Top 6 Essential Celtic Punk Bands
Celtic punk bands are a great listen any day of the year, not just St. Patrick’s Day. Steeped in Irish tradition and accompanied by traditional instruments, these bands play new punk songs and put a new twist on some old standbys as well.
Hailing from London, the Pogues are truly the founders of the Celtic punk movement. Blending traditional Irish Folk with politics and punk rock energy, they paved the way for many bands to come.
Their albums released from 1984 to 1990 are arguably the best, as they feature the band’s original frontman, the legendary Shane MacGowan. MacGowan still reunites with the group for the occasional tour.
This Boston-based outfit puts a working-class Boston Irish spin on Celtic punk. Their lyrics are heavily influenced by the blue-collar Boston experience, dealing with heavy issues like union solidarity as well as playing anthems to Boston sports teams.
Bagpipes and tin whistle lend a traditional sound to their music, and their bagpipe and guitar instrumental of “Amazing Grace” is awe-inspiring.
Just as Dropkick Murphys are influenced by the East Coast, Flogging Molly has a decidedly West Coast take on Celtic punk music. With instruments that include fiddle, accordion and even the occasional set of spoons, their music is lighter and occasionally melancholy.
Ranging from rocking tunes to maudlin ballads, all of their albums are great. Their live shows are even better, as the band draws the entire crowd into sing-alongs that make you feel like you’re in the world’s largest Irish pub.
In the Midwest, Flatfoot 56 (and their scenemates the Tossers) are Chicago’s answer to the Celtic punk movement. Flatfoot 56 is known for a powerful punk vibe, accompanied by pipes and mandolin, that leads to frenzied, yet well-behaved pits.
Seriously, the pit at a Flatfoot 56 show is one of the best pit experiences you’ll ever have. Tough guys are not welcome, and the old school etiquette applies. The band also finds ways to put a spin on the old school idea of the pit, with variations known as “The Stampede,” “Meat Grinder,” and “Braveheart.”
Another band from Chicago’s Celtic punk scene is the Tossers. Although they’ve been around a few years longer than Flogging Molly and the Dropkick Murphys, they are just starting to get noticed.
From the south side of Chicago, the Tossers are known for scathing political rants wrapped in punk rock, as well as for more traditional Irish drinking tunes, accompanied by mandolin, fiddle, tin whistle and banjo.
Blood or Whiskey
Aside from the founders of Celtic punk, all of the essentials I’ve noted on this list have been American. However, this list would not be complete if I didn’t mention Dublin’s Blood or Whiskey.
With a heavily manic sound, Blood or Whiskey takes their obviously Pogues-influenced music and blends it with a harder sound. Whereas American bands sometimes have to push the Irish sound, this band benefits by actually being Irish and by playing great punk with traditional instruments.