The Mahones’ The Hunger & The Fight is a headlong race through Ireland’s turbulent history, a narrative that starts with Brian Boru, the last king of Ireland, and reaches all the way through to the present day. The same can actually be said of Brian Boru’s March, the opening track, which opens with a heart-stoppingly lovely, folky solo fiddle passage and builds quickly to a full-throttle gallop that sets the stage beautifully for the album’s title track. The Hunger and The Fight feels like the true beginning of the story, making use of some nice dual vocals and a perfectly-judged marriage of Irish folk and modern punk rock elements and a chorus that pulls at the listener like a riptide.
Paddy On The Railway and Stars both showcase similarly solid songwriting and musicianship as well as the endearing sense that the music is authentic, organic; nothing feels laboured or overworked. The Hunger & The Fight flags slightly around Prisoner 1082, but it gets right back on track with the rousing quick-fire stomp of A Pint Of Plain. The album, naturally, includes a surprisingly intimate, soulful rendition of the traditional ballad The Auld Triangle, which has been covered by everyone from the Pogues to the Dropkick Murphys in the past, but, unfazed, the Mahones manage to make it their own, and there’s a disarming sincerity to the sparse arrangement.
The easy, loping waltz of Blood On The Streets Of Dublin belies unflinching lyrics that touch on the sectarian violence and political unrest that once racked the country and left scars that can still be felt today, but the tongue-in-cheek humour and infectious energy of St. Patrick’s Day Irish Punk Song are more than enough to lighten the mood. The band then take a conscious step away from the established formula that’s been working so well with I Can Only Give You Everything, which is more than a little reminiscent of something T-Rex might have come out with, and it feels like a bit of a non-sequitur, especially squeezed in before the triumphant closing number, Last One To Die. Overall, though, The Hunger & The Fight is an enjoyable ride, with enough light and shade to it to stand up to repeated listening.