Favourite Irish albums of the CLUAS writers
Hugh Tynan's top 5 Irish albums of all time...
Album: 'The Last Man In Europe' (1985)
If Marvin Gaye was born in inner-city Dublin, he would have made a record like this. Unavailable for over a decade, it was recently (2001) re-released in a CD box set with the immaculate compilation Raytown Revisited. Last Man In Europe may not share that perfection -- it was after all the debut album of a very young band from depressed, early-80s Dublin -- but truly great art is always beautifully flawed. In brief, The Blades made timeless pop/rock soul, with style and power, and they made it sound effortless. This supercool record opens with soaring guitar riffs which still sound awesome today, and concludes with gently diminishing brass after hitting a thousand high notes and high points in between. It's quite simply the most exciting and invigorating Irish album ever.
In their first full album, the "guaranteed real teenagers" more than delivered on the promise of their early singles and the superb Trailer EP. Displaying astounding assurance and powerful pop panache -- particularly for a bunch of snotty kids who originally aspired to be a new Iron Maiden -- the then three-piece spat out a true classic of angsty pop-punk, in the spirit of The Ramones, The Buzzcocks and compatriots The Undertones, not to mention Phil Spector, Jackie Chan and Star Wars. Sure, they milked it for singles, but all of those 7"s were wondrous, and frankly, all the album tracks are too. With subsequent releases and their pure punk attitude -- selling this record at 1977 prices, burning Westlife CDs -- Ash have shown themselves to be our greatest musical treasure. And they're still only about 12...
Album: 'Inflammable Materials'
Despite their apparent adolescent cluelessness and the strident punk reductionism that backed up Jake Burns' hoarse, hectoring roar, the SLF story is a complex and messy one. Quite unlike this slice of incendiary rock, which is utterly unironic and unafraid as it wades neck-deep into Troubles imagery to fashion a dozen melodic post-Clash anthems for a generation of corduroy-wearing Northern kidz. Throw in the standard reggae cover (Johnny Was by Bob Marley, though the live version on Hanx! is superior) and the punk classic is complete. The many great choons are never overcome by the angry buzzsaw delivery; and it redeems the occasional lapses. An aptly titled record if ever there was one.
Album: 'A Fierce Pancake'
Determinedly left of centre, deleted since 1990, a legend in the Irish rock tradition -- Stump's A Fierce Pancake is like nothing recorded by Paddies before or since. Taking arrhythmic cues from Beefheart and The Birthday Party, and incorporating a whole host of bizarre artistic influences, from Myles Na Gopaleen to Dali, this album gallumphed out of speakers like a Jabberwocky chasing slithy toves. Its iconic moment is of course the near-hit Charlton Heston, a surreal musical Ben Hur of couplets ("Boils the size of fifty pee! Lights! Camel! Action!" is all we have room for here) but Chaos and Buffalo fleshed out the overall situationist manifesto, and the album as a whole is a bold, brave artistic statement from a criminally forgotten Cork ensemble.
Act: The Kathleens
Album: 'All The Other Plans'
Still spoken of in hushed tones in their hometown of Galway, The Kathleens were probably the greatest lost Irish band ever. With regular demos on Dave Fanning's definitive radio show and a track record of blistering gigs, the band recorded a flawless studio masterpiece in All The Other Plans, its track-list cherry-picked from an enviable catalogue of gems dating back years. To make comparisons would be to trivialise, but it's safe to say that the band came from the perfectionist school of ambitious pop songwriting, comfortable in the company of Costello, the Go-Betweens or the Pixies, but as purely focused and creatively accomplished as The Beatles. Anyone who ever heard My Weakness raise the roof in Monroe's Tavern is still mourning the fact that The Kathleens broke up before their genius could be fully unveiled in this album. Life is unfair.
- Check out the final Top 50 Irish Albums of All Time as voted by CLUAS.com readers
- Discuss this selection of best Irish albums of all time on the CLUAS Discussion Board.
- Check out the top 5 Irish albums of all time chosen by these other CLUAS writers:
Allen Conlan Anthony Morrissey Brano Brian Farrelly Brian Kelly Celine O'Malley Chris Ford Ciaran Wrenn Cormac Looney Donal Griffin Dromed Gav Reilly Hugh Tynan Jimmy Murphy Jules Jackson Ollie O'Leary Stephen McNulty