Flogging Molly has been often compared to the likes of the Pogues and the Dropkick Murphys. The only problem with comparisons to those Celtic punk/rock bands is that this group is just starting to hit their stride. After a fine run on this summer’s Vans Warped Tour, Flogging Molly is back on the road again in support of this latest release. And if you liked MacGowan, Strummer, and company, you would have to be out of your bloody mind not to pour endless amounts of Guinness, drink your face off, and enjoy the severe, head-splitting hangover the next morning after putting this album on.
Kicking off with a toe-tapping, arm-in-arm Celtic boogie tune entitled “Screaming at the Wailing Wall”, lead singer Dave King and company take the album into fourth gear immediately, hitting the listener over the head with a lovely melody with tin whistle, mandolin, and guitars running full steam ahead. King sings about the continuous violence going on and the “Burnin’ Bush” never sounded so pleasing. Although it goes down a tad for the farewell, it’s a tremendous starter.
This momentum continues on the kitchen-party Celtic assault of “The Seven Deadly Sins”, which is sure to cause arthritic knees if played repeatedly. It’s another sing-along that is a tad more frantic than track one but just as pleasing as Bridget Regan and George Schwindt go into overdrive on fiddle and drums, respectively. One changeup comes during the slower, countrified “Factory Girls”, featuring Lucinda Williams of all singers. Although it has that traditional Celtic folk ballad style, Williams’s distinctive twang gives it a totally different color, while Regan fleshes out the tune with a tin whistle. If you think of MacGowan and the late Kristy MacColl, you might get a hint of the song’s tone.
This reprise from the full-out Celtic punk is short-lived as “To Youth (My Sweet Roisin Dubh)” kicks off acoustically before going full bore into a harder, grittier Celtic rock sound, sort of like a Dublin-ized Mike Ness of Social Distortion. But the band again goes down a traditional Celtic road with the swaying “Whistles the Wind”, which comes off without much problem. King takes this song and rides with it as the supporting cast each do a little to make the sum far greater than its parts. Thankfully, they tend to meld the two a bit more on the adorable “The Light of a Fading Star”, which has more of an Irish feeling with a backbeat that prods along from top to bottom in large part due to bassist Nathen Maxwell. “Ah if there’s a reason, I don’t need to know right now”, King sings, before the band goes into the triumphant chorus again. Given this tune, a fading star is something they won’t know about for quite some time.
The finest asset to this album is how the second side is just as strong as the first half, starting off with “The Wrong Company”, which is King alone and singing, recalling the likes of the Clancy Brothers and Tommy Makem. It’s a brief ditty that leads into more of a summer, island sounding tune called “Tomorrow Comes a Day Too Soon”. The song also has a bit of Cajun accordion working for it as it ambles along in a head-bobbing sort of way. Unfortunately, the one slight faux pas is the rather lead-footed “Queen Anne’s Revenge”, which has a slower groove that tends to beat one about the head constantly. It’s good, but not great. Faring better is the Strummer-esque “The Wanderlust”, which combines the Clash with his incarnation with the Pogues. Almost as appealing is the rapid folk hooks that are all over the title track. Think of Barenaked Ladies on speed and you might get a faint idea of this track.
If your limbs aren’t tired by the time you hit the last two tracks, Flogging Molly make sure you get the daily workout with “With a Wonder and a Wild Desire”. The group dedicated the album to Johnny Cash and Joe Strummer. They’ve done ’em proud with this one.