Clockwise: Therapy?, Naive Ted, My Bloody Valentine, The Altered Hours: some of Ireland’s leading musical lights, past and present.
Although Ireland is lauded as the land of “saints and scholars”, the tale of the country’s arts community in the last hundred or so years has been that of a conservative firmament building its own narrative and history over the efforts of self-organised, independent artistic communities.
From the Catholic Church’s war on jazz, to the stultifying cover-band circuit that substituted for a social scene in rural Ireland’s dancehalls; the inexorable rise of U2 & subsequent brown-nosing with neoliberal social conservatives to a seemingly tone-deaf musical infrastructure that continues to push bland pop and old names above a golden age of independent Irish artists, it’s been an uphill struggle for art in Ireland.
That’s not to say it’s not been without triumph, absolutely not. The 1970s’ blues-rock machismo, spurred from the international successes of Thin Lizzy and Rory Gallagher were countered by thriving national punk and post-punk scenes, including the rises of iconic outfits like The Undertones and The Radiators (From Outer Space).
As new-wave swept the world, the Irish contented themselves with a cross-section with the avant-garde, as the Virgin Prunes blurred lines everywhere they went and My Bloody Valentine pushed people across them with their ear-shattering walls of noise. Therapy? rose from the ashes of NI punk and went on to (almost) conquer the world before settling in as gatekeepers of the Irish underground.
And in the last decade, the changing face of major-label music has left a generation of Irish musicians largely to their own devices. Cork has been a crucible of psychedelia and shoegaze, producing artists like The Altered Hours and The Shaker Hymn; Limerick has spawned hip-hop years ahead of the game with names like Rusangano Family, Naive Ted and Jonen Dekay raising the bar to new heights, and Galway retains its counter-cultural status with folk and electronic music on the Rusted Rail label, as well as a new centre of metal music in the country via collective FEAST Presents.
Music is just one topic covered in this section, however – dive into Fáilte2.0’s Music and Arts section, and see a selection of the retreats and locales that visual artists, dancers, installers, sound artists and other practitioners have made their home.
Mike McGrath-Bryan is a writer from Cork City, freelancing for, among others, Nialler9, the Evening Echo and Totally Cork. Find his portfolio here.