Wow. When I first heard their new album, Speed of Darkness, I originally thought that the Celtic punk troupe, Flogging Molly, had found themselves a new singer for a few of the tracks. Apparently that really IS Dave King. I don’t know what to think about that, actually.
Let me start with a little background of Flogging Molly and I. We go way back. I first got into them with their debut album, Swagger, back in 2000. Once I heard that album, I was hooked. I’ve seen them somewhere around 30 times, now, and I’ve seen them at their best and at their worst. The particular show that comes to mind, the vast majority of the band had terrible food poisoning. George Schwindt straight up passed out and fell off of his drum set, Bridget Regan even had to take a break, but the plus side to all of this is Dave King coming out at the very end, sick as a dog himself, and doing “Grace of God Go I” a capella. Seriously, probably one of the best shows I’ve seen, considering the circumstances. At their shows, I’ve laughed, I’ve cried, I’ve been bitten, I’ve had Tony Duggins’ (The Tossers, and seriously, I’m going to go home and track down some of these pictures! Pics or it didn’t happen, right?) tongue in my ear, I’ve met (ex) boyfriends, and generally had a pretty awesome time all around. They hold a very special place in my heart…a place usually reserved for fist fights and whiskey, but I guess they kind of go hand in hand.
Speaking of Dave King and Bridget Regan (the fiddle player), I found out today that they got married in Tokyo while touring for Float. And now they live in Detroit. Pretty awesome, akshually.
As for the album, I think it’s mostly “Don’t Shut ‘Em Down”, a radio-friendly (in the most grievous usage of the word), punk-pop catastrophe that throws me all off-kilter. It sounds absolutely, positively, undeniably, NOTHING like Dave King. It’s actually a little frightening when you’re not expecting it. Coming in a close second for the worst song is “Heart of the Sea”, a weird, pseudo folk-inspired track with almost indescribably bad lyrics. Seriously, “don’t fornicate with the one you love to hate”? I’m disappointed in you Flogging Molly. For every listen of those songs, though, I also get a slew of good ones. Trading in their tales of being “seven (drunken) pirates, they’ve gone for a more mature and modern approach, giving us tracks like “Revolution”, their take on the economical issue, whose chorus is worthy of chanting fans worldwide and “The Power’s Out”, in a similar vein as “Revolution” on subject matter, but a little more home-grown with King singing about Detroit and the fat-cat CEOs with their bottomless greed. It’s got a lo-fi, blues aspect to it and this is one of the very few times where you will see me refer to something as “lo-fi” and not following it up with “pretentious”. Perhaps it’s was the move from sunny LA to, well, Detroit. What can you really praise in Detroit besides (and, god, I hate to say it) hockey?
The shining example of classic Flogging Molly is nestled right in the middle of all this mayhem. “So Sail On”, with its harmonized chorus, classic fiddle, and feeling of traditional Ireland, this is what I think of when I think of Flogging Molly. Despite all of those heavy, punky, hard tracks, this is what the band does best. Another delightful unexpected track on the album is “A Prayer for Me In Silence” with a rare Bridget Reagan lead. Well, I suppose it’s a duet, but she really takes the cake for this one.
The album does have a balanced mix of the usual traditional Irish-inspired songs, slow tracks, and upbeat, punky numbers, the latter of which is the only vein in which they fall flat. Perhaps it’s my love for the band speaking, but it’s a pretty good album when all is said and done. I was more disappointed in my first listening, but upon repeated listenings, it’s beginning to sound more and more like the Flogging Molly I’ve come to know and love. It gets a B.
“Speed of Darkness”
“A Prayer For Me In Silence”