The future of music

20 Best Irish Bands of All Time

December 12, 2023
irish bands

I’ve curated a list of the best Irish bands of all time, each bringing a unique blend of traditional and contemporary sounds to the global music stage.

This article celebrates the rich musical heritage of Ireland, showcasing the bands that have made a lasting impact on music both at home and internationally.

Top Irish bands of all time

  • Thin Lizzy
  • The Cranberries
  • The Pogues
  • The Dubliners
  • Westlife
  • The Corrs
  • Snow Patrol
  • Clannad
  • Horslips
  • The Boomtown Rats

1. Thin Lizzy

Thin Lizzy is an Irish rock band that was formed by school friends Brian Downey and Phill Lynott in 1969.

However, after Downey left the band, the group decided to change their name to Black Star Riders in 2012 and occasionally play early Thin Lizzy songs during their concerts.

Although they are a hard rock band, their music is heavily influenced by psychedelic rock and Irish folk music. 

Their most popular songs include “The Boys Are Back in Town,” “Jailbreak,” and “Whiskey in the Jar.”

2. The Cranberries

The Cranberries, initially known as The Cranberry Saw Us, changed their original name when Dolores O’Riordan replaced the band’s lead singer Niall Quinn.

Their musical blend of dream pop and simple folk styles has made them one of the most well-known and influential Irish bands.

Members Noel Hogan and Dolores O’Riordan won Ivor Novello Awards for International Achievement in 1997, which is one of the biggest honors for any Irish Band.

Some of their popular songs are “Zombie,” “Dreams,” and “Linger.”

3. The Pogues

The Pogues are considered one of the most influential bands of the 80s and have inspired countless musicians in the punk and folk genres.

The band is known for its unique music and rowdy live performances. 

They rose to fame with their hit song “Fairytale of New York,” which ranked no.3 on the UK Singles chart and has since become a Christmas classic. 

Despite numerous lineup changes over the years, the band has continued to tour and record music.

4. The Dubliners

The Dubliners are known for their unique style of music, which combines traditional Irish tunes with elements of British folk.

Their song “The Irish Rover,” featuring another Irish band, The Pogues, topped the singles charts in Ireland and the UK.

They have inspired countless musicians in the folk genre and helped popularize traditional Irish bands around the world.

5. Westlife

Westlife is a famous Irish boy band that formed in Dublin in 1998.

They are known for holding many Guinness World Records, including one for being the first to earn seven consecutive number-one singles in the UK.

In 2012 Westlife was voted the best boyband on MTV’s Battle of the Boybands out of 32 competing groups.

The boy band, known for its pop ballads and catchy tunes, has motivated millions of fans around the world with its uplifting and emotional music.

6. The Corrs

The Corrs is a family band that consists of 4 siblings, Andrea, Jim, Caroline, and Sharon Corr.

They were inspired by their musician parents, who encouraged them to learn and play different instruments when they were young.

The band combines a blend of pop, rock, and traditional Irish music with heartfelt lyrics.

Their album Talk on Corners was the UK’s highest-selling album of the year and ranked no. 1 on the UK Albums (OCC) music chart.

The band took a hiatus in the late 2000s to focus on their families but reunited in 2015 to release new music.

7. Snow Patrol

Snow Patrol’s lyrics tend to be emotional and self-reflective, which has helped them appeal to a wide range of listeners worldwide.

They achieved mainstream success with their hit album Final Straw, which is 6x platinum certified in the UK (BPI) and gold certified in the United States (RIAA).

They’ve released seven studio albums over the years, the latest being Wildness in 2018. 

Despite their multiple hit albums, the band is most popular for their hit song “Chasing Cars,” one of the most-played songs of the decade in the UK.

8. Clannad

Siblings Ciarán, Pól, and Moya Brennan formed Clannad in 1970 with their twin uncles.

The band is known for its distinctive music, featuring haunting melodies and vocals sung in both Irish and English.

Clannad has helped introduce Irish music to a broader audience, and surprisingly they’re more famous outside of Ireland than in the country.

Their album Landmarks won a Grammy award for Best New Age Album and peaked at no.6 on the U.S Billboard Top World Albums chart.

9. Horslips

Considered a pioneer of the Celtic rock genre, Horslips is an Irish rock band that was formed in 1970. 

The band’s music style is a unique blend of traditional Irish folk and rock music, which they dubbed “Celtic rock.” 

Horslips gained popularity in the 1970s and 1980s with their energetic live performances and innovative rhythms. 

Some of their most famous songs include “Dearg Doom” and “The Man Who Built America.”

10. The Boomtown Rats

The Boomtown Rats are known for their punk-inspired music and socially conscious lyrics.

Their song “Rat Trap” is the first rock song by an Irish band to reach no.1 in the UK music charts.

They wrote a song in response to a California school shooting called “I Don’t Like Mondays,” which quickly became a worldwide hit.

It’s their only song that has featured on the US Billboard Hot 100 music chart.

11. The Script

The Script has released six studio albums and sold millions of records worldwide since their formation in 2001.

Their debut album of the same name ranked no.1 on both Ireland and UK music charts.

The band’s music has also been featured in popular television shows like The Vampire Diaries and East Enders.

Some of their popular songs include “The Man Who Can’t Be Moved,” “Breakeven,” and “Hall of Fame.”

12. Boyzone

Boyzone was a huge part of the pop music scene in the late 90s and early 2000s. 

They were considered one of Britain’s most successful boy bands, having received multiple BRIT and MTV Awards.

Some of their most popular songs include “No Matter What,” “Words,” and “Love Me for a Reason.” 

13. Kodaline

Initially known as 21 Demands, the band changed its name to Kodaline to represent its changing music style.

They are known for their passionate lyrics and catchy melodies. 

The band is famous worldwide for its dynamic live performances and often sold-out concerts.

Their songs have been featured on numerous hit TV shows and movies, including Grey’s Anatomy, 13 Reasons Why, and The Fault in Our Stars.

14. The Chieftains

The Chieftains are one of the most influential bands in Irish music history. 

Their traditional Irish tunes composed of tin whistles, uilleann pipes, and fiddle melodies have earned them international fame.

The band has won six Grammy awards and collaborated with many famous musicians like  Van Morrison, The Rolling Stones, and Sting. 

They have released over 50 albums and continue to be celebrated as one of the best Irish bands to set the stage.

15. My Bloody Valentine

Known for inventing a new genre of music called Shoegaze, My Bloody Valentine is one the most popular Irish bands of all time.

The band is known for its experimental and innovative tunes, which blend distorted guitar music with ethereal vocals. 

They try to prioritize their song lyrics over their tunes and make sure the lyrics are as heartfelt as possible.

My Bloody Valentine has been praised for their innovative music and has inspired many other bands in the alternative music scene.

Their album Loveless was included in Rolling Stone’s list of “The 500 Greatest Albums of All Time.”

16. Planxty

Planxty is an Irish folk band that was formed in Dublin in 1972 by friends Christy Moore, Dónal Lunny, Liam O’Flynn, and Andy Irvine.

They are known for popularizing folk music all over the world, but especially among the younger generation.

Planxty’s music often includes notes from traditional Irish instruments such as the uilleann pipes, fiddle, and bodhrán. 

The band has released several albums, including their self-titled debut album in 1973, which is still considered a classic in the Irish folk music genre.

17. The Bothy Band

Dónal Lunny formed the Bothy Band after leaving Planxty to start his own company in 1975.

The band was famous for its energetic and innovative approach to traditional music, blending musical elements of other genres into their songs.

Some of their best albums include Old Hag You Have Killed Me, Out Of The Wind Into The Sun, and After Hours.

Despite their relatively short career, the Bothy Band remains a cherished and highly regarded group in the history of Irish music.

18. The Frames

Inspiration for the band’s name came from the founder Glen Hansard who always had spare bicycle frames lying around his house from fixing his friend’s bikes.

The band’s music is known for its emotional intensity and poetic heart-touching lyrics.

Their song “Seven Day Mile” was featured in the season six premiere of the famous Fox show “House M.D..”

The Frames’ popular albums Set List topped the Irish albums music chart in 2003, while their other album, Burn the Maps, topped the same chart in 2004.

19. Delorentos

Delorentos is an indie rock band that was formed in 2005.

Their music is famous for its catchy melodies and emotionally charged lyrics. 

They have toured extensively worldwide and have shared the stage with notable bands such as Arcade Fire and The Pixies. 

Their debut album, In Love with Detail, won them an Album of the Year award at the Róisín Dubh.

Other famous albums include You Can Make Sound, Little Sparks, and Night Becomes Light.

20. Stiff Little Fingers

Stiff Little Fingers is an Irish punk rock band that was formed during political turmoil in Ireland.

Politics has influenced a great deal of the band’s songwriting, and they are known for addressing various social and political issues in their songs.

Their popular albums include Nobody’s Heroes, Go for It, No Going Back, and Inflammable Material, which made it to the UK Top Twenty list.

Best Irish Bands of All Time – Final Thoughts

All of the Irish bands mentioned above have contributed to Ireland’s rich and diverse music culture.

From traditional folklore to pop to rock bands, Ireland has given us some of the best musicians of all time.

All the bands in our list have had an enormous influence on music genres today and will continue to have a lasting impact on the music of future generations.

If you enjoy exploring different cultures through music, our list of the best Irish bands is a great place to start.

You may also like: Best Bands of All Time

Will Fenton

Will, the founder of MIDDER, is a multifaceted individual with a deep passion for music and personal finance. As a self-proclaimed music and personal finance geek, he has a keen eye for futuristic technologies, especially those that empower creators and the public.

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