Irish Punk: a journey with good friends and struggles


Dylan Haviland – General Assignment Reporter 

In the midst of the early 1980s, the renowned punk bands Dead Kennedys and Black Flag were establishing their roots in music.  The world was being introduced to a style that was young, energetic, and musically innovative.

As American punk grew, across the Atlantic Irish punk became an enthralling musical experience that combined Celtic influences with ferocious rock.

Irish punk involves a collaboration of classic punk instruments such as guitar, bass and drums but also brings in traditional instruments like the fiddle, mandolin, bagpipes and accordion.

The combination of both groups creates a genre that is in tune with the American punk scene, but also retains its own authenticity: a fluid combination of traditional playing styles that speaks of everyday life.

The foundation of Irish punk lies partially within the band The Pogues, formed in London, 1982.  Their frontman, Shane MacGowan, provided a stimulating and rambunctious burst of talent into the scene.  The Pogues challenged the conformity of the standard rock scene with an original blend of Irish folk.

The bands use of traditional instruments is in full effect in the piece, “Dirty Old Town” a somber song incorporating the banjo, fiddle, and guitar.  In addition, MacGowan’s steady vocals add a sense of nostalgia to a better time, mournfully singing in accompaniment to the Celtic musicality.

The legacy of The Pogues and early Irish punk bands such as The Undertones continue to live on in punk rock.

In the 1990s North America saw its own foundation of prominent Irish punk bands.  The most notable being Flogging Molly and Dropkick Murphys in the United States and The Real McKenzies in Canada.

Dropkick Murphys gained popularity with their hardcore punk influences and Celtic instruments.  The hit, “I’m Shipping Off to Boston” has become a trademark for Irish punk on the American coast.  The piece has even made its way into cinema as a part of “The Departed” movie soundtrack.

As Irish Punk still remains active in the music industry they retain close ties with their fan base and heritage.  The Dropkick Murphys, for instance, donated several thousands of dollars to victims of the Boston Marathon bombing.

Brian Morringiello, senior and studio art, a fan of Dropkick Murphys and Flogging Molly said, “When I was a little one I was all about that, I wore the plaid, had the mohawk, had everything: you should have seen it.” Morringiello moved around several times in Liverpool, England.  “Within those three locations I found out that, believe it or not, it is solely where you are that depends on how you view your music, which is actually really cool.”

The genre has evolved from its humble roots in the U.K. and Ireland, yet still managing to stay rooted in its culture: an important virtue that ties together communities regardless of backgrounds.  Irish punk has become a fun but meaningful medium for the everyday person.  The music continues to concentrate on the struggles that bring people together and celebrates good moments with friends.

“For me, I really think that people forget that music is music and it doesn’t depend on where you are from. It depends on what you put out and what you say with your music,” said Morringiello.

Photo Credit: Iain Mullan

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