FLOGGING MOLLY – Float (2008)

Flogging Molly - Float Yesterday was St. Patrick’s Day, so in an effort to get into the spirit of things, I scanned my MP3 player for something appropriate to play for the car ride home from work. All I had with me was Flogging Molly’s last album, 2004’s Within A Mile of Home. I hadn’t listened to that album in a while, and after a few songs had finished, I was reminded as to why. Disgruntled, I arrived home and burned a copy of The Pogues’ Rum, Sodomy and the Lash for the trip to the pub. It was the best decision I made all day.

When they’re at their best, Flogging Molly capture the full spectrum of the Irish spirit, from the sunny highs of jovial celebration to lows of burdening turmoil, and the regrets of the downtrodden. As a band, they can’t usurp The Pogues from the Celtic-Punk throne, but 2002’s Drunken Lullabies showed that they could measure up to them. That Float doesn’t quite reach the place where The Pogues reside was perhaps inevitable, but thankfully, it’s still a vast improvement over Within A Mile of Home.

There’s nothing watered down about the modern aspects of Flogging Molly’s sound on Float (this being the prime thing that held back Within A Mile of Home). The best quality of this album is that songs – every one of them – feel genuine. The album opener, Requiem For A Dying Song, calls to mind The Sunny Side of the Street, the song that kicks off The Pogues’ 1991 album, Hell’s Ditch. Both songs belie the beauty of their music with their troubled lyrics (with The Pogues song an account of a nameless man’s devotion to excess, and the Flogging Molly song a lurid tale of government oppression).

Requiem For A Dying Song may not particularly pleasant, content-wise, but it’s plenty pleasant to listen to, and as an album opener, it’s a very reassuring sign that Flogging Molly are going to do things right on this album (a reassurance that’s oddly reinforced in the song’s pre-chorus: “Talk, don’t talk if you’ve got nothing to say/Walk, don’t walk if our feet don’t know the way”). And they do. There are some fine examples of Celtic-Punk on display in Float, be it in the dark rumble of Lightning Storm, or the rocky guitar drive of You Won’t Make A Fool Out of Me (a song that gets a surprising amount of mileage out of one of the most familiar Irish song progressions ever).

But Celtic-Punk isn’t all Flogging Molly have in store for us on Float – they also have several songs that veer into rock territory. This is an excellent thing, because Celtic-Punk (like power metal, or any other genre that depends heavily on constant musical drive) can get tiring if it’s not assembled with absolute expertise. Some of these more rock-oriented songs are among the best tracks on the album. Punch Drunk Grinning Soul begins with an acoustic guitar being strummed menacingly to an inch of its life, before the rest of the instruments kick in. The tempo is slower, but the song still showcases the band’s intensity and their gift for springing soaring melodies onto the audience seemingly out of nowhere. Punch Drunk Grinning Soul culminates in a whirling guitar storm, before abruptly ending in a sample that segues nicely into the next song, Us of Lesser Gods, a bright and bouncy song with a heavy folk influence in the modern instruments, as well as the Celtic ones.

When The Story So Far comes around to send the album off (which it does perfectly), it solidifies Float as the most diverse Flogging Molly album to date. But it’s not just the reasonable thinking-outside-the-box that makes Float so enjoyable, it’s the fact everything on display here clicks with everything else. After all, Float isn’t just the Flogging Molly album that covers the most territory, it’s the one that covers the most territory well. Only time will tell how long the album can claim both things.

HD RATING: 8/10

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