The last several years have been incredibly challenging and painful for damn near everyone around the world. COVID changed everything overnight; it stripped away so many dreams and promises, ended careers, financially harmed countless and it took away far too many loved ones. What it could not take away were those things that bind so many of us together. For some, it is religion; for others, it is family; for almost all of us, it’s music. Music is our common bond. Rhythm drives our basic life force with our heartbeats and tears away barriers — whether physical, spiritual, geographical, political and emotional. Music brings us together and Anthem, Flogging Molly’s seventh album in their 25th year, has captured the overarching theme of togetherness and it does it damn well!
The album sees the band reuniting with producer Steve Albini, who has worked on thousands of albums in his career for bands like Nirvana and The Pixies. He worked with Flogging Molly on their breakthrough iconic albums Swagger and Drunken Lullabies (one of the best Celtic rock albums of the modern age). Albini is known for supporting the artists above all else and helping them create the music they truly want to create. In the case of Anthem, Flogging Molly frontman Dave King brought the band back to their roots and recorded 14 songs in 14 days at Albini’s Chicagoland Electric Audio Studios. King states, “It was quite amazing, because I don’t think as a band we’ve ever done that before. For a band like us that’s been around for so long, it was almost like doing our very first album again when it comes to the energy and enthusiasm in the studio. With a lot of the songs, the way you hear them are the way they were recorded, you know?” And, that passion and musicianship — something so clearly apparent in each Flogging Molly album — is on full display and in your face on Anthem.
It is unmistakably exactly what you expect and hope for from a Flogging Molly!
From the first beats of the opening song “These Times Have Got Me Drinking / Tripping Up The Stiars”, you get an immediate sense you are in for something special. The entire album is a perfect mixture of Celtic, punk, rock and folk music. It’s the music that you long to hear when you are at the pub with friends and strangers, alike. It is this music that drives a sense community and togetherness — even amongst total strangers. It brings us together to dance, to sing, to laugh, to cry and to raise a pint to the good, the bad and those who have gone before us and proclaim ‘Slainte’ ! “The Times Have Got Me Drinking” is an immediate recapturing of the Celtic punk circle pit glory of Drunken Lullabies. It is truly an anthem to what so many of us felt over the last several years and provides the opportunity to tap your feet, bop your head, step dance around the room and truly cut loose those crazy ties that held us fast. It is an album I cannot wait to blast with my windows down while driving around town. This up-tempo experience permeates the majority of the album and it only comes up for air for the closing two tunes. “These Are They Days” and “The Parting Wave” are beautifully haunting, melancholic, introspective songs that still hold onto the theme of the album, while bringing it to a beautiful heartfelt close.
While Anthem focuses on the hardships in life, especially over the last several years, it also touches on the tumultuous history of Ireland. Never one to shy away from history and politics in their music, Flogging Molly master storyteller King weaves a poetic and evocative narrative on the isolation of the past, the hopelessness, the search for community and the freedom found within coming together even when alone, something the entire album focuses on. “A Song Of Liberty” remembers the Proclamation of the Irish Republic in 1916 (Easter Proclamation) and the role Clarke, James Connelly, Plunkett and Pearse, Ceannt, MacDonagh and Mac Diarmada had in changing the future of the country. The song “(Try) Keep The Man Down” carries on that storyline by sharing about the brave Irish women known as the “Cumann na mBan” (The Irishwomen’s Council) and their role in the Easter Proclamation and beyond. And, “The Croppy Boy ’98” (which was a term for the young rebel men, due to their cropped haircuts, in the 1798 uprising) is about a young man who falls for a woman likely above his status only to find he has lost her to a “fancier” man. All of these songs capture the spirit of doing it independently and your own way, and each is musically powerful and perfect.
One of my favorite songs on the album is “This Road Of Mine”… it’s a straight-up fast-paced Celtic rock song.
It encapsulates the idea that each journey must be taken individually and that no one should dictate to your path. If you are unfamiliar with Dave King’s backstory, it is quite compelling and inspiring and it really shines through emotionally in this song. “This Road Of Mine” sings of the indomitable human spirit and the ability to overcome and succeed in our own ways. It sings of the opportunity to take a chance and to live life the way you want to.
At the close of the 11 songs on Flogging Molly’s Anthem, you will find yourself satisfied and yet longing to hear it again. You will find yourself wanting to learn the lyrics, so you can sing along arm-in-arm and sway with your mates. You will find yourself feeling the passion and raw emotion put into it. And, if you do not consider yourself a Flogging Molly fan, you will be after this album. And, for those who know the glory of a Flogging Molly show, catch the band touring the new album with The Interrupters this fall!
Purchase or stream ‘Anthem’ album:
- These Times Have Got Me Drinking / Tripping Up The Stairs
- A Song of Liberty
- Life Begins And Ends (But Never Fails)
- No Last Goodbyes
- The Road Of Mine
- (Try) Keep The Man Down
- Now Is The Time
- Lead The Way
- These Are The Days
- The Parting Wave
Cover photo by Katie Hovland
Disclaimer: All views presented in this album review are those of the reviewer and not necessarily those of Top Shelf Music.