Flatfoot 56 - Odd Boat (Cover Artwork)
Staff Pick

Flatfoot 56

Odd Boat (2017)

Sailor's Grave

Obviously, great albums are made up of great songs. Odd Boat is definitely a collection of great songs. Once in awhile, the great individual songs will work together so well that the whole is greater than the sum of its parts. This is also the case with Odd Boat. Each song is distinct, but common musical and lyrical themes add up to create something bigger. Flatfoot 56 has long been relegated to the second tier of celt-punk, but it’s definitely time to reconsider.

I’m older than most of you, but his record hits all the right emotional notes for me. Flatfoot 56 seems to have a pretty good understanding of the human condition, and it’s reflected in the melancholy beauty of these songs. Songs about losing loved ones will tear at your heart in the best kind of way. Their faith is not as in your face as it has been on previous releases, but it’s not hard to find if you know where to look. There’s something about this that can actually elicit an emotional response.

It hits all the right musical notes for me too. Unlike that other more famous celt-punk band, Flatfoot 56 hasn’t abandoned their street punk roots. The songs have power and drive, and the traditional instruments don't drown out the loud guitar. It also helps to win points with this lifelong Detroit Tigers fan that they open the record with a tribute to the greatest Tiger of them all, “Ty Cobb”. I’m not sure what would possess a band from the southside of Chicago (they must be White Sox fans) to do such a thing, but color me impressed. It’s a catchy song and a great opener, but almost feels like an outlier in this batch of emotionally charged tunes.

Like other great records, the pacing on Odd Boat is perfect. The speed of the songs contrast but they all flow together in the best kind of way. “Stutter” and “Penny” are catchy and aggressive and lead to the musically and lyrically upbeat title track. “Englewood” is a driving track that describes the difficulties of growing up poor in the city. “”Forward” starts with a pretty mandolin that really contrasts with Tobin Bawinkel’s raspy voice. It eventually kicks into gear, then “The Crippled somehow manages to crank up the intensity. Both songs are ultimately about overcoming difficult situations. “Curtains” and “KPM” are about loss and you can feel the raw, genuine emotion. “P.S.” and especially “The Trap” pick the pace back up and address societal evils. The mellow “A Voice” wraps things up in the most satisfying way.

Most of my favorite records this year have been nihilistic blasts of despair. Odd Boat was a really nice change of pace. It actually contains some much needed optimism. We could all certainly use a little more hope in these troubled times, and I can’t stop listening to this. That more famous celt-punk band wishes they could still make an album like this. Flatfoot 56 has delivered the best record of their 17 year career right when we needed it most.