The top 40 Irish albums


Mmm, we were surprised too. Not only are there 40 decent Irish albums: many are even worthy of the tag "great". Here they are, as chosen by Brian Boyd, Jim Carroll, Kevin Courtneyand Tony Clayton-Lea

Where did this list come from? It was compiled by four Ticket rock writers: Brian Boyd, Jim Carroll, Tony Clayton-Leaand Kevin Courtney. Each independently submitted a list of their top 40 albums. These were then collated, with scores given to each person's nominations. A writer's number one was awarded 40 points, a number two was awarded 39 points and so on. We ended up with a list of 93 albums. The first 40 albums are presented here.

There are several "ties": albums which achieved exactly the same score from all critics, and which even a second round of voting could not resolve. In these cases, we have numbered tied scores as, for example, 3a and 3b, then moved on to number 5.

Some people have asked why Planxty are in the list. Are these rock albums or not? Well, they are they 40 best Irish albums, as chosen by our rock critics. If they choose to include a trad or jazz album, then that's their choice.

How did our correspondents find the selection process? Tony Clayton-Lea enjoyed the chance to listen to some of his favourite music. "You so rarely hear your favourite albums in this job, given the volume of new stuff you have to listen to every week, so this was a real pleasure, dusting off albums that I might only listen to once a year, and playing the lot."

Jim Carroll also enjoyed the process, up to a point. "It didn't take me long to come up with a rough list of 30 great Irish albums, but the last 10 took a lot of head-scratching and a fair bit of spadework. It certainly made me realise how some albums which had been well reviewed at the time of release - and yes, mea culpa, well reviewed by this writer - just did not pass muster a couple of years on."

Brian Boyd was surprised at his own choices: "I had a vague list in my head starting out, but after listening again to all the albums, that changed beyond recognition. A lot of my previous fixed ideas about certain bands and albums were changed by this exercise - and in all cases, for the better."

Kevin Courtney found it hard to find good recent albums. "We always talk about how Irish music has never been so strong. Yet I struggled to find more recent albums that would sit among the all-time greats. The best ones seemed to be from the 1970s and the 1990s."

So here's the list. You may not like them. You may not agree. You may say thanks guys, I haven't heard all these; I'm going to buy, borrow or steal the lot and listen to them this weekend. See you Monday.

1 MY BLOODY VALENTINE: LOVELESSTHE yarns which surround Loveless are many. Label boss Alan McGee has claimed that the recording budget bankrupted Creation, and there have been increasingly hazy recollections by the dozens of engineers who came and went during the two-year process in an estimated 18 different studios. Loveless has become a legend as much as a rock album.

The facts are a lot simpler. It was My Bloody Valentine's second album, the follow-up to 1988's Isn't Anything. They started recording it in 1989, took a break to tour in 1990 and finished the album in 1991.

Since its release, Loveless has become a landmark record, lauded regularly and loudly as an album which, in so many ways, reinvented the sound of dizzy guitars, white noise melodies and ethereal harmonies.

When the band began recording Loveless in a London studio in February 1989, the label thought it would take five days. By September, they had moved studios and started all over again. Alan McGee was unhappy to say the least, so band leader Kevin Shields barred him from the studio. Recording continued.

Shields admitted to Magnet magazine last year that he was "a bit of a tyrant" during those sessions. "I would just really be strict. It got to the point where I lived with these songs for more than a year, and the melodies were only in my head."

He recalled in another interview how they spent their time during those months and years. "The vast majority of evenings we spent in bed while we were making the album. We started work at midnight, went to bed in the morning, not really waking up until 10 at night. When you do that for months and months, a year, years, you get pretty disorientated.

"But you see all the world events before everyone else does because you watch the morning news on TV-AM. And you see everything three or four times.

"We got bombarded by the Gulf War. The only thing that didn't seem to fit in was the outside world. Serious world events were the only time gauge we had for what was going on."

But work was being done. Shields explained the genesis behind the album's sound to Magnet. "When making records, I got it into my head that some of the big no-nos were no echo, no reverb, no chorus or flanger and no panning. The one effect I would use was this reversed-reverb effect, which is very reverb-y, all of these things I was against, right?

"But the irony was that with these effects, you could actually play harder, and it sounded really different. If you played softer, the sound changed dramatically. I would work with a tremolo to get this other dynamic and suddenly had a language I could kind of express myself with, which I never really had before. I found a voice, and I could do it well."

What happened next? Acclaimed on its release (Melody Maker called it "the outermost, innermost, uttermost rock record of 1991"), Loveless peaked at number 24 in the British album charts. The band have not yet recorded a follow-up, but have re-formed and play the Electric Picnic later this year.

Jim Carroll

 2 U2: ACHTUNG BABY (1991)

After U2 went "away to dream it all up again", one of the visions the band had was to make an album that people could dance to. In 1991, house music had transformed the musical soundscape and for this, their seventh studio album, U2 - with producers Brian Eno and Daniel Lanois - billeted themselves in Hansa Ton Studio to, as Bono put it, "cut down The Joshua Tree". On this most fractious of U2 albums, the early recording sessions were marked by very vocal disagreements between band members about to how best to handle the new material.

Still, in the band's most audacious creative move, they managed seamlessly to blend all manner of electronic textures and house music beats into their sound, and songs such as the still entrancing opener Zoo Station and The Fly are testament to how well they succeeded in their sonic upholstering.

As far removed from The Joshua Tree as their most recent album is from Boy, this was a real right-time-right-place album that ensured "rock's hottest ticket" weren't going down creative cul-de-sacs.

What happened next? The resultant Zoo TV redefined how popular music could be presented in a live setting.

Brian Boyd

3a A HOUSE: I AM THE GREATEST (1991)And for a while they were. Indeed, some would say A House were the best Irish band of the past 30 years, surpassing the usual suspects list by virtue of their uncompromising nature, provocative lyrical stance and perversely discordant approach.

Following the major-label debut of On Our Big Fat Merry Go Round and its follow-up, I Want Too

Much (at which point they were dropped), it seemed as if the band would implode. Instead, they were snapped up by the Irish indie label Setanta, put into a studio with musician/producer Edwyn Collins and came out with this. Even after almost 20 years, the impact of songs as emotionally strong and raw as You're Too Young, When I First Saw You, I Am Afraid, I Lied and the spoken-word title track leave the listener wondering how much more they can take.

And then there's Endless Art, a deadpan rock-minimalist classic that still amuses, and Take It Easy On Me, a song that spirals in and out of the head - like all great pop - and which leaves slivers of doubt and casual machismo.

What happened next? Singer/songwriter Dave Couse has forged a formidable solo career - still alive, still acerbic.

Tony Clayton-Lea


THE RADIATORS: GHOSTOWN (1979)Underappreciated, a lost classic,

a missed opportunity and a shocking example of how a truly great collection of songs can become entangled in music industry trends - Ghostown is all of these things and more. Following their 1977 debut, TV Tube Heart, the Radiators From Space shortened their name, moved to London and started to write and rehearse the material that would become Ghostown.

Like most second albums, it reflected a perhaps more truthful approach to their environment, which is why the guitar-driven, anthemic attacks of TV Tube Heart were replaced with intentionally literate and highly melodic songs such as Looting in the Town, Million Dollar Hero and Song of the Faithful Departed.

The juxtaposition of James Joyce and Sean O'Casey with The Beatles and Marc Bolan went completely over the heads of the UK critics and audiences, who perhaps to the punk-manor born, scornfully rejected the change of creative direction. Added to this was a year-long delay in getting the album released, which acted as another nail in the band's coffin.

What happened next? Ghostown stiffed, leaving main songwriter Philip Chevron to his own devices. He subsequently joined The Pogues. The band recently reformed. TCL

5 VAN MORRISON: ASTRAL WEEKS (1968)Morrison's debut album proper (his record label had put out the mediocre Blowin' Your Mind to cash in on the success of Brown Eyed Girl) was different from everything around it, and different from anything he recorded over the following 40 years.

A pastoral, soul-jazz song cycle, Astral Weeks evoked a spirit of nostalgia for a Northern Ireland that probably only ever existed in Morrison's fevered imagination. He was already an exile, both emotionally and physically, and Astral Weeks was a sort of homecoming, taking him back to his roots in Belfast, and incongruously blending in visions of sandy beaches, California sunshine and decadent, burlesque nightlife.

Legend has it that Van didn't speak to any of the session musicians during the recording, and much of it was improvised; there's certainly a sense of a man alone amid the upright bass lines, skittering flutes and swaying violins. The album didn't sell well initially, but has grown in stature, and is now considered Morrison's inadvertent masterpiece.

What happened next? Subsequent albums Moondance, Tupelo Honey, Saint Dominic's Preview and Hard Nose the Highway established Morrison as a musical giant, but critics just keep going back to Astral Weeks.

Kevin Courtney


MICRODISNEY: THE CLOCK COMES DOWN THE STAIRS (1985)The unlikely pairing of splenetic singer Cathal Coughlan and assiduous guitarist Sean O'Hagan made this Cork band one of the more interesting musical entities to come out of Ireland in the early 1980s.

Coughlan's lyrical vitriol was already evident on such early Church-baiting songs as Helicopter of the Holy Ghost, and when they moved to London, he widened his lyrical targets to take in Apartheid, Thatcher and Boy George. Standout tracks such as Are You Happy? Birthday Girl and Horse Overboard - torn between genteel English indie and spit-flecked rebellion - perfectly captured the alienated sense of being Irish in London at that time.

What happened next? Microdisney signed to Virgin, but were dropped when subsequent albums Crooked Mile and 39 Minutes failed to chart. Coughlan formed The Fatima Mansions to vent his spleen more fully, while O'Hagan explored his Brian Wilson obsession with The High Llamas.


ROLLERSKATE SKINNY: HORSEDRAWN WISHES (1996)Dublin in the early 1990s saw a slew of new bands who were equally withering of both grunge and Britpop. Rollerskate Skinny first emerged with 1994's Shoulder Wishes, an inchoate vision of what they were to unleash two years later with the follow-up - the still thunderous, still brilliant Horsedrawn Wishes.

By now signed to a major label, the band deftly vaulted over all the early My Bloody Valentine comparisons with an album that is so sonically extravagant, it should be used in sound recording schools. Waves of guitars collapse over atypical percussion in a sturm und drang masterpiece. Speed To My Side, Cradle Burns and Swing Boat Yawning all still sound box-fresh, and you have to wonder how many copies of this album were sold in Arcade Fire's home town.

What happened next? The band never made it to a third album and all members can now be found in different musical groupings. BB


THE POGUES: RUM, SODOMY & THE LASH (1986)Winston Churchill supplied the album title, French Romantic artist Théodore Géricault supplied the artwork (The Raft of Medusa), and The Pogues did the rest.

Their second album was a majestic tour-de-force, a Celtic punk riot never bettered by them or anyone else. It brought together Shane MacGowan's prowess as a songwriter, the band's raucous, brash and sublime musicianship and all those mad, crazy flights of fancy of putting punk, trad and folk together.

Elvis Costello and Philip Chevron were at the recording desk, moving the sound on from the rough and ready tearaway clatter of their debut album Red Roses For Me. But what had also moved on

was MacGowan's songwriting,

and Rum, Sodomy contains some of his finest moments, including

A Pair Of Brown Eyes and The Old Main Drag.

What happened next? The album, launched with a riotous do onboard museum ship the HMS Belfast in London, went to Number 13 in the British album charts.


THE UNDERTONES: THE UNDERTONES (1979)"If you can't say it in three minutes, you can't say it at all" ran the old punk/new wave mantra and if that is the case, The Undertones managed to speak volumes before they even hit the middle-eight. Yes, they may have been a power-pop outfit, but strip down these impossibly well-arranged melodies, and you're looking at Ireland's own Hitsville USA.

This debut album catches them in their "Cavern Club" days, playing exuberant teen pop and melting hearts and minds at every turn. We all know about Teenage Kicks, but take a gawp at the quality here: Here Comes The Summer, Get Over You and I Know A Girl.

What happened next? From here, they went on to scale different heights with Hypnotised and Positive Touch before they faded away with The Sin Of Pride. Now reformed - though with Paul McAloone replacing Feargal Sharkey - The Undertones remain the band we love so well.



WHIPPING BOY: HEARTWORM (1995)Whipping Boy were Irish rock contrarians matched in the unpredictability stakes only by The Fatima Mansions. Yet, unlike most of the other also-rans from the late 1980s and early 1990s, Whipping Boy refute the oft-pitched notion that the memories were stronger than the songs.

The band's first release was a cassette-only album called Sweet Mangled Thing, a certified statement of pure intent. Yet Heartworm remains the record that people remember. It's a dizzying experience, full of songs that feature singer/lyricist Ferghal McKee at his most heartwarming (When We Were Young), charming (Twinkle) and scary (Personality), and imbued with thrilling, weirded-out pop music that sounds pitch-perfect today.

What happened next? After the major-label debacle that shafted Heartworm, the band members zoned out of making music. They re-formed a few years ago for selected shows, but have not surfaced since. TCL


ASH: 1977 (1996)They may have been teenagers when they made 1977, but Ash already had more freewheeling and glittering indie pop nuggets under their belts than many of their peers. After the crackling oomph of the Trailer mini-album, their first full-length release was still about zip and vigour, but with some impressive songwriting developments. From the summertime yearning of Oh Yeah to the anthemic Girl from Mars, this was gold from start to finish.

What happened next? 1977 hit the top of the UK album charts. JC


THE BLADES: RAYTOWN REVISITED (1985)Fronted by Paul Cleary, The Blades went through a number of incarnations from the early 1980s, but still this album reigns supreme as capturing a place (Dublin) where pretty much everything was "black and white and grey". Contains Ghost of a Chance, Hot For You and Revelations of Heartbreak - three of the best Irish pop songs ever.

What happened next? Paul Cleary went on to form The Partisans (another cracking band), but eventually went into hiding. He surfaced in 2001 with a superb solo album, Crooked Town, but has been missing in action since. TCL


THIN LIZZY: LIVE AND DANGEROUS (1978)When Lizzy broke loose in 1976, they quickly staked out their place in rock'n'roll history. Their 1978 live album catches them at their swaggering, ass-kicking best. Lynnott's deep, wounded-soul drawl and pummelling basslines nicely slotted between the twin guitars of Scott Gorham and Brian Robertson. The Boys are Back in Town, Dancing in the Moonlight and Don't Believe a Word were turned up to 11, but it was the cover of Bob Seger's Rosalie that brought the set up to euphoric levels.

What happened next? Lizzy released one more great album, Black Rose, before beginning a long, slow decline. KC


U2: THE JOSHUA TREE (1987)After 21 years, it still sounds great, which is largely due to the sonic template fashioned by producer-technicians Daniel Lanois and Brian Eno, the inclusion of some of the band's best songs, some of Bono's best singing and some of Edge's best guitar work. In essence, it remains a yardstick for any rock band worth its salt.

What happened next? The Joshua Tree sold millions of copies, resulting in U2 becoming rock's hottest ticket and, therefore, one of the most successful rock bands in the world. And, many would argue, the best. TCL


THERAPY? TROUBLEGUM (1994)Before Troublegum, the Northern Irish punk-metallers were struggling for a sound that did them justice. One year before the album's 1994 release, the Screamager single gatecrashed the top 10. With a sound somewhere between Mötörhead and The Sex Pistols, the band crunched their way to a Mercury Music Prize nomination thanks to tracks such as Nowhere, Die Laughing and Turn. Punk-metal meets Top 10 pop - this remains a loveable beast. What happened next? Despite numerous personnel changes, the band are still giving it socks live and releasing quality work. BB


PLANXTY: PLANXTY (1973)In the 1970s, your average Irish teenage boy's record collection would feature Floyd, Zep, Sabbath, Purple and Rory Gallagher. Among these would be an album with a black cover, showing a spotlight shining on a group of silhouetted musicians. The songs inside were traditional Irish airs and ballads, performed by Christy Moore, Andy Irvine, Donal Lunny and Liam O'Flynn. This startling debut retooled trad for the rock era.

What happened next? Planxty went on to success in the UK and Europe, with ever-changing line-ups. They finished when Moore and Lunny left to form Moving Hearts. KC


DAVID HOLMES: LETS GET KILLED (1997)It was 1997 and, like so many before him, David Holmes had fallen head over heels in love with New York. Within a week, he walked the city's streets recording conversations with a colourful cast of characters. Back in the studio, he and his helpers (including Gary Burns and Tim Goldsworthy) stitched these dialogues into a rich, urban tapestry featuring jazzy, dubby samples. Let's Get Killed put Holmes in a new league.

What happened next? Hollywood came calling and the Belfast hairdresser went on to score such films as Out of Sight, Ocean's Eleven and Analyse That. JC


THE STARS OF HEAVEN: SPEAK SLOWLY (1988)The only full-length album from the influential and abundantly talented Stars Of Heaven. Always ahead of the pack, the quartet of Stephen Ryan, Stan Erraught, Peter O'Sullivan and Bernard Walsh virtually patented the now fashionable alt-country sound on this 1987 release. Unfinished Dreaming, 2 O'Clock Waltz and Lights Of Tetouan (later covered by Everything But The Girl) signalled that something approaching genius was at play here.

What happened next? The Stars fragmented into The Revenants and The Sewing Room. All members remain musically active. BB


STIFF LITTLE FINGERS: INFLAMMABLE MATERIAL (1979)The first album released on the Rough Trade label, Inflammable Material was a short, sharp, shock. The Belfast punk rockers were encouraged by their lyricist, journalist Gordon Ogilvie, to address the surrounding political situation in their music. The single, Suspect Device has now achieved iconic status alongside the album's other big single, Alternative Ulster. If some of the tracks now sound a bit dated, they still pack a wallop.

What happened next? On later albums the band modified their sound before almost disappearing. They have since re-formed and play as many gigs now as they did in their heyday. BB


THE REVENANTS: HORSE OF A DIFFERENT COLOURYou can't keep a good songwriter from coming up with the goods, and when former Stars of Heaven frontman Stephen Ryan came out of self-imposed retirement and formed The Revenants, it was with a sigh of relief that the songs proved to be just as good. Think The Replacements mixed with glory-days REM, and you'll have a notion of how superb this record is.

What happened next? A follow-up album, Septober Nowonder, was released in 1999. Drummer Chris Heany is now a noted record producer. Stephen Ryan's whereabouts are unknown. TCL


THE STARS OF HEAVEN: SACRED HEART HOTELThe most dispiriting of bands in a live setting, this Dublin unit, a compositional mixture of Velvet Underground and The Byrds, eschewed rock music for songs that were individualistic, literary and gorgeous. The band were destined to fail for a number of reasons, notably their lack of ambition (shocking in an era, when record companies were falling over each other to sign "the next U2").

What happened next? The band split in 1990, but singer and songwriter Stephen Ryan carried on in equally fine fashion in The Revenants (see No 20, above). TCL


U2: BOY (1980)History has regarded U2's debut as one of the best ever. Certainly, while one could argue that as a lyricist and vocalist Bono would need improvement, Edge's guitar figures - as subtle as they were ironclad - cast him as something of a post-punk guitar hero. From the cover to the songs, the theme was simplistic: sometimes, youth is not wasted on the young at all.

What happened next? Boy was successful enough to enable U2 to carry their message and music to the US. The band, however, almost split during the lead-up to their second album, October. TCL


THE BLADES: LAST MAN IN EUROPE (1984)Paul Cleary is one of the finest songwriters this country has produced, yet he and his fellow Raytown mod-soul heroes never got the attention given to lesser talents. After a couple of drop-dead gorgeous singles, The Blades took a cheque from Elektra and recorded The Last Man. Produced by Smiths hand John Porter, it is an album rich in perfectly crafted songs such as the peerless Downmarket.

What happened next? Elektra made a hames of the release and an international breakthrough never came. One further album emerged (Raytown Revisited) before the band called it a day. JC


MY BLOODY VALENTINE: ISN'T ANYTHING (1988)Always dwarfed by the later Loveless, MBV's 1988 debut release deserves consideration in its own right. Building on the sonic palette they had created on EP releases, this was a step-up for the band and a major inspiration for the shoegazing scene. As they say about the first Velvet Underground album, not many people bought this record, but most of those who did went on to form a band. Some of the best dream-pop you will ever hear is on this.

What happened next? Loveless. (See Number 1) BB


SINÉAD O'CONNOR: I DO NOT WANT WHAT I HAVEN'T GOT (1990)It remains Sinéad O'Connor's definitive work. Her voice and choice of songs are in perfect harmony. When you listen back to the album, and especially epic, startling moments such as I Lie Stretched On Your Grave, it's hard to believe O'Connor was just 23. Throughout the album, there's a sense of the singer reclaiming her life after the acclaim for The Lion & The Cobra and the success of Nothing Compares 2 U had made her a global name.

What happened next? The album sold 7 million copies worldwide. JC


VAN MORRISON: MOONDANCEHow do you follow Astral Weeks? For Van, there was no pressure, because Astral Weeks had hardly registered with the music-buying public, and its critical canonisation was still years away. Morrison was disappointed with the album's sales, and he determined that his next release would be a more accessible affair. The title track was a sensual, romantic jazz tune, and Into The Mystic kept faith with the spiritual yearning of Astral Weeks.

What happened next? The critics finally caught up with the Belfast Cowboy, hailing him as a visionary and the finest white soul singer of his generation. KC


SNOW PATROL: EYES OPEN (2006)Snow Patrol always threatened to deliver a killer album, and following their lengthy period of waiting in the wings for Next Big Thing status, they released Eyes Open. The clincher for millions was the single Chasing Cars, which pleads for the title of one of the most perfectly written and executed pop songs ever produced.

What happened next? The band plan to write and record material for their next album, while Gary Lightbody is associated with a number of collaborative projects. TCL


THE DIVINE COMEDY: PROMENADE (1994)Long before his breakthrough with Casanova, Neil Hannon specialised in a form of baroque pop that was influenced more by Michael Nyman than any chart act. Promenade was a concept album which traced the fortunes of two lovers over the course of a single day. Literary allusions are flung around with giddy abandon on top of an orchestral sounding score on this absolute gem of an album.

What happened next? Neil Hannon picked up the Choice Music prize in 2006. BB


RORY GALLAGHER: LIVE IN EUROPE (1972)The Brits had Clapton, Page and Beck; the Yanks had Hendrix; but Ireland had its own super guitar hero in the form of Ballyshannon-born Rory Gallagher. Gallagher had already become a legend at home via his first band, Taste, and his first two solo albums, but Live in Europe really brought home the awesome power of Gallagher's guitar genius.

What happened next? Live in Europe hit the UK Top 10; Gallagher quickly followed it with two of his finest albums, Blueprint and Tattoo, and another live album, Irish Tour '74. KC


VAN MORRISON: IT'S TOO LATE TO STOP NOW (1974)Recorded at 1973 shows in Los Angeles, Santa Monica and London, It's Too Late to Stop Now captures Van at a soul-jazz peak, a performer sure of what he's doing and what he's capable of producing. A lot of the panache and passion on this album can be attributed to the Caledonia Soul Orchestra, one of the finest bands the Belfast Cowboy has ever shared a stage with.

What happened next? The album was released in 1974, by which time he had also released the poorly received Hard Nose The Highway and the excellent Veedon Fleece. JC


BELL X1: MUSIC IN MOUTH (2003)Paul Noonan got great use out of his old copy of Soundings, the Leaving Certificate English poetry textbook, for this album. Bell X1's second album was a huge leap forward from the mundane meanderings of their debut and was the sound of a band finding its feet and a fresh blast of confidence. The lyrics, in particular, are a treat, as Noonan comes into his own with wry, sharp observations.

What happened next? The 2003 release established Bell X1 as a popular concern in Ireland. JC


THE CRANBERRIES: EVERYBODY ELSE IS DOING IT, SO WHY CAN'T WE (1993)When the then-titled Cranberry Saw Us were auditioning for a new lead singer, they gave a contender for the job, Dolores O'Riordan, a demo tape. She returned the next day with the complete song Linger and got the job. On their 1993 debut, the band alighted on an ethereal, lovelorn sound that instantly captivated US audiences. Linger and Dreams were standout tracks, but the album contained subtle charms throughout.

What happened next? The band went on to make more million-selling records but split in 2003. All members are now pursuing solo careers. BB


THE FRAMES: FOR THE BIRDS (2001) After more than a decade at the coalface and flunking two major label deals, The Frames found their mojo with their fourth album. For The Birds saw Glen Hansard and accomplices replacing their usual slate of angry teenage rants with elegant, graceful, tender songs. The playing is sublime, with both then guitarist David Odlum and violinist Colm Mac An Iomaire putting down heart-breaking melodies. It was the band's finest hour.

What happened next? For The Birds saw The Frames establish themselves home and away as a significant force. JC


SOMETHING HAPPENS: STUCK TOGETHER WITH GOD'S GLUE (1990)They might have irked some people with their exclamation marks, paisley shirts and bouncing beach balls, but when it came to fusing some of the smartest lyrics in the land with a second-to-none pop sensibility and a crunching rock backdrop, there were very few who topped Something Happens. This was undoubtedly their finest hour (well, 48 minutes), a record that brims with pop/rock class.

What happened next? A couple more albums and they called it quits. All four members have been gainfully employed in various areas of the Irish music industry since. TCL


MARTIN HAYES & DENIS CAHILL: LIVE IN SEATTLE (1999)When Clare-born fiddler Martin Hayes and his guitar-playing sidekick Denis Cahill dropped by Seattle's Tractor Tavern for a show in January 1999, there was magic in the air. The duo had released the wonderful Lonesome Touch two years before this live album, but it pales next to what they created in that room in front of a paying audience. A fluid, emotional affair with both spellbinding, subtle playing and huge dashes of verve and passion.

What happened next? Hayes and Cahill continued to tour and record and have just released Welcome Here Again. JC


THE HIGH LLAMAS: HAWAII (1996)Long before The Thrills were doing their West Coast schtick, former Microdisney man Sean O'Hagan was exploring the sonic territory already mapped out by Brian Wilson, Burt Bacharach and Steely Dan. It took O'Hagan a few goes to hit just the right chemistry. Hawaii was an expansive, retro-futurist travelogue, taking in themes of migration and colonialism, and blending 1960s pop with bossa nova, 1950s lounge and a soupcon of Stereolab-style electronica.

What happened next? Beach Boy Bruce Johnson invited O'Hagan to LA to discuss working on a new Beach Boys album, but the collaboration fell through. KC


THE UNDERTONES: HYPNOTISED (1980)1979's self-titled debut (and John Peel) introduced the fashion-free Derry lads to the public, but it was with this follow-up that the band cast off accusations of contrived innocence. Although still based on the great tradition of early-mid- 1960s pop, Hypnotised was a more accomplished work that referenced teenage angst and romance and matched them with pitch-perfect pop (Wednesday Week) and humour (My Perfect Cousin).

What happened next? Maturity ushered in further terrific songs and albums, but the band dissolved in 1983. They re-formed (Sharkey- free) several years ago, and are still belting out Teenage Kicks. TCL



After Damien Rice split from Juniper in 1999, few imagined the performer then known as Dodi Ma would resurface in such remarkable fashion. With the other members of Juniper going on to form Bell X1, Rice busked across Europe, worked out the kinks in his own songs and returned to Dublin with a new frame of reference. Recorded throughout 2000 and 2001 in various houses in Dublin and Celbridge, O owes as much to the musicians Rice gathered around him (co-singer Lisa Hannigan in particular shone brightly throughout), as to his delicate melodies and earnest lyrics.

What happened next? O went on to be a huge success for Rice and won the US Shortlist Prize in 2003. JC



Stylistically different from its predecessor, Rum, Sodomy and The Lash, this 1988 album saw the Pogues move away from their trademark punk/Irish trad sound in favour of Spanish and Middle Eastern rhythms. The eponymous opening track, though, was a scabrous dissection of Celtic imagery and remains one of the band's best moments. The album is perhaps best known for the magnificent Kirsty MacColl duet, Fairytale Of New York.

What happened next? The band had only one album left in them, Hell's Ditch, before MacGowan left, but they are now back together as a successful touring unit. BB

40 MICRODISNEY: CROOKED MILE (1987)They started off as a bunch of Cork nutters and ended up as urbane sophisticates. It was a strange trip for Microdisney, not least because when they exchanged Cork for London they entered murky music industry waters. And yet they managed to write quite superb, subversive pop music, Sean O'Hagan deftly arranging songs of beauty, Cathal Coughlan writing lyrics with serrated edges. Some die-hard fans reckon Crooked Mile is too slick. They might be wrong.

What happened next? Fatima Mansions and a very fine solo career for Coughlan; High Llamas and a very fine solo career for O'Hagan. TCL


If you are OUTRAGED, can't believe Enya isn't in there, or feel otherwise moved to words, you

can VENT YOUR SPLEEN on our free ON THE RECORD blog (www., where Jim Carroll will field your comments over the coming days