14 Irish rock bands – other than U2 – to check out before St. Patrick’s Day


Bono is not on this list.

St. Patrick’s Day and the hangover that comes with it are just around the corner, so it’s important to prepare with a solid Irish reading list. Many of your friends will have obvious choices with big names like U2, Flogging Molly, Dropkick Murphys or The Pogues (and some of these acts are not even Irish). RedEye has compiled a list of 14 Irish Rock Bands You Should Really Listen To While Drinking Green Beer and Jameson. While those choices are limited to groups (sorry Van Morrison, Rory Gallagher, Sinead O’Connor, Mic Christopher, and Damien Rice), the numbers are diverse enough to satisfy anyone who wants to be Irish for a day.

1. The executives

Many know Glen Hansard for his role in the Oscar-winning film “Once”, but the charismatic singer-songwriter has been active in the Irish music scene for 25 years as the frontman of The Frames. Perhaps Ireland’s best live, each of the band’s six studio albums is unmistakably solid. The group also has roots in Chicago. Guitarist Rob Bochnik is from the city. Not to mention that The Frames recorded much of their best album, “For The Birds”, at Steve Albini’s Electrical Audio Studios on the Near North Side.

Below, listen to the band’s single and possibly one of the best rock songs of all time, “Revelate”.

2. The homes of Fatima

The Fatima Mansions was formed by former Microdisney frontman Cathal Coughlan, who had an unbalanced but effective approach to writing aggressive, misanthropic and at times politically sharp lyrics. Although the band was only active from 1988 to 1995, they have six pretty solid albums to show off. The Cork, Ireland-based band’s highest mapping effort is their debut album “Against Nature” in 1989. Experience the weird but still accessible rock art from that album’s single, “Only Losers Take The Bus “.

3. Cranberries

Of course, everyone knows “Zombie,” but Cranberries are more than its stellar ’90s singles suggest. Still active after their formation in 1990, the natives of Limerick, Ireland have maintained a solid career and their latest offering, “Roses” of 2012, proved that they had plenty of great songs left in the tank. Although the band’s 1993 debut album was titled “Everybody Else Is Doing It, So Why Can’t We?” The effort was clearly unlike anything on the radio. With songs as good as “Dreams” the Cranberries will last.

4. Thin Lizzy

The best Irish classical rock band and arguably one of the best classical rockers of all time, Thin Lizzy broke barriers with his 1976 studio album “Jailbreak”. While most people know the band for the ubiquitous single “The Boys Are Back In Town”, the rest of Thin Lizzy’s catalog is full of tasty, guitar-rich bangers. The band haven’t released an album since 1983, but there is hope for another tour soon. Below, sing the “Jailbreak” anthem.


5. Little stiff fingers

Stiff Little Fingers from Belfast is definitely Ireland’s best punk band. The group makes crisp, anthemic singles that call for raised fists and shouted choruses. Surprisingly, the group continues to kick ass, albeit without the majority of their original line-up. And the songs sound powerful even decades later. The Fingers’ latest offering was “No Going Back,” a still strong studio album released in 2014 after an 11-year long lull. Hopefully fans won’t have to wait that long for the next one.

Listen to a performance of “At The Edge”, taken from the band’s second album in 1980, “Nobody’s Heroes”.


6. My damn Valentine’s Day

The band revolutionized shoegaze music in 1991 with their masterpiece “Loveless,” but My Bloody Valentine is still here for cranky teens, even decades later. While Kevin Shields’ tremolo “slippery guitar” style isn’t exactly the easiest to drink, some of the band’s most memorable songs have enough strength and intensity to keep the party going. Especially “Only Shallow”, which still has one of the most epic guitar riffs of all time. Listen to it below.

7. Bell XI

Before Bell XI, its members were part of a group called Juniper. When the group disbanded, leader Damien Rice became, well, Damien Rice. The others formed Bell XI. Judging by the quality of the band’s catalog, especially “Flock” from 2005, the split worked in both sides’ favor. Although the group never achieved Rice success, their music has always attracted a large and passionate fan base, even in the United States.

For a taste of the band’s captivating folk-rock, listen to “Rocky Took A Lover” below.

8. Boomtown Rats

We would be remiss not to include a new wave on this list. The Boomtown Rats were among the 40 pillars of the UK Top 40 from 1977 to 1982 with 11 singles in the charts. The legacy of the group lives on as one of the pioneers of the then emerging genre, the new wave. The group is led by Bob Geldof, an extremely charismatic frontman who can throw a dance party anywhere, even in crappy rock clubs. Eventually, Geldof became a politically conscious activist and reunited the group in 2013 after breaking up almost 30 years previously.

Chair dance at work on “Someone’s Watching You” below.


9. Villager

The leader of the villagers, Conor O’Brien, has consistently been identified as the new Conor Oberst, not just because they both spell their first names the same and look alike. The two groups both play a heartfelt mix of folk and rock. The music of the villagers, however, always felt lighter and a bit more accessible. This is not a blow to the group. Her 2008 debut album “Becoming A Jackal” deserved all her accolades, including her Mercury Prize nomination. Since then, the group has seen more success and are now preparing to release their third studio album in April. The record is titled “Darling Arithmetic”. Preview it with “Courage”.

10. Delorentos

One of the newest Irish rock bands, Delorentos make radio ready alternative rock with powerful hooks and a good ear for pop melodies. I would say that, with the exception of Otis Redding and Aretha Franklin’s “Respect”, most of the songs that spell words are out of date. But the group’s “SECRET” is an undeniable single. Released in 2009 as Delorentos was just gathering the buzz, the band has gained even more critical and mainstream acclaim since then. His latest album, “Unbroken, Untied” from 2014, was featured in many Irish Top 10s.

Scroll down to hear “SECRET”

11. The n ° 1

Another member of a new wave of Irish bands, The # 1s are garage rockers who also have a record collection full of punk. The band’s debut album, “The Number Ones” from 2014, was a promising effort brimming with exuberant energy and tumultuous choruses. Never since Them and The Undertones (more on this later.) Irish garage rock has been so powerful. Although still a relatively young group, the # 1 hit single “Heartsmash” suggests the group will be around for a while.

Listen below.

12. Them

This is the group that launched Van Morrison’s career. Founded in 1964 in Belfast, Ireland, the band has recorded a few singles including “Baby, Please Don’t Go”, “Here Comes The Night” and “Gloria”. The latter song ended up featured on Van Morrison’s debut album and was later memorable cover by Patti Smith, launching the ’70s punk movement in New York City. While Them only lasted a few years after Morrison left the group in 1966, his legacy lives on.

Experience the electrifying “Baby, please don’t go”.

13. The nuances

The Undertones are the originator of one of the most timeless garage rock songs of all time – “Teenage Kicks”, which legendary BBC 1 DJ John Peel has claimed to be his favorite track of all time. It’s easy to see why. With deceptively simple power chord progression, “Teenage Kicks” has a melody that creeps into your head and stays there. Perfect for a rowdy gathering or a commute to work, check out how you’ll listen to the song below.

14. Interference

Although most Americans recognize Interference as the group that sang “Gold” on the Oscar-winning “Once” soundtrack, the traditional Celtic folk group has been around since 1984. Led by enigmatic songwriter Fergus O’Farrell, whose accentuated voice and resonant songwriting has kept the group relevant, Interference puts on one of Ireland’s most cathartic live shows. For Irish and False Irish alike, Farrell’s towering presence is enough to swell the hearts of anyone lucky enough to hear him. Listen to “Gold” below and check out “Once” because it’s such an amazing movie.

jterry@redeyechicago.com, @joshhterry

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