I’ve only had the occasional run in with the Celtic punk genre: a Motorhead show featuring the Dropkick Murphy’s as the opener, an acquaintance with a heavy Flogging Molly habit, etc. So I’m not exactly sure of its history beyond the vague impression that The Pogues were involved. Even though it’s not completely my thing you’d have to be nuts not to instantly realize that, for whatever reason, Celtic music and punk work incredibly well together.
Flatfoot 56, out of Chicago, stretch their influences a little beyond the standard bagpipecore by incorporating mandolins and the occasional acoustic guitar playing more American, bluegrass type runs. Given Appalachian music’s deep roots in the scotch-irish tradition this isn’t an exceedingly crazy stretch. But it works and it gives songs like “Strong Man” and “I Believe It” an identifiably American grounding.
This doesn’t mean that they are missing any of the muscle. From the opener “Brother, Brother” the main thrust of the album is uncompromising street punk with only the occasional folk excursion. Mostly, I imagine, to let those in the pit rest for a moment.
So strong is their commitment to keeping it loud that they manage to shoehorn it into the most unlikely of spots in two songs at the end of the album. Second to last is “Winter inChicago”. A lesser band would have turned this into a Springsteen/Bob Seger classic rock ripoff. Not these fine men. A jaunty piano riff pretty quickly gives way to power chords from an amp that has had the “Gain” knob glued to 11. The piano player tries to plink along with some sort of comparable aggression. He of course fails. Finally, the album closer is bluegrass spiritual “I’ll Fly Away”. They let the mandolin work for about 45 seconds before reminding you that this is a punk album and it’s time to get stompin’.
This album ain’t genius. However, if you’re the type who likes to make some bad life decisions involving too much beer and some friends with neck tattoos then you could do a lot worse. You even get a bit of redemption at the end.