Celebrating St. Patrick’s Day with one of Ireland’s most underrated rock bands
Before The Frames came into view during the 90s, Hothouse Flowers was the original streets-to-stardom story in Irish Rock.
The band was only together busking around Dublin when they were discovered by Bono, who released their first single “Love Don’t Work This Way” on U2’s Mother Records before signing to London Records and releasing People in 1988, the most successful debut in Irish music history.
“When I talk about searching out the answers, I’m thinking about other people too,” frontman Liam Ó Maonlaí told Melody Maker in 1988 in regards to one of People’s highlights “The Older We Get”. “Most people are, I’m sure, searching out the answers to mysteries. They fall in love with mystery and that’s a trap. We’re all led by mystery. Money is a mystery to us. We don’t know what the mystery is until we have money. Then we find out it’s not a mystery at all. Neither does it solve everything.”
For 1990’s Home, the Flowers pay homage to Van Morrison (albeit before he became a COVID-19 denying loon), channeling such masterpieces as St. Dominic’s Preview and Tupelo Honey in the way by which they inject generous elements American gospel and Celtic folk into their earnest guitar pop across these 14 songs, highlighted by a lively rendition of the Johnny Nash reggae classic “I Can See Clearly Now.”
VIDEO: Hothouse Flowers “I Can See Clearly Now”
“Any little bits of gospel I’ve heard have always rung true to me,” Ó Maonlaí told Rolling Stone in 1990. “It’s managed to reach the same level of power as traditional music. And if anything does that, then I think some part of me takes it in, locks it up and says, ‘This is good for you.’ “
The Flowers made one more album, 1993’s Songs From The Rain, before the group took an extended sabbatical for much of the 1990s. Released in March of that year, the album really flew under the radar in terms of coverage and promotion here in the United States, with many critics–no doubt high off the buzz eminating from the upcoming second albums from Pearl Jam and Nirvana–largely tossing the album off as meh.
“While Songs From the Rain is the band’s most musically diverse collection, it is hampered by an inconsistent set of material,” wrote my friend and longtime All Music Guide editor Stephen Thomas Erlewine in his capsule for the site.
Yet to give you an idea of how much Songs From The Rain remains a most underappreciated title in the Hothouse Flowers’ ovuere, AllMusic reader DL Ortega countered Erlewine with this reprieve: “One of the greatest unknown albums that begs for re-evaluation and discovery.”
AUDIO: Hothouse Flowers Born (full album)
The Flowers would release one more album for London Records in 1998 entitled Born, which found the group exploring more electronic embellishments. From there they went on to release two more albums in the last 20 years with 2004’s Into Your Heart and 2016’s Let’s Do This Thing. Yet nothing thus far has matched the majesty of the group’s first three albums.
When I interviewed Liam for the story I did last week on his super trio ALT, I asked him of there have ever been plans to reissue People, Home and Songs From The Rain.
“Our record company of the time still owns the old records so at the moment that is their call,” said Ó Maonlaí. “We have our own record called Vaults. We are still creating new stuff. I am happy to concentrate on new work.”
Thankfully, however, all three albums are on Spotify,, so we proudly celebrate this St. Patrick’s Day with this most essential and underrated Irish Rock institution.