bill bodkin reviews the latest from the legendary celtic punk band…
Flogging Molly has made its name performing high-energy, pints in the air, rollicking Celtic punk rock. For the past decade their Guinness and Jameson drenched anthems like “Drunken Lullabies” have incited plenty a kilt-wearing mosh pit its wake. It’s their calling card, it’s what their fans eat up like a corned beef sammie on St. Patty’s.
However, their latest album, Speed of Darkness seems to, at least at first blush, to eschew from the tried and true Flogging formula. Philosophically, the album’s focus is on lead singer Dave King’s new hometown of Detroit. The album is a working man’s lament, it’s got a clear and definite message. Too some fans and critics out there, this direction is a misdirection — where’s the fun, the charisma, the whiskey-soaked party anthems?
If you really dive deep into any Flogging track, the struggle of the common man, the plight of the poor — whether it be factory girls in Ireland or blue collars in Detroit, have always been at the heart of the bands music. And isn’t the whole punk rock thing about singing about the plight of the misfortunate? So, when it comes to lyrical content, there’s not much of a shift in focus, just a little less about drinking and a lot more social commentary.
Musically, there is a big difference in terms of the sound on Speed of Darkness then previous Flogging elements. Don’t worry there are still some classic Celtic punk tracks like “Saints & Sinners” and “Don’t Shut ‘Em Down.” However, one track that exemplifies the musical change the band has taken is “The Power’s Out.” This is an amazing blend of Celtic rock with bluesy and ballsy Detroit-influenced slide-guitar. It’s a fist in the air, driving rock ‘n’ roll piece of fried gold.
One real difference on this record you can tell is the a bit of the grit has been taken out of the production value of the record. The wildcat scratchiness of lead singer Dave King’s voice has been replaced by a smoother, more crisp sounding set of pipes. The raw, kinetic and infectious energy of Flogging Molly’s previous records has been harnessed into a much tighter package. It’s missed somewhat on the record, but to be fair Flogging Molly started tightening their sound up on their last album Float. And let’s face it, the band can’t make the same record every time. This is an essential step to the band’s maturity and growth as artists. This is maturity and tightness can be seen on the beautiful Celtic acoustic track “Present State of Grace.”
In the end, while Speed of Darkness isn’t chock full of drinking songs; it’s still a wonderfully crafted album. Lyrically the band has never written more emotionally wrought and socially conscious music. Musically, the rollick may have subsided some, but it’s still a masterfully performed record. This record shows another side of Flogging Molly, one that upon a few listens you’ll fall in love with as you did with their earlier records.