I have a particular positive bias when it comes to reviewing Irish musicians. I know, it’s something I should be working on; to evoke a more balanced and fair point of view when comparing Irish acts with everything else. But with this in mind you’ll be delighted to learn about my severe distaste for Finn McGinn and the Mudguards’ new single ‘Get My Kicks’, released on the 2nd of May this year. With its pleasant ‘Irish-ness’, it seems all too forced. I will explain myself, but first I must admit the more I listen to this track the more I find myself humming it mid cycle or as I walk around in work. This fact comes with a deep annoyance. I love traditional Irish music but this is Sharon Shannon’s ‘Galway Girl’ all over again, with added leprechauns and the acute bastardisation of our culture.
It probably sounds obtusely scathing for me to open a review like this but a myriad of conflicting feelings were brought up on my first listen and I want to accurately explain the origin of a few these dichotomies.
The track opens with kick drum and harmonica, immediately giving you a taste of the predominant melody. I can’t exactly tell if it’s the performer’s playing the harmonica or a poor recording technique but it’s lacking some tone or intonation, which isn’t the best start. Maybe it was the slightly out of tune kazoo playing the same melody behind the harmonica…why? But let’s not get carried away here, the song has barely started. The harmonica drops off and Finn jumps in with his rich and deep voice, singing about how he gets his kicks from a particularly destructive relationship he’s involved in. I quite like the idea and I do find myself nodding along to the video and smiling at the odd lyric… However, in between these rare happy moments I find myself scowling at my screen, enraged, as some lad with a fake sounding name parades around, dressed as a Viking, who might as well be singing ‘fiddle dee dee, I’m Irish’.
Conviction’s aside, the music and production is actually very good. I’ll forgive the kazoo and admit that the composition is ridiculously catchy and all the performances on the track are particularly upbeat and engaging. That’s something I believe is not appreciated enough in music nowadays: how the performer plays as opposed to what they play. This I assume has something to do with the help of producer Mudd Walace, who obviously has put a lot of effort into the single. This energy in the music basically makes the song and carries it to a level where we might be listening to it across Temple Bar for the next year: I actually think this track could do quite well with the right marketing and budget to push it in the right places.
I guess what sets Finn McGinn and the Mudguards apart from other tourist trap ballad groups is the rock influence. I think the greater emphasis on the downbeat of each bar pulls the music into a more normalised rock sound, transforming what was already a catchy melody into something you’ll find yourself unconsciously tapping your feet along to.
Something I cannot forgive however, occurs at about two minutes into the track, when there’s a hip hop interlude, packed with a dancing peasant and leprechaun to boot. This hurts. I love hip hop but this again like the imprecise representation of Irish culture, is actually not hip hop. It’s something else, something very cheesy.
At the end of the day I feel very strange about this track. It fosters both happiness and anger. I think it could be a complete success, publicly and internationally, if pushed in the right direction but I’m not sure if I honestly want that to happen, for fear of it being over played. And then there’s the dissemination of misunderstood leprechaun culture. But this is about the music and I can only fault that in very few ways. My verdict is that I think you should give it a listen and that I’d like to hear more. I’m actually looking forward to their forthcoming album to see what oddities lie ahead. As it says on their website, “Watch this space!”