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ISSUE 121 VOL 14 PUBLISHED 3/14/2008

Irish rockers' style slides

By April Wright
Variety Editor

Friday, March 14, 2008

In case you all didn't know, I'm cursed. Every time I fall hard for a band, they will inevitably release nothing but mediocre albums thereafter, leaving me with a half-full sensation and not much to say about it. Ladies and gentlemen, I submit for your consideration Flogging Molly's Float. Other than a spin of Low's The Great Destroyer, I've listened to nothing but this album since Sunday, hoping it would be a grower. It's really not. "Requiem for a Dying Song," the album's opener, nudges the whole thing off. It's a middling song. By the fourth or fifth spin, I was singing along with the chorus, even though the song just feels like a cheesed-up retread of their earlier work. It's almost laughably epic with its little flute line, but then it bursts out with Green Day-ified political lyrics and delivery on the verses and a chunking, angular guitar lick. But the chorus really represents the type of veiled politicism and heart-on-your-sleeve sentimentality I've come to expect from Dave King. I was kind of hoping that Float's rocky start would give way to a paved path to the Village of Awesome. But it doesn't. It doesn't lead much of anywhere. My complaints about this album can be summed up with three points. One: It's not very interesting. Flogging Molly has always been a niche band. Being Irish folk-punk puts them in this weird position where if they lean too far into either genre, they'll be accused of selling out. 2004's Within A Mile of Home sported a more mellow sound, more rooted in "Irish folk" than the "punk," which, when anchored with stronger, more mature lyrics, made for a marvelously solid album. Float continues the trend of being more subdued, but half the album feels like a retread of the band's earlier mellow songs (such as "So May the Living Be Dead In Our Wake"). On some songs, namely "Us of Lesser Gods," a more laid back approach is bulked up with layers of Irish folk instruments. It's beautiful and heartfelt song, but unfortunately the rest of the album strives for radio-friendly, mid-tempo pseudo-punk with violins, which just feels cheap and hollow. Two: These are not King's best lyrics. I realize that Dave King isn't a young, displaced Irishman anymore, and so he doesn't possess the same driving rage anymore. But really, I never thought I'd hear the words "Take my word/ Heal my soul/ Shake my pride" in a Flogging Molly song. King had a serious knack for communicating historical and political ideas in a manner that dramatized them and made them feel very real for a generation that probably never would have Wikied Oliver Cromwell without him. There's something very sloppy about the writing on Float. Everything just feels kind of stark -- and not in a good way. There's something to be said for minimalistic honesty, and far less to be said about lyrics that just spill everything with little artistic flair. Three: Half the lyrical power lies in the delivery. Even the silliest lyrics can be made poignant with soulful delivery. That's part of what makes "Requiem for a Dying Song" so memorable. King's aggressive snarls are what anchor many of FM's earlier songs. The strain of sincerity in King's voice has long been one of my favorite things about Flogging Molly's overall sound, and it's sorely lacking on Float. Float is, overall, an album that scavenges bits off of older albums and cobbles them together. It's an mediocre album, and I'll happily throw it in my Flogging Molly rotation, but none of its songs are going to find themselves on my St. Patrick's Day playlist.

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