen albums, of which this is their latest. They're a band I haven't heard before, so this is the first time I'll be listening to, never mind, reviewing, one of their albums. Let's see whether it's a good or bad experience.

Hailing from County Antrim, the band has been going since 1989, and although they started life as a trio, one of the founder members, drummer Fyfe Ewing, left in 1996 and was replaced by Graham Hopkins, with cellist Martin McCarrick added to round the band out to a quartet. They play mostly post-rock and metal, and have gained a pretty huge following over the twenty-three years now that they've been in existence.
The album opens with a heavy blast of guitar and drums as "Living in the Shadow of a Terrible Thing" rocks its way out, a track that was also the first single released from the album. There is Metallica style bass and almost punk vocals courtesy of Andy Cairns, who also plays the guitar with some pretty mighty feedback, and the guitar work gets harder and faster for "Plague Bell". More punk-style almost shouted vocals, with a lot of anger (real or simulated I don't know) kind of reminscent at times of the Clash. So far, it's not really my kind of metal though, and whereas the lyric here declares "I hate every second" I wouldn't go that far, but up to this point there's not a lot I like about this album, or this band.

I really can't see anywhere that a cello is going to fit into this music though, and a cursory glance over Therapy?'s catalogue shows me that the last time Martin McCarrick contributed to an album was 2003's High Anxiety, so maybe he's no longer with them? Surprisingly, "Marlow" is a lot better, great instrumental, very melodic and with a sort of mixture of Big Country and U2 about the guitar work, then "Before You, with You, After You" comes on strong, with more hard, angry vocals and sharp guitar with pounding drumwork, decent hook in the chorus though. Even uses some vocoder. Yeah.

"The Buzzing", however, is just annoying. Basically just noise with the vocals shouted rather than sung. It does settle down a little with about a minute to go, eventually, but I just don't think that much of it at all. Not crazy about "Get Your Dead Hand Off My Shoulder" either. "Ghost Trio" has a nice jangly guitar intro at least, one of the two longest tracks on the album at over five minutes, and it's not too bad. The guitar takes on a hypnotic, almost sitar-like quality as the song goes along, and is probably the best (only good) part of the song. I have to say, I don't think much of Andy Cairns' vocals though, even if his guitar work is pretty damn good.
The album is kind of going past in a haze of noise and shouting now. "Why Turbulence" has a decent chugging guitar riff but not a lot else, while "Stark Raving Sane" is at least decent hard rock/metal, then the last, and longest, track surprises totally by slowing everything down and using those vocoders again, and to be fair Cairns' vocal on "Ecclesiastes" is much better: why doesn't he sing like this all the time? The guitar is ominous and dramatic, the drumming slow and measured, and if there was anywhere that McCarrick's cello would have fitted on this album it would have been here, but I don't hear it. There's a certain feeling of Tiamat about this, and it's a decent closer, a very good closer in fact, but it's not enough to save the album.
I thought I would like this, but it's too raw and too undisciplined for my liking. I do like metal -  love it, in fact - but I like it, like all the music I enjoy, to have structure and meaning, and Therapy? fail to manage this, in my opinion on this album. If there's a brief crack of light here, it's with the final track, but the door snaps shut and I'm left in pretty much total darkness. And I don't like the dark...


1. Living in the Shadow of a Terrible Thing
2. Plague Bell
3. Marlow
4. Before You, with You, After You
5. The Buzzing
6. Get Your Dead Hand Off My Shoulder
7. Ghost Trio
8. Why Rurbulence
9. Stark Raving Sane
10. Ecclesiastes

The Monkeys in the Zoo Have More Fun Than Me - Jape - 2004 (Trust me I'm a thief)

Fourth album by Dublin's Jape, with certainly one of the funnest titles I've seen in a long time, this is again a new venture for me, having heard nothing from this band prior to this. Let's hope it turns out better than my first (and, after that, last) encounter with Therapy?! Formed in 2003 as a side project by Richie Egan to his current band the Redneck Manifesto, Jape are said to be electro/pop, so that in itself would not seem to bode well for me, an old rocker. But this week is all about exploring every aspect of Irish music I can fit in, not just rock, and anyway, after enduring "A brief crack of light" last night, I'm ready for a little synthpop fluff. So let's have a listen.
There are only eight tracks on the album, and the opener, and lead single, "Floating", has a nice laidback almost eastern feel to it, with sitar-like sounds and possibly jews harp, thick synthesisers laying down a nice easy soundscape and Richie's voice quite soothing, sounds on the keys made to sound like bubbles (floating, geddit?) and it's a nice easygoing start, continued then in "Reminding me", with a slow, low keyboard line and drums so sparse they're almost not there, but some lovely sparkly keys too, a very understated vocal more suited really to an acoustic number, though nothing even gets close to rocking out here, if Jape ever do, which I don't know. Lovely introspective guitar keeping pace with the keys. This song takes the word laidback to new levels. Lovely. It's followed by "How Much Light", a slightly more uptempo song with some nice harmonica and a sort of semi-reggae beat.
I'm not entirely sure, but I get the impression Jape is a one-man affair, with Egan playing all the instruments and singing, and writing all the compositions, though I could be wrong. Information on the band (singer, whatever) is hard to come by: even the official website doesn't make it clear. But I think it is a solo effort. At any rate, things go back to relaxing and ballad territory with "The Hardest Thing to Do", mostly carried on guitar, the instrument almost used as an extension of Richie's voice. It's quite echoey, as if he were recording in a large, empty room, and adds to the intimate, down-to-earth feel you get from his music.
More upfront guitar then in a slightly, well, louder track with "To the Sea", yet retaining the restrained feel of pretty much most of this album, getting a little rockier as it approaches the last two minutes, some nice percussion kicking in and accompanying the guitar in an instrumental ending. Lounge-style guitar and a certain sense of early Santana then in "A Journey is Just a Memory", while "Autumn Summer" is a little more uptempo - though not much - some nice keys and gentle percussion, and the album then ends on the longest track, six and three quarter minutes of "Always knew", a slow, lazy, relaxed guitar piece with a nice little jangly and catchy riff running through it.

Probably one of the most laidback albums I've listened to since Antimatter's Planetary Confinement or Lanterns on the Lake's Gracious Tide, Take me Home, Jape prove, or proves, that rock music does not have to be necessarily loud and fast to sound good, and that there is definitely room in Irish music for the more introspective, contemplative and intimate sound. With work like this to back him up, it's not at all surprising really that Jape just last week won the Meteor Choice Music award for the new album Ocean of Frequency, previous album Ritual having scooped the same award in 2008.


1. Floating
2. Reminding Me
3. How Much Light
4. The Hardest Thing to Do
5. To the Sea
6. A Journey is Just a Memory
7. Autumn Summer
8. Always Knew

#19 Mar 17, 2023, 10:40 PM Last Edit: Mar 17, 2023, 10:42 PM by Trollheart
We Love You Dark Matter - Dark Room Notes - 2009 (Gonzo)

Anohter electro-pop outfit with an interesting name, I know little about them other than what I have just now read, but they appear to be one of the rising stars on the Irish electropop/synthpop scene. They have a new album due out next month, but this is their debut and another album that was shortlisted for the Meteor Choice award (yes, that again!), back in 2010.
"Each and Every One of Us" opens the album on a bright keyboard melody with drums that sound like a horse walking along, then the vocals of Ronan Gaughan cut in, intense and a little angry, but without the wild abandon of some vocalists in the same bracket. Nice guitar work too, and it seems both he and fellow founder member Ruairi Ferrie play guitar, sing, play synth and program (presumably the drum machines they use), with the addition of glockenspiel (!) being played by both Ferrie and the remaining member of the trio, Arran Murphy. This will make it a little difficult to know who's singing, so I'll just leave that hanging in the air. "Love Like Nicotine", the lead-in single, is a rockier affair, with a lot of indie-style guitar and a really nice keyboard hook. A lot of energy in this song, really hops along, and the tempo doesn't slacken for "The Same City Awaits Us", the verses a little more stripped-down and basic than previous tracks, with some nice twiddly guitar bits and some pretty heavy drumming and a nice dancy synth solo halfway through. Kind of reminds me in places of Depeche Mode or New Order, though I was never much into that sort of music.

A bit more laidback and pop is "Fast Flashes/Who is Isabella Moonlight?" I know I can hear female vocals in there: whose are they? Who, indeed, is Isabella? More new-wave style keys a la the likes of Fiction Factory, but the song is catchy, however I don't get the idea of the double title? A very dancy number but with overtones of both The The and Ric Ocasek is "This Hot Heat" (what other kind of heat would you have?), with some nice guitar touches breaking up the more or less predominant keyboard sound, handclap drumbeats, which never go down well with me, and a vocal which is just this side of rap, also not a good sign, from my point of view.
Much more back in the rock vein is "Broken Nail", with keyboard flourishes recalling Bronskibeat (urgh!) and Visage, but the guitars really break out on this track and stamp their authority on the song, overriding the banks of synthesisers for once, and to good effect. Okay, I'm going to go out on a limb here and hypothesise that Arran Murphy is female (sorry if you're not!), as their picture shows a woman with two guys, and Ruari and Ronan are definitely male names, whereas Arran is that sort of name that could be either, like Vivian or Ronnie. "Elm" is a sort of striding electro-rocker, with a deep bass beat and squealing keyboards, the tiniest edges of punk just scraping off it as it passes by, and again the Cars/Ocasek influences are back. Hey, those keyboards sound like an accordion, just there! Oh, they're gone now.

Thick heavy bass intro to "Shake Shake My Ceiling", then it kicks off into another fast electronic popster, the bass continuing to carry the rhythm as the keyboards and synths wail away, guitar cutting in and good backing vocals filling out the song. There's a slow and atmospheric opening then to "Let's Light Fires", but it quickly picks up speed and bops along on a superfast synth and drum pattern, with a lot of energy and power, then "Treetops" takes us to the end of the album with what sounds like a more laidback, slightly slower song, with bassy synth and handclap drums, understated vocal and some sparkly piano. On synth, no doubt.
Yeah, this is good, but it's not my kind of music so it's a little hard to get too excited about it. For me, electronic music, with a very few exceptions, has always sounded just a little empty, soulless. I don't really get that from this particular album, but I don't see it that much different from the admittedly limited examples of this genre I have heard. A very good debut album, but purely on the basis of not being into this sort of thing I would not be in any huge hurry to hear the new album. For those of you waiting though, only a few more weeks to go, if rumours are to be believed.


1. Each and Every One of Us
2. Love Like Nicotine
3. The Same City Awaits Us
4. Fast Flushes/Who is Isabella Moonlight?
5. This Hot Heat
6. Broken Nail
7. Elm
8. Shake Shake My Ceiling
9. Let's Light Fires
10. Treetops

People - Hothouse Flowers - 1988 (London)[

Something of a force in Irish rock music in the late eighties, the debut album from Dublin's Hothouse Flowers was also their most successful, though they're still recording and releasing albums. This album secured a place in Irish music history as being the biggest selling debut album in Ireland, a record it still holds. With a mix of rock, pop, soul, gospel and Irish traditional music, Hothouse Flowers tapped into a zeitgeist that netted them a number two slot in the UK album charts and a single that fell just short of the top ten.
It opens on bright piano and guitar, Liam O'Maonlai's narrative vocal almost recalling the likes of Dylan and Waits on "I'm Sorry", bubbly organ and uptempo drumming kicking the song in with a gospel-style vocal backing as O'Maonlai goes into a normal style of singing, with a strong, raunchy voice that demands attention and pays homage to the great soul singers of the past. Their biggest hit single is next, and "Don't Go" is built on a frothy piano melody, Liam's vocal almost scat at times, kind of wandering and laconic, while Dave Clarke (no, not that one!) keeps a steady rhythm on the drumkit. Some great sax from Leo Barnes adds to the pure joy engendered by this song, and the gospel chorus is back, then "Forgiven" is again gospel-inspired, but a slow, bluesy style song this time, much more guitar led with hardly any piano, and more surprisingly, given the nature of the song, no gospel chorus.
Things stay slow and gospelly for "It'll Be Easier in the Morning", built on a solid organ  melody with some really nice brass, and the return of the gospel chorus. Great bit of fiddle provided by Andre Previn's daughter, Lovely. Though his voice is not in the same league, you can certainly draw parallels between Liam and Meat Loaf; the same power and passion, almost religious fervour in some of the songs, and the undeniable charisma of the man, who not surprisingly became the focus and face of the band. "Hallelujah Jordan" is another song based on guitar rather than piano (and Liam plays both, but we assume the main guitar parts here to be played by his compatriot Fiachna O'Braonain), more great backing vocals - uncredited, as far as I can see - and a song that could have been written by Paddy McAloon or Ricky Ross.

"If You Go" becomes really the first ballad, very powerful and dramatic, with some great violin - uncredited, but may we assume that's Lovely Previn as well? - and a standout sax solo right in the middle that only adds intensity and power to the song, Liam singing his heart out with real passion and conviction, but it's "The Older We Get" that forms the standout track for me. A gentle, laidback ballad that slowly builds from quiet and tranquil beginnings to a strong, punchy climax built on guitar, bouzouki and mandolin, with almost progressive rock leanings, it's filled out by slowly swelling Hammond organ, then the percussion gets more powerful as the intensity rises. It's a real anthem, and should have been a single, but wasn't.
Things pick up then and rock right out for "Yes I Was", guitar and piano meshing in perfect harmony, more triumphant gospel rock in the Church of the Hothouse Flower, then a track I was convinced was a single (though Wiki says otherwise), but was certainly popular on Irish radio when this album was around. "Love Don't Work That Way" is a real boogie blues rocker, with lots of sax and piano, but personally - and I'm probably the only person who would even notice, never mind say, this - I find the melody is a little too close to an early Supertramp song, from their self-titled debut in fact, called "It's a Long Road". When I heard this song, I was convinced that HF had ripped Supertramp off. And maybe they have, but then that album is such a relatively obscure one it's unlikely the guys have ever heard of it, much less heard it. Nonetheless, it spoiled my enjoyment of the track, and still does to this day. That said, it's a rocky, uptempo number, and short enough to have been a single.

It's followed then by the longest track on the album, at a little over six minutes, "The Ballad of Katie." As the title suggests, it's a slow song, written in the lyrical style of a western, cowboy sort of song, something like Icehouse's "Heartbreak Kid", with a solid organ melody carrying the tune and again some soulful sax from Gary Barnacle. I also get a certain feeling of Nick Cave or Cohen about this track too. I must say though I do find it a little overlong, and it has a very disappointing, damp squib ending. "Feet on the Ground" is a faster gospel rocker, with a lot of INXS's "New Sensation" in the melody, and given the fact that Kick was only released the previous year, well...

I don't want to keep accusing the Flowers of plaigarism, but that's twice now I can hear other songs in theirs. Could be coincidence, homage, who knows? At any rate, "Lonely Lane" is a nice mid-pacer, with great organ and guitar and another narrative vocal from Liam, more sax helping the song along until the album closes on "Saved", perhaps an appropriate title for an album so heavily influenced by gospel music. A nice semi-ballad, it has some interesting sitar passages but ultimately it kind of leaves me cold.


1. I'm Sorry
2. Don't Go
3. Forgiven
4. It'll Be Easier in the Morning
5. Hallelujah Jordan
6. If You Go
7. The Older We Get
8. Yes I Was
9. Love Don't Work That Way
10. Ballad of Katie
11. Feet On the Ground
12. Lonely Lane
13. Saved

The Irish abroad
Though not as prolific as UK acts, we Irish have troubled the charts more than you might expect, even scoring a few number ones. Here is a shortlist of Irish artists who have made it into the UK singles charts over the years.

Gilbert O'Sullivan

One of our biggest and most successful exports of the 70s was Gilbert O'Sullivan, who racked up a total of six top ten hits, including two number ones. Here are some of them. Well, okay, "Matrimony" didn't chart, but I like it so it's here: was one of the first records I ever heard, so it holds a particularly special place in my heart.

The Boomtown Rats

Of course, before he became all knighted and respectable, Bob led the Boomtown Rats on an assault on the charts which yielded two number one singles...


Clannad had a hit with the theme to "Harry's Game", and they teamed up with Bono to record another hit, the rather dour "In a Lifetime".