Swagger, by Flogging Molly
Suggested by Alex Hamilton
I’m sure this project is unfair.
Let’s look at today. It was tough at work, with multiple meetings and random dairy curveballs. Sarah had a minor medical emergency, which impacted my energy levels. The first two albums each topped seventy minutes apiece, a pair of contrasting experiences to slot into my day. The evening saw me cook a nutritious meal, then eat a lot of biscuits while frazzling my brain with a crunchy online boardgame. Suddenly it’s 1am, and I’m bearing a tired witness to the US election results while trying to drag up the energy for Album Number 3.
The day progressed as days always do, and the Randomiser declares the running order. In my downbeat yawning teetotal fugue, when I’m yearning for my bed, am I likely to embrace an album of upbeat Celtic Punk drinking songs?
Swagger is Flogging Molly’s debut studio album, and it’s clear from the opening bars that they have swagger in abundance. Both Salty Dog and the follow up Selfish Man clearly set the punk-folk stall out for this Irish-American seven-piece. Salty Dog is almost a shanty, and both tracks have the knowing twinkle of the Pogues alongside the acerbic punch of The Clash. Vocalist Dave King has an emotive yet snarling delivery that’s almost goading you to get up and dance.
This is fighting music, with flailing legs and windmill arms, swilling pints to the sky, bear-hugging strangers and laughing until you nearly choke. Sentimental Johnny, Devil’s Dance Floor, Black Friday Rule, all offer up a bouncing, blistering, bubbling ball of energy, with singalong choruses and trilling traditional filigree designed to set your head spinning. There are slower songs, naturally, but a proportion of those are simply fast jigs in disguise. Both Every Dog Has Its Day and my standout track The Likes of You Again gently take you by the hand and offer a tender caress, before grabbing your lapels and dragging you to your protesting feet. The legitimately slower songs, such as The Worst Day Since Yesterday or the melancholy final track Far Away Boys, do have a tinge of the mawkish about them, but thankfully there’s still a honed edge to the vocals that prevents a sobbing Saw Doctors meltdown.
Flogging Molly would surely be an astounding live act. The music is infectious and anarchic and vividly Celtic in form and function. But at two in the morning, when you’re tired and cranky and dizzy from eating too many Hobnobs, they are not what you’re after. I’m still giving Swagger a creditable 7/10, but who knows if that’d be higher if I were craving homebrew instead of Horlicks.