01 March, 2008

In like a lion...

I have this soft spot in my heart for Irish and Scottish Punk. I find the accents incredibly comforting. Laughter in the face of adversity is a common theme, and something so ingrained into my psyche that I don't think I'll ever separate myself from it. The Dropkicks and Enter the Haggis have entered my year-long rotation of music, but they always make a special day-long appearance on St. Patrick's Day, along with the Chieftains, Ashley MacIsaac, the Pogues, and a various cast of characters who reside on my family record shelf.

My favorite Irish punk band for year-long play, is the fantastic Flogging Molly, who effortlessly combine drinking songs with ballads of change. Drunken Lullabies was a fucking tour-de-force of an album, that smashed out of my player only to waltz into my ears. It's got bombastic, undeniable, force behind it, but it's also gentle and soothing, when the need arises. With Float, their latest album, Flogging Molly seems to relinquish most of the softness, while the bitterness of certain heart-break jumps through each song. The album starts with a requiem, and ends with a prologue; but in between, we find nine songs of sadness that blast on through, refusing to give up.

"Requiem for a Dying Song" is edgy and reminiscent of an Irish funeral, where everyone laughs and remembers. Still, the feeling of certain death is present in the title alone. This is a requiem for something that has not yet died, and to relinquish that power of Irish stubbornness to move mountains or bring something back from the brink of death, is practically sacrilegious. I suppose Flogging Molly is feeling that this "dying song" is not worth saving, but what a bitter realization. The title song is equally frustrating and intriguing in its lyrical separation from traditional Irish music. It's a song that reeks of surrender to a host of things from alcohol to old age, and even the chorus that pleads with you to stay afloat, seems half-hearted and slightly disconnected. "You Won't Make A Fool Out Of Me" is more spunky with a certain fighting spirit, and "Between A Man and A Woman" is beautiful request for complete and unwavering love. "Us of Lesser Gods" is a tightly written song that describes some of the guilty, Catholic feelings of an Irish wanderer, over soaring and hovering strings that tense and explode. "From The Back of A Broken Dream" has a completely different feeling of happy/drunk resignation, and is followed by "Man With No Country", a fiery song that's endowed with both energy and spirit. The finale is "The Story So Far", which sounds like a beginning to my musically inclined ears. It doesn't feel particularly brash and hopeful, but it isn't a complete abdication of life.

In the end, I have this creeping feeling that Float is an extremely well-written swan song, but I hope with all my heart that it is not. The energy and enthusiasm of Drunken Lullabies has leveled a bit, and the certainty of old age and world weariness has taken its toll on Flogging Molly. They're still the fighting Irish, but they're also the slightly bitter and resigned/curmudgeony Irish who are fighting to find the perfect middle-ground between aging gracefully and not going gently into that good night. If Float is their middle-ground, then I'll certainly continue to listen, and maybe learn a thing or two about aging from those who've come before me.

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