The Rags have been lurking in the shadows of the Irish music scene for over half a decade now, having released two EPs that raised nothing beyond a whisper in the music press and the odd Saturday night appearance in Whelan’s. Maybe the release of their debut album, A National Light, could be a strange coincidence or else just good timing, but it seems there has never been a better time to unleash this collection as songs as now.
Front man Daniel Anderson’s lyrics describe an Ireland that is both beautiful and self destructive at the same time. The standout eponymous track ‘A National Light’ is a sort of analysis of the national psyche : ‘I had a dream that there was blood in stream and the heads of the parliament drowned-face down/ Gucci suits and blank cheque books burst the banks of the Liffey and we owned the city/Pearse was smiling at Joyce recoiling, By the granite of his grave, Oscar prayed.’
Most of the record is fast and furious and the songs are in your face and loud, however when the tempo slows down there are moments of quality songwriting on tracks such as the melodic ‘Owner of a Loveless Life’, or the short ballad of ‘Memories Are Rife’.
There is something chilling about writing a cynical two and a half minute pop song about the state and decay of a society that is on its knees, but The Rags seem to be able to do it with gruelling precision, particularly on ‘Razors and Ropes’: ‘Old women at the weekend/ Let your Babies Play/ Razors and Ropes, These people are jokes/ This town isn’t well and everyone can tell.’
A fine debut: finally an Irish band with something to say and the ability to say it with attitude.