Britain still drops the highest number of European bands on the American landscape, but those totals are changing every day. With Franz Ferdinand establishing Scotland’s indie credibility, Ireland has responded with Floggin Molly, care of L.A.-based but Dublin-born Dave King and his six associates. If you’re pulling your hair out in anticipation of yet another retro garage band — this time with an Irish brogue — rest easy, because you won’t find it here. What you will find is an energetic and catchy mix of punk and traditional Irish music.
Blending those genres isn’t as crazy as it might sound. The one thing that this musical odd couple shares is a frantic pace, so the combination never sounds forced. King has summed up the band’s sound pretty well himself: “If it didn’t have mandolin, accordion, fiddle and whistle, it would be punk rock, and if it didn’t have guitar, bass and drums, it would be traditional Irish music.”
Opener “Screaming at the Wailing Wall” provides a blistering introduction to Flogging Molly, and you can imagine both leather-clad hipsters and old-time Irish lasses bouncing around to songs like this. King sings a duet with Lucinda Williams on the folky “Factory Girls,” and “Whistles the Wind” is a slow-paced soundtrack to drunken swaying and singing at the end of a long night. The lyrics throughout are varied but thoughtful, and recount stories and narratives as well as meditations on life and love. And yes, there’s a lot of drinking going on as well.
But while their Irish punk sounds strangely natural, it can drag at times. Sure, it’s great to drink and play poker to, but the persistent barrage of sound can become monotonous when the hooks don’t grab you. Unfair as it may be, Flogging Molly’s sound is still somewhat of a novelty for American audiences unfamiliar with Irish music, and to some extent it wears thin on repeated listens. Still, it’s an interesting hybrid, and the energy they display over the course of the album is commendable, and I will guarantee you they put on an awesome show. It’s a kind of a shame this isn’t a DVD.