Various Artists

Shite 'n' Onions, Vol. 1

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Shane MacGowan has a lot to answer for. He never imagined that his mix of punk and Irish music would spawn a subculture. But, for both better and worse, it did, and there's a fair representation of it on this CD. Inevitably, a fair number of those bands -- mostly from the U.S., but also including acts from as far afield as Norway -- just take the Pogues ethos directly to heart. That's fine -- but it's an idea that only travels so far, unless you happen to be a remarkably talented songwriter like MacGowan, and most of those here are certainly not. It's the ones who expand the envelope who stand out, like Vermont's Croppies and the acoustic mayhem of "(Young) Ned of the Hill," a fierce piece from two of Ireland's top writers, or the Electrics, who completely transform a Robert Burns poem on the glorious "Killiecranked Up." Some material is here more by association that content, such as the Spunk Lads' "Iron Lady," which seems to owe little to Celtic music, or Big Black Cadillac's "Wasted Years." The two bands whose original material appears strongest are the Mahones and Nogoodnix, both of whom have something definite to say (even if the Mahones like to say it with drink). So, like most compilations, it's a mixed bag, and you have to delve around for the pearls. But they're worth finding.

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