One thing that Flogging Molly have over a large majority of Irish punk bands, and I'm sure this has been said many times before, is that lead man Dave King is actually Irish. Can you say that, Dropkick Muphys? Can you say that, Tossers? Even Shane McGowan (the Pogues' leading alcoholic) has a more tenuous link to Irishdom. And so with that in mind, it is easier to listen to Flogging Molly without annoyance at the cod-ness that may come with other bands.
It also helps that King has surrounded himself by very talented musicians and can write quite a good tune (Drunken Lullabies is a personal favourite Irish punk album of mine). And with the four years since the last studio album (the rather good Within a Mile Of Home in 2004), they've picked up a host of celebrity fans, name-checked by author Stephen King and actors Ewan McGregor, Sean Penn, Tim Robbins and other imaginary people.
So what does Float bring to the Flogging Molly boat, apart from celebrity fans and some more Irish punk? Innovative, interesting, intelligent ideas to take the sound further and forward? Perhaps some more metallic moments that harkens back to King's original band (Fastway, with "Fast" Eddie Clark from MotÃ¶rhead)?
Wellâ?¦no, not really. It was recorded in Ireland though, adding more legitimacy to their cause. But back in 2002, with Drunken Lullabies, the band hit quite the unstoppable stride for writing good song after good song and they didn't really bother to stop. It went all through Drunken Lullabies, into Within a Mile of Home and has gone all the way into Float, a million and a half album sales later.
There is a struggle with most bands that last more than three albums and who are not of a progressive nature: They fail to grow, change and be interesting. Certainly, Float is an album of consistently well-written, well-played, well-structured songs. It's easy to picture a crowd roused by "Requiem for a Dying Song," "Paddy's Lament," "You Won't Make a Fool Out of Me," "Us of Lesser Gods" and pretty much the rest of the album. But we got that on Drunken Lullabies -- why bother making the same album for the fourth time? Even the Dropkick Murphys have grown, albeit from a cod-Irish but pretty good hardcore oi! band to a clichÃ©-ridden embarrassment.
This is a good, fine, fun album. King has a way with hooks and songs that are, in no uncertain terms, rabble rousing. These 11 tracks are a safe excursion into territory the band never leaves; they are a tight and skilled band who are playing well within their comfort zone. And that is the disappointment: the lack of surprises; the lack of challenge; the lack of progress. If folk music was never meant to change, Bob Dylan would've never picked up the electric guitar and the Pogues would play sober. I accuse Flogging Molly of sitting on their laurels and letting themselves down by making consistently good yet predictable albums.