In honor of St. Patrick’s Day, today we’ll be taking a look at the finest musical exports that Ireland has ever had to offer. Ireland isn’t a country that has a history of being fertile ground for popular music, but they have produced a few popular stadium acts over the past few decades (U2, Thin Lizzy, Van Morrison). So I’ll apologize in advance if this isn’t the ultimate list of deep cuts, but every one of these tracks is worthy of being included in this list.
Here are what are, in my opinion, the ten best Irish tracks in popular music:
- “Zombie”- The Cranberries
I went for the jugular with an obvious choice on this one, I admit it, but the history of Irish popular music isn’t complete without these ’90s alternative rock heroes. The fuzzy guitar tone gives this song quite the hypnotic vibe (although a far cry from My Bloody Valentine) and vocalist Dolores O’Riordan’s performance is nothing short of delicious.
- “Teenage Kicks”- The Undertones
Essentially Ireland’s answer to the Clash, the Undertones are one of the great torch bearers of Irish rock. Lacking the hostility of English punk bands like the Damned or the Sex Pistols, these guys focus much more on traditionally ’60s garage rock subject matter and as a primary influence. This track, though maybe another obvious pick, best exemplifies what the Undertones are.
- “Banana Republic”- The Boomtown Rats
Bob Geldof is one of the giants of Irish rock music and quite simply put, this is the Boomtown Rats at their absolute best. This reggae-tinged track is about as cool and untouchable as rock music gets. Many people don’t like Geldof and I must inform you that if you’re one of these people, you’re wrong. Sorry.
- “Tupelo Honey”- Van Morrison
Van Morrison’s best song, no questions asked. This is him at his most spiritually evocative and the result is a song of sensational proportion and with no acceptance of where the doors of conventional thought and feeling are supposed to be shut. Morrison tends to leave these doors open, which is what makes the best of his material so special.
- “Emerald”- Thin Lizzy
This track represents Thin Lizzy at the peak of their abilities within the metal spectrum. Power metal took a cue from this track with its power and its blatant denial of lo-fi sensibilities. This track is almost as heavy as Lizzy gets. Almost. They would of course push the heaviness pretty far on 1983’s ‘Thunder and Lightning’.
- “Kite”- U2
Come on, you never we would get to U2! This is probably the part where you’ll stop reading, but I’m going to chance it anyway. This lesser-known track of theirs is one of the top three songs in their catalog (stay tuned) and really represents their uncanny ability to take a similar precedent to what Van Morrison had done and turning it into something more airborne and flexible.
- “Nowhere”- Therapy?
The first time I heard this song was on the video game ‘NCAA Football 2006’ when I was 12 or 13 and I instantly fell in love with it. Ever since that first exposure, I’ve consistently considered this to be one of my absolute favorite songs. It’s nothing real fancy, but it’s potent and to the point.
- “Bad”- U2
Don’t say I didn’t warn you. Look, there are few bands in the history of popular music who are able to create soaring, effortless melodies on the level that U2 did (and still do). I know a lot of listeners can’t handle that, but I’m sorry. It’s true. You’d better brace yourself for this next one, because…
- “Stay (Faraway, So Close!)”- U2
BAM! Here they are again, making another well-deserved grab at supremacy. Full disclosure: this is their absolute best song in my opinion. It’s damn close between the three mentioned on this list, but this has to be the one that tops the list. Bono’s vocal performance, which grows in its grandiosity throughout the song, aren’t something that leaves you once you’ve been exposed to it.
And now, I present to you the greatest song ever released by an Irish band…
- “Róisín Dubh (Black Rose): A Rock Legend”- Thin Lizzy
This was really no contest. Not only does this song top this particular list, but it would also sit damn high on any list of the most profound rock songs ever recorded. There is nothing else quite like this wonderful, spine-tingling, tear-jerking epic of a masterpiece. By the time this song reaches its conclusion, you will probably have forgotten that you’re still in the material world. Simply the best.
That will do it for me on this day. I’ll be sure to raise a pint or two in honor of these artists tonight! I hope that anyone reading this will do the same.