The secret to any great party is a great playlist. While many associate St. Patrick’s Day with drinking, merriment and the color green, there’s no better time to discover some of the great art that’s come out of England’s neighbor island. Ireland has produced some fantastic folk music, but it’s also contributed some truly unique voices and talents to the Western canon of rock music. Here are five bands that have formed an Irish repertoire of music that transcends genre and will make any St. Patrick’s Day party one to remember.
If you’re looking for that essential Irish sound, The Dubliners are it. The band is an Irish folk group founded in 1965, named after the novel under the same name by fellow Irishman and famous literary icon James Joyce. Their iconic sound highlights the best of the region’s folk music. Plucked string instruments meld with fiddles, flutes and heavily accented voices to form infectious melodies and lyrics that reminisce of Ireland’s rich culture and history. Their songs tend to have short run times, burning quickly but intensely—this contrasts wildly with the band’s history, as they stayed together for half a century before the founding member died and they finally bid the music world goodbye.
But, you might be throwing a party for a more experimental crowd. My Bloody Valentine struck deep chords in the shoegaze world with the 1991 release of their hazy, noisy album “Loveless.” While the iconic record is famous throughout indie and alternative circles for its softly-spoken lyrics and intricately wrought slide guitar, many fans don’t know that this cult favorite is Irish in origin. However, the band didn’t find any initial success in Ireland. There was little opportunity for them to shine in Dublin’s music scene, and it was only after playing shows elsewhere in Europe that My Bloody Valentine found commercial success.
The Cranberries’ lead singer, Dolores O’Riordan, died this past January, but her music has lived on in the hearts of fans. The band was a staple of ‘90s alternative rock and made big waves all over the world, but O’Riordan’s haunting, ethereal voice marked the group as decidedly Irish. Best-known are songs such as “Zombie,” “Linger” and “Dreams.” Their sound will be recognizable to anyone well-versed in ‘90s movies, as several of these songs found their way onto the big screen. The Cranberries’ dark, driving rock is a must-have on any playlist.
Pioneering a genre best described as “Celtic punk,” Flogging Molly amassed a devoted following by playing in bars and pubs. With skillful, closely-calibrated rhythms reminiscent of European folk metal, they formed around frontman Dave King, who forged his own path in the music industry by adding fiddle, banjo, harmonica, bodhrán and other traditional instruments to his driving punk music. The band’s style takes influence from punk, folk and pirate music. Their high-energy sound, textured with a diverse wash of timbres, is perfect for boosting the mood at any party.
Finally, and arguably the most famous band that can trace its roots to Ireland, is none other than U2. While listeners dispute the group’s later releases, their early albums “War” and “The Joshua Tree” are regarded widely as masterpieces. The band formed as teenagers while attending secondary school in Dublin, and continue to tour over 40 years later. U2’s early work, built on unforgettable melodies and simplistic instrumental techniques, has unmistakably left its mark on the canon of rock music.
These five bands are only a few of the fine musical acts to come out of Ireland. As St. Patrick’s day draws nearer, it’s the perfect time to discover and revisit these bands to see what Ireland has offered the world of music. The country has truly produced something for everyone. Happy St. Patrick’s Day!