September 7, 2022 Flogging Molly – Anthem (Album Review)
Life might not be as good as it was for Flogging Molly back in 2017, but the same can be said for many across the globe. Yet, refusing to embrace a downtrodden attitude and as resilient as ever, the Celtic Punk sensation is poised to present Anthem, a call for unity that arrives on Friday, September 9, 2022, thanks to Rise Records.
Their name carries with it a titanic weight, one that proudly crossed the frigid Atlantic to deliver its melodious message by way of Los Angeles. And for Flogging Molly, that sonic mission is 25 years strong. Beginning with their full-length debut, 2000’s Swagger, the septet’s cross-genre career has been smooth sailing since, with five additional albums arriving throughout the past 17 years—including 2002’s Drunken Lullabies, 2008’s Float, and, most recently, 2017’s Life Is Good. When paired with their engaging live show and their unique ability to share the stage with anyone from The Chieftains to Motörhead, it’s safe to say that the group has hardly paused to take a moment of their success for granted.
For their seventh disc, the band opted to get back to their roots, recording 14 songs in 14 days. Produced by longtime collaborator Steve Albini (Nirvana, Pixies) and mixed by Atom Greenspan (Idles, Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds), Anthem shows Flogging Molly—Dave King (vocals, guitar, bodhrán), Bridget Regan (fiddle, tin whistle), Dennis Casey (guitar), Spencer Swain (banjo, mandolin), Matt Hensley (accordion, piano, concertina), Nathen Maxwell (bass), and Mike Alonso (drums, percussion)—finding inspiration in their spontaneity. Because of this, the 11-song collection is a psalm to resiliency, offering a prayer of hope for solidarity and peace.
Always quick to slip into some rabble-rousing, they kick off Anthem with the blunt yet amusingly titled “These Times Have Got Me Drinking / Tripping Up the Stairs.” Classic Celtic Folk, it is the story of another day that sees the familiar comfort of the sunrise. This tipsy gratitude for the little things in life is a theme that returns in the independent-minded “This Road of Mine” and the album’s closer, “The Parting Wave.” Ending the collection with a gentle reminder to swallow your pride and make amends before it’s too late, the latter track, a ballad, prominently features Regan’s tranquil tin whistle.
What Anthem does best, however, is to highlight the band’s musicianship and not a political agenda. Its carefully crafted lyrical messages remain outside of any political sphere, much like the stomping, dancing good time of “A Song of Liberty,” a call to unite for the common good, or the beautifully sobering sentiments of “No Last Goodbyes,” a look at what it means to be alone together. Then there’s the lament for our stone-hearted society, “These Are the Days,” that opens to acoustic guitar as Flogging Molly toys with quasi-apocalyptic feels, as well as the waltzing embrace of the present that is “Now Is the Time.”
Additionally, they march through “(Try) Keep the Man Down,” stomp to the gang vocals of “Lead the Way,” and even offer a chance for the savage hearts of the world to jig to the banjo-laden “Life Begins and Ends (But Never Fails).” And they’re knack for a good old-fashioned folksy tale? That’s here too with the Celtic dirge of “The Croppy Boy ‘98.”
So, despite needing alcohol to survive the past few years, Flogging Molly’s return is marked by a victorious dose of (nonalcoholic) hope. Searching for common ground while retaining our individual identities, hopes, and dreams, Anthem is an appreciation for life’s littlest blessings, particularly given the trials of the past few years. It is melodic unity, a collection of songs for those who wander and wonder—even for those of us who are “very rarely, sometimes, always wrong.” With humor and sincerity, creative passion and virtuoso musicianship, these Celtic punks are apt to bring a smile to the faces of many—and the world definitely needs that right now. Thus, for all of the above reasons, Cryptic Rock gives Anthem 5 out of 5 stars.