Originally created 09/09/04

Flogging Molly remains upbeat, but slower tunes let band shine



If you're going to follow in someone's footsteps, you could do worse than The Pogues.

As veterans of the Vans Warped Tour can tell you, Celtic punk is alive and well with Flogging Molly, a seven-piece outfit from Los Angeles. Because many of the members are Irish ex-patriots, the result is an Americanized version of an Emerald Isle-style fusion. How's that for specialized?

The groups' sound owes a great deal to the fiddle, tin whistle and uilleann pipe playing of Bridget Regan, who's also the lone female member. Her playing, like the rest of the band's, has teeth, and the result is a Guinness-fueled merry-go-round stretching from Dublin to the City of Angels, with plenty of room on board for moshing.

Within a Mile of Home, the group's fourth CD, is set for release Tuesday, and it's a doozy. Its 15 songs cover 52 minutes, and a dozen guest musicians pitch in for a decent but meandering effort.

The group seems to have forgotten that its past success was in taking traditional Celtic music and revving it up, as Shane McGowan did in the 1980s.

Previous efforts were highlighted by romp-o-ramas such as Black Friday Rule and Devil's Dance Floor, but this CD feels most natural when the band slows down and lets singer Dave King belt out heartfelt ballads about lost love, drinking, old friends and death.

Lucinda Williams makes an appearance on a song that feels out of place, like a country song backed by the band. Other songs enter and exit like cars passing in the night, leaving nary a trace.

Some songs scream out to be performed live. Seven Deadly Sins revisits the standard "band as road warrior" esthetic, with pirates thrown into the mix. Tobacco Island rages out of control as accordion, banjo and fiddle all converge into a well-oiled jig machine.

But it's on The Spoken Wheel that the band revisits the greatness of old; Mr. King inspires goose bumps with simple, plainspoken lamentations.

"When at last they bury me/Into this ground you'll someday see/And you, did you listen to anything I said? Did you ever listen to me?" he sings alone over an acoustic guitar, violin and accordion.

The sadness is short-lived, though, and the last words, "cruelest sea," barely escape Mr. Kings' lips before another upbeat tune commences. There's life to be lived, after all.

Reach Patrick Verel at (706) 823-3332 or patrick.verel@augustachronicle.com.