In honour of yesterday (many people will be celebrating all weekend though!), a very special, quadruple LP of the week. That being all four Flogging Molly studio albums. A fifth one, Speed of Darkness, is set to be released May 24!
Flogging Molly do not own the most storied history, yet they have been together now for right around 14 years, more counting the time they were not fully Flogging Molly beforehand, with four full length records to their name (and of course a fifth soon!), and a few other various releases including a live CD/DVD.
Flogging Molly are fronted by Dave King, who prior to playing Celtic punk, and the like, fronted a metal band with Eddie Clarke of Motörhead. He eventually set to work on a solo album that did not work out, however everything happens for a reason. He went on to form a band that would eventually become Flogging Molly. Before being Flogging Molly, they would play at a Los Angeles club every Monday for a while called Molly Malone’s. Hence the band’s name.
They released an independent live album in 1997 called Alive Behind the Green Door, and Flogging Molly were officially born. Fast forward to 2000, and their proper debut record, Swagger is released on SideOneDummy.
Swagger starts with quite the wallop that is “Salty Dog”. Instantly the Celtic influence is heard, as is the upbeat punk rock mélange. Mostly an uptempo record, with “These Exiled Years” slowing it down. “Grace of God Go I” is a track with just Dave King’s vocals, and coupled with the songwriting it works very well. If it was not evident enough from his vocal style, “Grace of God Go I” illustrates his Irish heritage, having been born in Dublin. Not to forget the emotional and spine chilling closer “Far Away Boys”.
The arrangements are superb, making it difficult to believe it is their first studio album. All the pub playing most definitely helped. The album definitely does not shy away from the Celtic instrumentation, which includes tin whistle, fiddle, accordion, mandolin and banjo to name most. “Black Friday Rule” takes the cake as it is quite an impressive track. It clocks in just over 7 minutes. Within, of course there is a fiddle solo section, preceding that earlier in the song is practically a rockabilly instrumental portion.
It sounds as if all instruments are equal in the mix, making the Celtic, and said arrangements all the more impressive. The album is very bass drum heavy, and “Devil’s Dance Floor” is a track centred and commencing with a tin whistle. “Sentimental Johnny” ups the ante, starting with a trumpet solo, and heavy on the accordion playing. The accordion player being former (I assume) professional skateboarder Matt Hensley! I believe he left the band for a little while, however it appears he actually has not missed playing on any of their releases.
No matter what time of the year, Swagger plays well, especially now.
Drunken Lullabies from 2002, and Within a Mile of Home from 2004, both continue in the vein of Swagger, only with Dave King et. al. showing their experience all the more.
Drunken Lullabies starts with likely a fan favourite, and for good reason, another great boisterous romp, the title track, “Drunken Lullabies” This continues to “What’s Left of the Flag” which starts off very traditional, and soon after is another up-tempo Celtic punk cut, Flogging Molly have come to do oh so well. Also very emotional knowing it is about his father who died at an early age, and yet it turns out, or sounds like for sure, to be a celebratory track rather than a sad one. To give an example of the lyrics, the chorus is as follows:
Walk away, me boys, walk away, me boys
By morning we’ll be free
Wipe that golden tear from your mother dear
Raise what’s left of the flag for me
“If I Ever Leave This World Alive” continues to expand their style repertoire, as an acoustic number, that continues to add layers of sound as it progresses. All the while, Flogging Molly continue to fuse traditional Celtic with folk, and of course punk in their own unique way, no more apparent than on “Swagger”. “Cruel Mistress” sounds like another one for the sea adding some Eastern European style to it as well. Both from Drunken Lullabies.
Within a Mile of Home starts nicely as well with a bang, with “Screaming at the Wailing Wall”. The party really gets going with another sea shanty that is “Seven Deadly Sins“. “Seven drunken pirates, We’re the seven deadly sins”, Dave King sings to close the chorus. The verses containing a pretty sweet drum beat. If one needed proof these guys (and gal) are good, Lucinda Williams is a featured guest on “Factory Girls”.
The songs on Within a Mile of Home can go from a quality drinking, celebratory song to the emotional, and still work together just fine. The former I am referring to is “To Youth (My Sweet Roisin Dubh)”, and the latter, the very emotional and moving “Whistles the Wind”. I do not know who “Whistles the Wind” in the wind is about, but it is a spine chilling song, that very near brought me to tears. Much of the most emotional music I know, is not labelled as emo (no disrespect to emo though, the good emo that is, the real stuff).
As I mentioned about Swagger, the arrangements dazzle again, look no further than “Tobacco Island”, that clocks at 5:17, the last 2:10 ending with a very nice banjo and fiddle instrumental. Once again, the drumming sounds great on the record. “Queen Anne’s Revenge” is a toe tapping romp, that has Dave King singing with a bit of a rasp, making it almost difficult to recognise him, yet, no surprise, it works!
Float, although it does have the Flogging Molly tracks one would come to expect, it is more of a somber, mature record. Mature in the sense it has a little less punk rock influence as Wikipedia refers to, and more traditional-ey. That is definitely not to take anything away from their previous three records. I still only have a handful of times I have listened to Float, so it is still very much growing on me. A few songs could fit well on Within a Mile of Home or Drunken Lullabies, however as a whole, Float is a great collection, and no doubt by this point, all the musicians are very proficient with their respective instruments. Perhaps that is the natural evolution that yielded this album for some deeper cuts. “Man With No Country” (worth noting) opens with a very nice bass intro, punk meets metal really, or vice versa. The title track “Float“, is an excellent track to illustrate my point(s).
Float, as with all Flogging Molly albums, most songs are pretty much credited to everyone. Well done, as everyone has an equal part, and as I mentioned earlier, all instruments are quite equal in the mix.
Flogging Molly are one of those bands that tend to shine with everything they release. I much look forward to Speed of Darkness. And in the meantime, go check out some Flogging Molly at your local independent record shop!