Music

Flogging Molly: Speed of Darkness

A few stylistic curveballs and lyrics inspired by the collapsed US economy make Speed of Darkness another strong release from the Irish-punk stalwarts.


Flogging Molly

Speed of Darkness

Label: Thirty Tigers
US Release Date: 2011-05-31
UK Release Date: 2011-05-30
Amazon
iTunes

Flogging Molly's mixture of punk rock and traditional Irish music has always lent itself to songs about the struggles of working-class people. Frontman Dave King's lyrics trade in equal parts hope and misery, although hope usually wins out. The band's last studio album, Float, was recorded in Ireland and many of the songs were specifically concerned with that country. By the time the band finished their touring cycle for the album, though, the economy in the United States had collapsed. King and his wife, the band's fiddler and pennywhistle player Bridget Regan, live in Detroit, a city that was already in rough shape before the autumn of 2008. So it's no surprise that much of Speed of Darkness is particularly concerned with the state of America. King has been writing songs about these sort of conditions for a decade, and sadly, the rest of the country has reluctantly had to come around to his point of view.

Musically, Speed of Darkness is slightly tweaked from the band's norm. Flogging Molly have occasionally stretched away from their Pogues-inspired Irish-punk template over the years, but this album is the most rock-based they've ever written. The guitars seem crunchier and a lot of the songs are genuinely mid-tempo. That's unusual for a band that generally has two speeds; slow and easy or as fast as possible. Not that you'd know it from the album's opener, the title track. "Speed of Darkness" begins with 35 seconds of gradually increasing guitar noise before exploding into a breakneck punk rocker, buttressed as always by Regan's fiddle, Matt Hensley's accordion, and Bob Schmidt's banjo. Second song "Revolution" starts to dig in lyrically with King's themes for the album: "I spent 27 years in this factory / Now the boss man says 'Hey, you're not what we need' / The penguins in the suits they know nothing but greed / It's a solitary life when you've mouths to feed / But who cares about us?" Musically, the song is a straightforward pop-punk track, with only Regan's fiddle audible over all the guitars. A little later, "Don't Shut 'em Down", with its unison quarter-note chorus, sounds like King has pulled out his old Social Distortion records for inspiration.

Elsewhere, the minor change in style pays off in spades. "The Power's Out" is a slow, sparsely-arranged stomper that relies largely on thumping kick drum and Celtic-style strumming on a heavily distorted guitar. When the full band comes in, it enhances King's impassioned delivery and makes up for the somewhat overwrought lyrics like "From the town of Detroit where my job is secure / Secure in the fact that it's gone for good". Late in the album, "The Cradle of Humankind" is a traditional piano ballad that smartly uses the fiddle and accordion to enhance the piano, an instrument the band hasn't used much over the years. Speaking of instruments the band doesn't often use, the gently rolling "A Prayer for Me in Silence" is a duet with Bridget Regan singing the verses and King on the choruses. Regan has a wonderful, soft singing voice, and it's a great contrast to King's gruff style. After hearing this song, it's a wonder that the band doesn't utilize her more as a singer.

Flogging Molly has long been an idiosyncratic band that doesn't quite fit in with the punk crowd they started with, or the indie-rock and Americana styles that have popped up around them in the past decade. But they've developed their audience by sticking to their own sound, so they know better than to mess with it too much. Songs like the rousing "Saints and Sinners" and the quiet "So Sail On" are solid additions to their catalog that fit right in with their established formula. Still, it's the songs where King and the band take chances that keep Speed of Darkness interesting. These curveballs make the album another strong addition to the Flogging Molly catalog and keep them from getting stuck in a rut.

7

Cover down, pray through: Bob Dylan's underrated, misunderstood "gospel years" are meticulously examined in this welcome new installment of his Bootleg series.

"How long can I listen to the lies of prejudice?
How long can I stay drunk on fear out in the wilderness?"
-- Bob Dylan, "When He Returns," 1979

Bob Dylan's career has been full of unpredictable left turns that have left fans confused, enthralled, enraged – sometimes all at once. At the 1965 Newport Folk Festival – accompanied by a pickup band featuring Mike Bloomfield and Al Kooper – he performed his first electric set, upsetting his folk base. His 1970 album Self Portrait is full of jazzy crooning and head-scratching covers. In 1978, his self-directed, four-hour film Renaldo and Clara was released, combining concert footage with surreal, often tedious dramatic scenes. Dylan seemed to thrive on testing the patience of his fans.

Keep reading... Show less
9
TV

Inane Political Discourse, or, Alan Partridge's Parody Politics

Publicity photo of Steve Coogan courtesy of Sky Consumer Comms

That the political class now finds itself relegated to accidental Alan Partridge territory along the with rest of the twits and twats that comprise English popular culture is meaningful, to say the least.

"I evolve, I don't…revolve."
-- Alan Partridge

Alan Partridge began as a gleeful media parody in the early '90s but thanks to Brexit he has evolved into a political one. In print and online, the hopelessly awkward radio DJ from Norwich, England, is used as an emblem for incompetent leadership and code word for inane political discourse.

Keep reading... Show less

The show is called Crazy Ex-Girlfriend largely because it spends time dismantling the structure that finds it easier to write women off as "crazy" than to offer them help or understanding.

In the latest episode of Crazy Ex-Girlfriend, the CW networks' highly acclaimed musical drama, the shows protagonist, Rebecca Bunch (Rachel Bloom), is at an all time low. Within the course of five episodes she has been left at the altar, cruelly lashed out at her friends, abandoned a promising new relationship, walked out of her job, had her murky mental health history exposed, slept with her ex boyfriend's ill father, and been forced to retreat to her notoriously prickly mother's (Tovah Feldshuh) uncaring guardianship. It's to the show's credit that none of this feels remotely ridiculous or emotionally manipulative.

Keep reading... Show less
9

To be a migrant worker in America is to relearn the basic skills of living. Imagine doing that in your 60s and 70s, when you thought you'd be retired.


Nomadland: Surviving America in the Twenty-First Century

Publisher: W. W. Norton
Author: Jessica Bruder
Publication date: 2017-09
Amazon

There's been much hand-wringing over the state of the American economy in recent years. After the 2008 financial crisis upended middle-class families, we now live with regular media reports of recovery and growth -- as well as rising inequality and decreased social mobility. We ponder what kind of future we're creating for our children, while generally failing to consider who has already fallen between the gaps.

Keep reading... Show less
7

Gallagher's work often suffers unfairly beside famous husband's Raymond Carver. The Man from Kinvara should permanently remedy this.

Many years ago—it had to be 1989—my sister and I attended a poetry reading given by Tess Gallagher at California State University, Northridge's Little Playhouse. We were students, new to California and poetry. My sister had a paperback copy of Raymond Carver's Cathedral, which we'd both read with youthful admiration. We knew vaguely that he'd died, but didn't really understand the full force of his fame or talent until we unwittingly went to see his widow read.

Keep reading... Show less
8
Pop Ten
Mixed Media
PM Picks

© 1999-2017 Popmatters.com. All rights reserved.
Popmatters is wholly independently owned and operated.

rating-image