Flogging Molly – Life is Good (Album Review)

FLOGGING MOLLY – Life is Good
Released: OUT NOW

FLOGGING MOLLY Line up:

Dave King – lead vocals, acoustic guitar, bodhran, spoons
Bridget Reagan – fiddle, tin whistle, backing vocals
Dennis Casey – electric guitar, acoustic guitar, backing vocals
Matt Hensley – accordion, backing vocals
Nathen Maxwell – bass, backing vocals, lead vocals on “The Days We’ve Yet to Meet”
Robert Schmidt – banjo, mandolin, backing vocals
Mike Alonso – drums, percussion, backing vocals

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It’s been a while between releases for Flogging Molly. Their last album, Speed of Darkness, was released just over six years ago to a fair amount of critical success. With such a long gap of time between releases it’s understandable that expectations would be high, but their latest offering, Life is Good, doesn’t quite manage to pull it off. The record marks a progression further into Flogging Molly’s Irish-folk roots, so much so that you could almost miss the punk rock at the heart of it. More so the record doesn’t have the underlying darkness of their two previous entries, something that might be indicative of a more optimistic view of the future than we’re used to seeing in 2017.

Life is Good starts out very strongly, with the double whammy of ‘There’s Nothing Left’ and ‘The Hand of John L. Sullivan’ drawing you in, but after that, it’s a little hit and miss. ‘Welcome to Adamstown’ never quite manages to find its feet and has a bit of a ‘more filler than thriller’ thing going on. Then there’s ‘The Last Serenade (Sailors and Fishermen)’ which somehow manages to stop the record dead in its tracks. It’s a meandering bit of whimsy that might have passed for a closing track but probably would have been better off left on the studio flooring – especially given that some of the strongest tracks on the record directly follow it. ‘Crushed (Hostile Nations)’ is the only real time the record really gets heavy, but even then it feels little overstated and doesn’t quite pack the punch that it feels like it should.

From a technical perspective, everything about this record is solid – in fact, King’s vocals are as amazing as they have ever been. But it just never seems to really ‘pop’. Joe Chiccarelli produced the record, so as you would expect the production values are top notch – easily the best of the band’s discography. But perhaps that is part of its undoing. Everything is a little too polished and clean. It doesn’t really have the feel of a band that’s soaked in stale beer and rocking out a dingy pub – it feels like something that’s been finely crafted in a studio and somehow that just doesn’t feel as sincere as much of their earlier work.

Flogging Molly has a back catalogue full of absolute belters – from their anthemic choruses to burning calls to action. Unfortunately, Life is Good rarely manages to reach those heights. Despite featuring some of the best-written melodies of their entire career the songs tend to underwhelm more often than not. Overall the album could be reflective of a more mature outlook from the band themselves – after all these folks are in their 50s, they aren’t exactly angst-ridden teenagers. If the objective was to be a little more subtle and a little more poetic then I think they’ve succeeded, but it just doesn’t feel like a great Flogging Molly record.

The fact is that this album lacks the edge of previous releases and even if that’s not bad in of itself, it’s noticeable. If you come into this album looking for something similar to Float, you’re gonna be disappointed. But for fans of their work (not to mention the genre itself), I think there is enough here to make it a worthy entry.

Flogging Molly – Life is Good tracklisting;
1. “There’s Nothing Left Pt. 1” 2:24
2. “The Hand of John L. Sullivan” 4:01
3. “Welcome to Adamstown” 3:05
4. “Reptiles (We Woke Up)” 3:43
5. “The Days We’ve Yet to Meet” 3:42
6. “Life Is Good” 4:02
7. “The Last Serenade (Sailors and Fishermen)” 4:24
8. “The Guns of Jericho” 4:16
9. “Crushed (Hostile Nations)” 4:22
10. “Hope” 3:27
11. “The Bride Wore Black” 2:59
12. “Until We Meet Again”

Rating 6/10
By – Dave Mullins

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