Irish or not, the time for donning your greenest clothing and celebrating Irish stereotypes with your favorite grain-based libation is nearly upon us. Whether your scene is a crowded, smoky bar or getting rowdy with a gang of friends, Sweden’s number one Celtic punk purveyors Finnegan’s Hell are back with their long-anticipated third album Work is the Curse of the Drinking Class to provide a soundtrack to your festivities and to prove that appreciation for Irish culture is universal. This is Rainbows in the Dark, featuring the best of all things off-metal and metal-adjacent.
As I mentioned before, I am from Chicago. This means a lot of things about me; like that I have very strong opinions about certain baseball teams, Malört and the application of ketchup on hot dogs (not even once). It also means that I am well-versed in Celtic punk. Chicago has no shortage of local acts that bring the Irish to furious punk rhythms, as well as a few notable bands such as The Tossers and Flatfoot 56 that have achieved widespread success. Besides that, of course, the East Coast owns most of the rest of the Celtic themed punk the US exports. Sweden is probably the last place that one would expect to find really solid Celtic punk, and yet, Finnegan’s Hell manages to pretty perfectly capture the Irish vibe and pair it with catchy, upbeat and melodic punk. They have all the elements one would expect to find: furious banjo, blaring accordions, fast drums and the occasional tin whistle along with a strong sense of melody and catchy sing-along vocals. The band’s on-stage persona is even that of a large Irish family; they’ve all adopted the last name Finnegan (except accordion player Old Moxy), despite the fact that none of them are related. Much like the Ramones, this adds to the fun of the music, along with the lighthearted atmosphere the band brings in their lyrics.
On Work, the band adds new influences to their formula, like rockabilly, traditional Swedish folk and country, although these are a little hard to pick out. Most of the songs are the tried-and-true paradigm of punk drums, fast guitars and gang vocals. Occasionally, especially on slower tracks like the Asian-themed “Tokyo Town” and the closer “When I’m Dead” the folkier side of the album comes out, but overall, it’s a pretty standard Celtic punk affair. Most importantly though, the theme of the album is well communicated; they like to drink and they don’t like things that get in the way of drinking. If you also feel similarly, this is an album that is going to resonate. It’s a good theme, and it’s one that the band explores in all its facets. Upbeat stompers like “King of the Bar” and the title track feature righteous anthemic choruses celebrating all things alcohol, while “Whiskey, Rum, Gin and Wine” and “Friends and Foes” showcase a darker tone. I find myself a little sick of every song being about drinking by the time the end of the album rolls around, but I think that’s because I’m used to my Celtic Punk being more political or social or diverse, lyrically speaking. Still, this is a fun album and if you’re looking for a good time, this is a short and sweet love letter to Celtic flavors and working-class punk rock.
It doesn’t exactly break the mold, but Work is a fun album full of soaring melodies, circle-pit inducing rhythms and fun-loving vocals. You would hardly think you’re listening to a Swedish band with the way they fully embrace the Irish aesthetic, but that just goes to show that sometimes influences can spread to unlikely places. The music may have a distinctive regional flair but clearly there’s something about the music and the themes that go beyond borders. If it moves you, give it a shot.