"I've finally found a place where I belong," Patrick Halloran sings dramatically on the title track to Ceann's Almost Irish, "so let me sing 'The Unicorn Song.'"
It's an inside joke, a reference to some Irish-style bars' ban on the über-annoying Irish Rovers tune, and something of a statement of purpose for the self-proclaimed McYinzer band formerly known as Ceann na Caca. Ceann's mission in musical life is to take one of the least pretentious styles of music in America -- Irish-pub drinking songs -- and make it less pretentious by subtracting the fake accents and nostalgic waxing, and adding humor and Pittsburghanalia. Like if you went to see The Farrelly Brothers, and it turned out to be a band.
People who prefer, say, Kevin Burke's rough-hewn traditional fiddle to Shane MacGowan's mumbles will not like Ceann. Despite glowing turns from New York guests such as ex-Black 47 piper Chris Byrne and Irish-music accordion fixture Tommy Walsh, Almost Irish drops the ball more than once in the instrumental-prowess department. Likewise, kids from Ireland, as the band points out, do not like Ceann. As "Almost Irish" explains, quoting an Irishwoman from one show, "I didn't fly across the Atlantic Ocean / to hear 'A Nation Once Again.'"
But neither is this the domain of hordes of Glasgow Celtic-shirted politicos scrawling "IRA" everywhere. Ceann makes music for the green-beer drinkers: the college kids who majored in PBR and shit-talk. And at that, my dear fellows, Ceann excels. Check out "The Worst Pirate Song," which is both mind-bogglingly catchy and nose-suds funny, or "Denny's Bar," which will remind you of many wonderful nights you vaguely recall. Even the straight Irish-Yinzer things Ceann's known for, from early hits like "Ahrn at This Bar," are just simply better with Almost Irish's addition of a full band.
Beyond anything else, it's Ceann's piss-take of the oft-morbidly serious East Coast Irish-music circuit that wins the band a raised pint (of Old German). As "Music of Our Fathers" says, fake accent and all, "We play the music of our fathers / and of Irish history / but it's clear whoever booked us / didn't listen to our CD."