Fricke's Picks: Black 47

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The Fighting Irish Iraq (United for Opportunity), by the New York Celtic-rock band Black 47, is an unashamedly topical wallop of the early-Seventies Jersey-bar E Street Band and the Combat Rock-era Clash, laced with the mourning siren of Uilleann pipes. The album is as blunt in its frontline detail as it is in title. "Much of Iraq is written from the viewpoint of Black 47 fans who have served over there," according to the album credits, and the cordite and emergency-channel chatter confirm that. "The Hummer took the bend at forty plus and then/The IED cut the door and driver to pieces," guitarist-songwriter Larry Kirwan sings with tremulous shock in "Stars and Stripes," a roughed-up echo of the homesickness in the West Indian folk song "Sloop John B." There are "mortars in minarets," and "even the dead are rigged to ignite" in the drinker's waltz "Battle of Fallujah," while the chorus is a bitter toast: "Here's to the old men back in the States/Don't ever let on that they used you/When you're down in the dirt with your heart in your mouth." But Iraq is not merely anti-war. It is pro-life — as in quick, safe return, because with every extra day of Fox News patriotism and Beltway paralysis, the only guaranteed surge is in body count. "I can't believe it's so peaceful/In only moments, it'll be hell ... I hope I see the sunrise in Brooklyn again," Kirwan sings in the night-patrol lament "Sunrise in Brooklyn." That's not protest. It's prayer.