13 Of The Most Famous Irish Rock Bands

Rock music transforms our emotions and souls, and some songs have more power to do so than others. This feeling we get from rock music, especially from Irish musicians with all their years of unique musical culture, has created a perfect storm of creativity and songwriting.

From hard metal to punk-rock, some even have a pop-rock flare, there’s something for everyone on this list of the 13 most famous Irish rock bands. Let’s get started.

1. U2

Up first, U2 was born while drummer Larry Mullen was attending school in Dublin after posting an ad looking for musicians. But they’ve come a long way since their early beginnings.

They initially were more punk-rock but have since stepped into other genres. Not only did their style of music change, but also the topics they sang about changed. 

Some songs were more political, like “Sunday Bloody Sunday,” while others came from a more personal place, like “I Will Follow.”

They’ve had 19 number-one hits, received 22 Grammys, released 14 studio albums, and sold over 170 million records globally. Although not everyone in Ireland loves them, their success in their music speaks for itself. 

Their songs are catchy, often meaningful, and full of talent. There’s no doubt that this band is eternal and doesn’t seem to age.

2. Cranberries

Next, we have The Cranberries who have a sound that’s a bit of punk-rock with an Irish flare.

Their debut album “Everybody Else Is Doing It, So Why Can’t We?” was released in the early 1990s, and it exploded them onto the pop/rock scene, making them international legends.

The lyrics penetrate deeply into your soul with incredible power in songs like “Zombie” and “Dreams.” Although they’re mainly known for their songs from the 90s, they’ve continued to play through the years. Their last song, “Roses,” was released in 2012.

Dolores O’Riordan tragically passed away, and the band disbanded. She remains alive through her music every time it’s played, and her heart is felt through her voice and lyrics.

3. Thin Lizzy

Thin Lizzy banded together in 1969 with members from both sides of the Irish border. They were one of the first bands to have two lead guitarists, and their sound mix is phenomenal. 

With major hits like “The Boys are Back in Town” and “Jailbreak,” it’s no wonder they made it to stardom.

After their vocalist, Phil Lynott, passed away in 1986, the band never fully recovered. His passing made “Thunder and Lightening,” released in 1983, their last album. Although their songs are older, they still sound brand new. 

4. Horslips

Horslips was an Irish rock band formed in the 1970s using legendary Irish tales to create their records. They were the pioneers of their time, interpreting rock with their Irish roots.

They’re known most for songs like “Dearg Doom” and “Trouble with a Capital T,” but fans also enjoyed the movement in “King of the Fairies.” 

They use a mix of electric guitar and traditional Irish instruments to create their own Irish reels and jigs. Their blend of beats and instruments makes you want to get up and move.

Although they weren’t considered hugely successful and disbanded after only ten years, they are still considered a significant influence on Irish rock.

5. My Bloody Valentine

The name My Bloody Valentine may sound like a generic emo band from the 2000s, but they’re more than just that.

Songs like “Only Shallow” have a unique blend of intense hard rock and gentle vocals. They carry on that tradition of being unique in their intense and epic guitar riffs. 

Their music sounds almost futuristic and hypnotic all at the same time. Although their beat was there, some felt that their performance was lacking.

The lack of movement on stage was termed “shoegazing,” which encouraged others to do the same.

Their style may not be for everyone, but they’re still considered iconic and influential.

6. Flogging Molly

Although Flogging Molly is technically based in Los Angeles, the lead singer Dave King is from Dublin. Their shows are full of high energy, and their songs contain a mix of hard Irish rock and some slower-paced music. 

They have sold over a million albums, and there’s no doubt why. When they begin to play, the drum beat flows, and you cannot help but explode with energy. This energy is evident in their songs like “Drunken Lullabies” and “Punch Drunk Grinning Soul.” 

They have not only a unique beat but also a unique name. Their name originated from their local pub, Molly Malone’s, where they played weekly.

7. Snow Patrol

Snow Patrol is one of the best rock bands from the 2000s with Irish roots. They’ve had national and international fame since their 2003 album “Run,” which had five platinum records. 

One of their most popular songs,  “Chasing Cars,” is a masterpiece of simplicity, feeling, and raw emotion. These feelings are evident in many of their songs that pull on your heartstrings.

This group met at Dundee University as young lads. They have since achieved a grammy, six Brit Awards, and seven Meteor Island awards. They’ve had global success, and their songs still move their audiences today. 

8. The Corrs

The Corrs are another worthy mention on this list. This group of sisters began in 1990 and became famous across the globe. 

These musicians are loved for their blend of Irish rock and pop music. Listening to hits like “Breathless” and “Runaway” bring back a sense of nostalgia, thinking of long joy rides with the windows down. 

They have been number one and two simultaneously in the UK charts. Only a handful of bands can boast of this.

Their success alone cements them as true rockstars. After three decades of selling over 40 million albums, they still tour and release new ones today!

9. Stiff Little Fingers

Stiff Little Fingers has the true soul of punk rock and all of the passion that comes with it. Their rage and energy are contagious.

Starting during the Troubles in Northern Ireland, their lyrics were honest and personal.

They mix their personal life with their political views and add in the energy of punk rock.

This feature can be seen in songs like “Wasted Life” and “Suspect Device.” The lyrics in their songs are timeless and still felt relevant today. 

After ten albums and many tours, they still continue to perform. They play some new jams and some of their earlier classics while maintaining their outspoken nature.

10. Pogues

You’ve got to love the Pogues for sticking to their Irish roots by playing more traditional Irish instruments in their music.

The songs are great, but the lyrics are even better, which are more politically motivated. Their passion for communicating with their music is evident even in their name. 

The Pogues were initially named “Pogue Mahone,” which roughly means “kiss me arse” in Gaelic. They eventually shortened their name to just “The Pogues.” 

When thinking about the band’s best songs, it’s hard to choose just one. From “Dirty Old Town” to “A Pair of Brown Eyes,” many come to mind when thinking of The Pogues.

Their single “Fairytale of New York” goes hand in hand with Christmas and is inarguably on the list of Irish classics.

11. Undertones

The Undertones is another Irish rock phenomenon. They formed in Northern Ireland and were ahead of their time in their music style, encouraging copy bands to develop in their area. They are true geniuses of eclectic music.

Their hit song, “Teenage Kicks,” is the epitome of garage rock. It’s timeless with an addicting melody. It never gets old and still feels fresh and relatable today.

After breaking up for 16 years, the band reunited in 1999, without Sharkey. As of 2022, they may be more well known for their earlier years, but they still tour successfully.

12. Boomtown Rats

Although Boomtown Rats eventually moved to London, they originated from Dublin. They were the first Irish band to rank number in the UK charts with their song “Rat Trap.”

The following year, they accomplished this feat with “I Don’t Like Mondays.” It’s still debatable which one is more iconic.

Reaching number was not their only significant achievement. They also played in front of a global audience of 1.9 billion people in 1985 at a benefit concert. This Irish punk band also had 11 charting singles worth rocking out to.

13. Them

Coming from Belfast, Ireland, in 1964, Them had a unique sound. Their music included a mix of R&B, Irish show bands, and pop.

They had charting singles, including “Mystic Eyes,” “Here Comes The Night,” and “Baby, Please Don’t Go,” that gained them their reputation. 

Their lead singer, Van Morrison, chose to go solo in 1966. Without Morrison, they weren’t as successful but still highly favored. 

They’re most noted for their song, “Gloria,” which has been inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame and has been a cover song for other bands, such as Shadows of Knight, The Doors, and even Morrison himself. 

Summing Up Our List Of Rock Bands From Ireland

Irish culture is known for its music, dance, and folklore. A few bands from this list truly took from their heritage and culture to make their music.

Rock music isn’t meant to be something you just listen to; it’s meant to be something you genuinely internalize and feel.

This list is excellent if you’re looking for some great hits to expand your playlist or just looking to rediscover some of your favorites.

We hope you found some classics that bring back memories and new favorites.

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Written by Dan Farrant
Dan Farrant, the founder of Hello Music Theory, has been teaching music for over 15 years, helping hundreds of thousands of students unlock the joy of music. He graduated from The Royal Academy of Music in 2012 and then launched Hello Music Theory in 2014. Since then, he's been working to make music theory easy for over 1 million students in over 80 countries around the world.