“Float is one of the most important records of this year, if not the decade,” it read. The source was Alternative Press, a music magazine with terrible cover stories (Hawthorne Heights? Paramore? You guys don’t even like those bands!) but generally right-on taste. Apprehensive, I popped in the disc after purchasing it from an independent record store (Yes, I love supporting artists, local businesses and parenthetical statements). To my elation, AP wasn’t bluffing about Float being awesome.
It dawned on me a few sentences ago, however, that by loving Float so gosh dang much, like it-will-probably-be-one-of-my-favorite-records-of-the-year much, that I will be adding to the hype machine.
So it goes.
Formed in California in 1997, Flogging Molly has been touring the world with Celtic rock tunes for over a decade. The group’s tunes are aggressive yet tuneful, folksy yet rocking. Think Irish pub music cranked up a few extra RPMs and decibels. The group’s energy was best captured on its first studio full-length, the Steve Albini-mixed Swagger. Not that follow-up efforts Drunken Lullabies and Within a Mile of Home were bad, mind you; they’re just as fun. They merely lack the raw output of that first shot.
The group’s fourth full-length, Float, still can’t top Swagger’s swagger, but it does up the tuneage. Rather than go for more abrasive punk-ish songs, frontman Dave King and his merry minstrels have concocted 11 ditties with more emphasis on the Celtic side, although there's still a fair bit of rock ‘n’ roll here.
The choruses are still strong throughout. “Requiem For a Dying Song” is a hell of a lot of fun to shout out. The pre-chorus of “Talk, don’t talk if you’ve nothing to say/Walk, don’t walk if your feet don’t know the way” is even catchier than the real chorus. Guitarist Dennis Casey adds some teeth to the tune, although it’s Bridget Regan’s fiddle and tin whistle that make it soar.
Indeed, Float is filled with pub-tastic songs like “Requiem For a Dying Song,” “(No More) Paddy’s Lament” and “You Won’t Make a Fool Out of Me.” Each one is great. Of course, having so many stompers in a row would get old, so Flogging Molly pepper Float with some slower Irish folk. The title track boasts another great fiddle line from Regan on the chorus, although the banjo buried in the mix is neat as well. Also interesting are the folksy “Us of Lesser Gods” and “Between a Man and a Woman.”
Float marks a rise in political awareness from Flogging Molly. While the social commentary is more often than not vague, the fervor with which King attacks his lyrics will hopefully inspire listeners to get active in their societies. At the very least, those of legal age can raise a pint with pride when exclaiming lines like “Hey now, stay proud,” from “Punch Drunk Grinning Soul.”
Despite a middling ending—closing cut “The Story So Far” redeems itself with a slurred sing-along but takes some time getting to where it needs to be—Float is a quality album from Flogging Molly. The record isn’t too surprising of a release from these Celtic rockers, but damn if it isn’t a lively one. Cohesive and thrilling, it might not be the most important record of the last 10 years, but it’s certainly one of the most fun.