There are a few common ingredients for a good Celtic punk album; mix a mandolin (Tony Duggins), a tin whistle (Aaron Duggins), and a fiddle player (Manthe) with a song about beer and a sing-along chorus. You get extra points for a guy playing the spoon and the bodhran. Someone has got to sing about their own funeral arrangements, someone needs to break a heart, at least half the songs should double as a last-call-at-the-bar anthem, and the Church needs to be mentioned at least once.
The Tossers‘ “Emerald City” hits all of those marks, within the first 2 ½ minutes. The album is, undoubtedly, Irish to the bone.
How The Tossers haven’t reached the level of mainstream popularity that other Celtic Punk bands have is due largely in part to the same elements of their sound that make them great. “Emerald City”, like much of the band’s back catalog is heavy on the Celtic and a bit lighter on the punk. This album, like the ones before, lacks an obvious single primed for cross-over success. However, it’s an album perfectly timed for a near St Pat’s release date, and true to the band’s sound.
For those who enjoy a more balanced blend of Punk and Celtic, tracks like “Here’s to a Drink With You” will not disappoint. Singing about early AM drinks in Chicago’s Irish sections, the track clocks in at a little under 2 minutes and is filled with the underdog fighting spirit you’ve come to expect in the sub-genre. Similarly, “Where the Beer and Whiskey Flow” and “Break of Dawn” are easily two of the most uptempo tracks on the album. If they sound tame in comparison to bands like Dropkick Murphys, it’s important to realize that The Tossers already had two albums out before DM even formed. The Tossers aren’t trying to mimic anyone here; they simply are performing however they want to.
The obligatory nod to Celtic music past is here, with the blink-and-you’ll-miss-it “Bombo Lane.” Yet, the highlight of “Emerald City” in terms of bravery, has got to be “Wherever You Go.” In one song, the band flows through my four major types of Celtic Punk sub-classifications: Bar fight song, Pub last-call sing along, Jig, and Lullaby. The transition between the types in this 5 minute song isn’t entirely seamless, but it’s ambitiously noteworthy all the same.
While some Celtic Punk fans might feel as if they have heard some of these chorus’ before (“God Bless You” or the title track about growing up as an Irish immigrant), “Emerald City” is still a solid album. Almost 20 years later, The Tossers know who they are, what they sound like, and what they’ve got to say. Nothing here is particularly groundbreaking, but that doesn’t mean it’s not any good.
“Emerald City” is available now. Slainte!