(http://www.myspace.com/therighs)The Righs – The Rivers Run Deep
Irish-punk with strong acoustic songwriting and instrumentation.
I have only one problem with Irish punk: I can only hear two different sounds. No matter what Irish-punk band I’m listening to, I hear the Dropkick Murphys (Irish-PUNK) or Flogging Molly (IRISH-punk). That’s why hearing the Righs is so refreshing: it doesn’t feel like I’m listening to either staple of the genre.
In fact, on the best tracks of The Rivers Run Deep, The Righs summon comparisons to the decidedly non-Irish Neutral Milk Hotel rather than their Gaelic brethren. Standout track “Dublin: Easter, 1916” draws comparisons to Jeff Mangum’s “Holland, 1945” in more than just title. The heavy acoustic guitar strum, the crowded exuberance of the embellishing instrumentation and the underlying distortion drone of “Dublin” evoke feelings very similar to those that “Holland” creates. The Righs’ vocals are deeper and more ferocious than Mangum’s, and the lyrics are more straightforward story than NMH’s lucid dreaming, but it’s still a comparison that screams to be made.
If a NMH clone was all this band was, there wouldn’t be any reason to keep writing – there have been plenty of NMH clones over the years, and none have been as good as the original. But the Righs are not anyone’s clone. They have their Flogging Molly leanings (the mercilessly catchy “My Life in the Bike Scene”), their Dropkick Murphy moments (the nearly straight-forward rock song “That Guy”) and their “traditional Irish” moments (their rowdy takes on “Amazing Grace” and “Loch Lomond”).
But they don’t conform to any of those brackets. “Agony’s Night” is a sea shanty, Decemberists-style. “The Shire” is a well-written and performed song that also happens to be a tribute to Lord of the Rings. Heck, they even subvert the idea of a ballad by throwing distortion and a snare-heavy drumbeat under their prettiest song (“I’m Bound Away”). Yeah, they do lay it on heavy with the Irish-related lyrics, but that’s one of the few clichés that they fall into on the album.
The performances are solid, but it’s not the individual skill of the players that makes this album such fun to listen to. It’s not that the pan pipes or the violin are especially virtuosic – it’s the fact that the sound works together perfectly that makes this such an engaging listen.
In short, I’m no big fan of Irish punk, but I am a big fan of the Righs. Their songs are catchy, their instrumentation is varied, and the attention level is high. The songwriting prowess and melodic intensity captured in The Rivers Run Deep make for an engaging and exciting listen, no matter what you normally listen to.