Review of Speed Of Darkness Album by Flogging Molly

Watching the spirit of protest being drained out of music's mainstream over the last 20 years has been one of its least appealing trends; a few largely sidelined mavericks aside (The likes of Bjork, M.I.A., some occasional profanity from Jarvis Cocker) the maxim that rock is now mere entertainment has never been more true.

Flogging Molly Speed Of Darkness Album

This should strike anyone as odd, especially given that the nearly everyone on the planet is suffering mightily under the yoke of unfettered capitalism. The real tyranny however it seems is being perpetrated by Simon Cowell and his legion of copycats, turning an art form which was once the cradle of alternative thinking into a gaudy talent contest for starry eyed puppets.

From Detroit via Los Angeles, Flogging Molly are however reassuringly mad as hell and not going to take it anymore, again. Now eight albums in to a career of swimming against the tide, their mix of raw boned punk and sentimental Celtic folk may seem an odd juxtaposition to many of us on this side of the pond, but if nothing else their sense of piss and vinegar agitation is a worthy antidote to the weasly corporate schmaltz of boy bands and processed pop.

It's not a unique formula, the echoes of trash and Irish rebellion fuelling it having Shane McGowan as the pixilated father, but the Year 12 anarchy of crusty agit-proppers The Levellers aside, twinning uillean pipes and fiddles with a buzz sawing guitar seems almost rude. Seething with anti-corporate bile, Speed of Darkness in turn suffers in patches from an almost unavoidable strain of the syrupy nostalgia which Irish-American musos seem highly prone to, but there's also commendable anger and frustration here to, especially on the rabble rousing Saints And Sinners.

Clearly influenced by the iconic - and Yank-friendly - overtones of The Clash, Molly's best asset remains the shop steward growl of frontman Dave King, one that's especially effective on The Power's Out, a grim testimony the rusty decline of industry in their adopted home city. Similar territory is explored on the fiery opener Revolution, but momentum turns to inertia on the teary-eyed So Sail On, whilst The Cradle of Human Kind sounds like a refugee from a Chieftans album.

Politicians are now cute enough to realise the emotional bond that music creates with its audience, to the extent that our passions are being used for manipulation. Flogging Molly walk like they want to storm the barricades, but throughout Speed of Darkness a feeling pervades that they're holding back. Given it's anachronistic backdrop, it represents not so much an opportunity missed as a shadow punch from a one armed boxer.

Andy Peterson

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