Second Listen Lineage

Zombie, The Cranberries -> Foreigner’s God, Hozier -> Butchered Tongue, Hozier


“Zombie,” by The Cranberries, is one of the most recognizable contemporary protest songs. Written by an Irish band, about the heavy violence present in the Northern Ireland Troubles, it is devastating through and through. British and Irish violence is pitted against each other, and the song itself was written partially as the result of an IRA bomb killing two British children. The entire thing is a heartbreaking plea to end the struggle and stop wounding either side.

“Foreigner’s God”

Meanwhile, in “Foreigner’s God,” Hozier, also an Irish musician, evokes intense imagery of the loss of Irish history and religion at British hands – the beginnings of the original violence that would someday play out in Northern Ireland and be protested by The Cranberries. Lyrics bring to mind the loss of Irish pagan roots in the onslaught of Catholicism, as Hozier sings “Since some liar brought the thunder When the land was godless and free”. He discusses the loss of native language – “every word I’ve got Is foreign to me” – a clear reference to the discouragement and bans that the British applied to teaching Irish to children, which have resulted in a very small percentage of the Irish population being able to functionally speak their native tongue. This, of course, bears tragic similarity to the way many indigenous peoples in the Americas have been treated, forced into Christianity and stripped of their culture, language, homes, and sometimes even their families. As Hozier mourns the losses that being forced to worship “a foreigner’s God” have meant for him and his country, those feelings are reflected back across many colonized and wounded cultures.

“Butchered Tongue”

This lineage finds its natural continuation in Hozier’s more recent song, “Butchered Tongue.” Here, the artist takes a broader examination of not just Irish culture, but of those many lost languages and “place names” that he encounters along his travels, which have been disrespected or lost to time, even by the people living there. Here, we find a contemplation of the roots that both “Foreigner’s God” and “Zombie” have brought to the forefront. He makes explicit references to the violence practiced against the Irish by the British, and speaks of the “music That few still understand,” bringing back the idea of the faded Irish language and cultural traditions.


All three of these songs speak to Irish loss and the brutal Irish-British relations that have echoed throughout centuries. The Cranberries’ focus on modern violence, Hozier’s emphasis on historic loss, and the ways each have affected the Irish population are told in sprawling lyrical form, in protest songs that will outlive their creators. This lineage of music represents an evolution of Irish culture, and of an Irish past. It speaks to a myriad of cultures who have been harmed by colonialism and British interference. It is a symbolic chain of events.