The seven-piece Franco-Irish guerrilla group The Celtic Social Club use the rich traditions of Celtic music culture as the foundation for a wider fusion with rock, pop, folk and groove. Their fourth album, ‘Dancing Or Dying?’, has made a big impact in France. It has resulted in the band hitting the cover of Rolling Stone, while Manu Masko featured on the cover of the nation’s leading drumming magazine. Now ‘Dancing Or Dying?’ is set to become their first album to get a full UK promotional push when it arrives on February 25th.
Featuring musicians who have collaborated with the likes of Levellers, Johnny Halliday, Cathal Coughlan and The Wonder Stuff, The Celtic Social Club’s pedigree is apparent as soon as you hit play on ‘Dancing Or Dying?’. Opening song and lead single ‘For Real’ sets out their stall, their folk-rock powered with jangly, ‘60s-tinged pop and a punkish fervour. It then accelerates through the gears for The Pogues-meets-The Clash exuberance of ‘The Edge of the World’ before taking an emotive turn with ‘Home’, their own stirring take on the timeless Irish ballad.
The album continues to surprise, from the driving blue collar rock of ‘City Lights’ to the rootsy yet experimental ‘The Silence’ before signing off with the cathartic crescendo of ‘Self Important Clown’. For such a coherent collection with a rambunctious live energy, it’s remarkable to discover that The Celtic Social Club recorded the album remotely due to lockdown restrictions.
The group’s drummer and leader Manu Masko recalls, “We couldn’t have done anything without being able to communicate via FaceTime and WhatsApp, or sending each other ideas by e-mail. At one point, the album felt like a puzzle. We had some many individual pieces of lyrics, chord progressions and melodies, but we had to find a way to bring them together.”
Vocalist Dan Donnelly adds, “While it was hard to concentrate, we knew that working on the project gave us an escape from the crisis. That’s where the strange, confrontational album title comes from. We had to get on with it to maintain our sanity: dance or die, basically. So the desire to make music was the thing that would get us through it.
The Celtic Social Club debuted with what was planned to be a one-off show in front of 50,000 people at the Vieilles Charrues 2014. Hugely successful in France over the course of four studio albums to date, the band’s touring has taken them from the Vieilles Charrues’ New York event in Central Park to China, Algeria and beyond. The band are completed by Ronan Le Bars, Goulven Hamel, Pierre Stephan, Mathieu Péqueriau and Richard Puaud. They also share a strong relationship with the Joe Strummer Foundation.
The Celtic Social Club will play a ‘Dancing Or Dying?’ UK launch show at Nell’s in London on February 24th. Tickets are available here, priced at £17.50.