Tuesday, 20 June 2017

Album Review: Life Is Good by Flogging Molly (by Emma Prew)

At the end of the this month Colin and I will be going to see Los Angeles’ infamous Celtic punks, Flogging Molly, at the Kentish Town Forum. It will be Colin’s first time seeing the band live and my first time seeing them headline their own tour (I saw them support Frank Turner in 2014). On 2nd of June this year Flogging Molly released their sixth album, Life Is Good, their first album in six years. As a folk fan, a punk fan and, most of all, a folk punk fan, I was keen to share my thoughts on the album.

Life Is Good opens with There’s Nothing Left Pt. 1. The song begins with gentle guitar and the classic Flogging Molly fiddle soon joins the mix. The song builds gradually which is probably what you’d expect from the first song on the album. It’s a short song as Flogging Molly songs go but that’s okay. Within the lyrics there are references to the devil which I think is fairly common in traditional Celtic music. ‘Here we are now, Here we are now.’ The devil has spoken and he’s not very bright.’ Next up is The Hand of John L. Sullivan with a tin whistle start to rival The Pogues (I love the Pogues). In fact, much of the song sounds like a homage to The Pogues. John L. Sullivan was a boxer in 1880s Boston and was deemed to be the first heavyweight champion of the sport. I love how Flogging Molly often have historical aspects to their songs. This is an upbeat and bouncy track that will definitely go down a storm at any Flogging Molly Live show. ‘Now I am the man with the plan to shake the hand of John L. Sullivan, A fighter till the end, legend he will be.’

Welcome To Adamstown is a song about the ‘new town’ south of Dublin, Ireland, that generally has negative connotations. However, the band try to put a positive spin on it with the message that you should respect where you’re from. This is another dancey track that I can almost imagine doing a can-can style dance to! It sounds like there’s a saxophone, trumpet or something being used for the main and super catchy melody but I think it must be the accordion – I can’t imagine a saxophone in Flogging Molly anyway. But perhaps that the point, they wanted to do something different. ‘Things are not all as they seem, In this rundown suburban dream, Tiger may have lost its roar, We will never lose our soul.’ Next up is Reptiles (We Woke Up), a song that begins slowly with acoustic guitar. It almost sounds like it could be used in a movie or as part of a stage show. Flogging Molly the musical, anyone? ‘For once in this life, Let's' just make these wrongs right and then, Seize the day, We woke up!’ After ‘we woke up’, drums and fiddle kick in. There’s a great sense of building in this anthem of a song. 

Bassist Nathen takes over from frontman Dave for the lead vocals of Days We’ve Yet To Meet. This song features a catchy fiddle intro that I love. The message Flogging Molly are trying to get across here is that if today is a bad day then don’t worry because tomorrow might be better. ‘For it’s tomorrow and the days we’ve yet to meet…’  The bridge – ‘Lai, ladi ladi lai, dai dai dai, lai lai lai lai dai dai’ – echoes the fiddle part. It is, of course, super catchy and very Celtic-sounding. After Days We’ve Yet To Meet we come to the album’s title track, Life Is Good. Slightly mournful fiddle and whistle open the song. There is a great swaying motion to the track which is helped by the bass. An upbeat lead into the chorus has you nodding along. ‘Life is good, Life is fine, Life is everything we loathe, It’s so unkind. Death is cruel, Death unwinds, It comes naturally to all us here alive. She said take these words, Sing along…’ Life Is Good is about not only the good points but the bad too of life (and death).This a standout track on the album for sure.

As we enter the second half of Life Is Good we have The Last Serenade (Sailors and Fishermen), a song that, unsurprisingly, brings about images of the sea. This is one of the slowest songs on the album. It is fairly sad sounding but is also very atmospheric. The Last Serenade is a tribute to sailors and fishermen lost at sea. ‘So goodbye to you dreamers, Vagabonds and true believers, Long may you sing once again.’ Picking up the pace a little is The Guns Of Jericho. This song has a typical bright and zesty Flogging Molly sound. The song starts relatively slowly but the pace picks up nicely about half way through this 4 minute song as the drums properly kick in. I can almost imagine doing an Irish jig to the fiddle part towards the end!

I first listened to Life Is Good whilst at work, with my headphones in. That’s never really a good situation to be able to give a new album your utmost attention and most of the album did pass me by. Crushed (Hostile Nations), however, grabbed my attention and claimed its spot as my favourite from my very first listen. It’s the kick-in-the-face crank-up-the-volume track of the album and appeals most to my punk sensibilities. It does start fairly quietly, almost like a sea shanty with minimal music backing Dave’s vocals. But as the song gets going it reveals a super duper catchy melody that definitely brings to mind pirates. This is the loudest song on the album and it even features an impressive electric guitar solo. I love it. I hope they play it live at the Forum. The tenth track on Life Is Good is simply titled Hope. The song begins with slightly muted distorted guitar before the song gradually builds in volume. As the volume builds so does the hopefulness. This is an optimistic and positive song which does feel like a bit of a rarity lately. ‘I said hope is still a shout away, A shout away, Like it was yesterday, I said hope is still a shout away, A shout away, In a way we shout once more.’  The chorus is sung by more than just Dave by its second run through which improves the impact.

Drawing towards the end of the album, The Bride Wore Black is the penultimate track. This is a feel-good song about an independent woman who doesn’t always do things by the book. The song kicks off with fiddle which is accompanied by pounding drums. The Bride Wore Black has a decent pace and is another bouncy, danceable number. It’s also fairly rocking with electric guitar at points. Until We Meet Again is the final song on Life Is Good. Even the title sounds like an album closer! This song begins with muted electric guitar before this is switched to acoustic guitar. I feel like this song has a great sense of Johnny Cash about it, particularly in the lyrics and the way in which Dave sings them. There’s a super folky Celtic accordion / fiddle part that encourages you to use your dancing shoes one last time – although there’s no need to go too crazy, this is a fairly slow song. ‘Until, Until we meet again, I’ll drown in my own hell, To take back all I’ve said, Until we meet again.’

This album is really a lot more folk than punk but I have absolutely no problem with that and longtime Flogging Molly fans shouldn’t either. I definitely enjoyed this album but I think I’ll like the songs even more once I’ve heard them played live – good thing I don’t have long to wait!

Life Is Good is out now on Spinefarm Records and Vanguard Records and you can download / stream it in the usual places. Also, find Flogging Molly on Facebook here.

This review was written by Emma Prew.