July 2, 2013
A few weeks prior to the launch of The Lagan’s debut album, lead singer, Brendan O’Prey recounted the following conversation with his mother on Facebook…
Mum: “So, what is your album called?” (She already knew)
Brendan: “Where’s Your Messiah Now?”
Mum: “..and you’re releasing that during Holy Week are you?”
Religion: it sits at the heart of many of the songs and bands we love so well in this scene of ours. My own introduction came by way of Shane McGowan in The Sick Bed of Cuchulain;
“You dropped a button in the plate, and spewed up in the church”.
Religion, drink, the experience of the Irish exile, rebellion, violence and the lure of the sea…the music of Celtic punk has it all and so does the new album by The Lagan. Add all of these influences to a driving rhythm section, soaring fiddle, whistles, electric guitar, bass and ukulele and you’ve got Celtic Punk gold. What sets The Lagan apart from many bands of a similar ilk are their ability to support top notch musicianship with excellent vocal harmonies.
The album opens with its title track; a driving punk-sea shanty that rapidly becomes a conversation between the Devil and the sailor facing death upon the waves. Songs about the sea and religion are woven throughout the rest of the album. The Good Ship Lagan re-works the children’s classic “What Shall We Do with a Drunken Sailor?” turning it into a tale of battling pirates and the desperate need for a drink. The band continues to muse on religion in the more traditional sounding “Work Away”. Stan’s fiddle is given more room to play in this track and once again the band’s ability to harmonise lifts The Lagan above the shouty slurring that can often characterise Celtic punk. This fact is further evidenced in the bands cover of trad classic, the Fields of Athenry. What could easily have become a by-the-numbers cover is instead the poignant tale of loss, rebellion and exile that the song was meant to be. It is no accident that The Lagan’s version of Fields is played before every London Irish match.
A personal favourite of mine is the incredibly catchy “Same Shite Different Night”. A tale of drinking and dodging fists on the streets of their native Kingston, this is sing-along Celtic punk at its best; brashy, cocky and with a little bit of that ‘Last Gang in Town’ mentality that goes back to the early days of punk.
Go check out The Lagan live and definitely buy their debut album; worth ten quid of anyone’s money. This is a great debut and hopefully the start of a long and illustrious career. Any band who names an album after a Simpsons quote is worth a second look!
Review by Neil Bates