Speed of Darkness: Harder, Darker, Better

Posted: 28 May, 2011 in Musical, Reviews
Tags: , , , , , , , , , , ,

Shuffle says: …fuck shuffle, today you should go buy Speed of Darkness and listen to it until the vinyl warps.

Flogging Molly’s long awaited (though, I guess it hasn’t been that long and I’m probably one of the few who was really awaiting it) new album Speed of Darkness came out today; So of course by the the time darkness falls against the day I have already listened to it enough times to be able to quote the whole damned thing from start finish (I’m even wearing the T-shirt it came with). In addition to the album, pre-orders came in the form of ‘deluxe editions’ which featured a vinyl copy of two unreleased tracks (acoustic takes of the first two tracks of the album).  There is no shortage of things to be said about the 7 piece ensemble’s new masterwork.

After the dropping of “Don’t Shut ‘Em Down” Dave King mentioned that this was probably the most “important” album they had yet put out and when I downloaded the free version of the track off their website, I could tell what he meant.

It could be argued that Speed of Darkness is Flogging Molly’s their most profound work to date. With more F bombs(“The Power’s Out“),  more politics (see: the whole fucking album), and an all over harder, darker sound, it is clear that the band has really stepped up the punk aspect of their music which had been a become a bit muted recently, particularly on their last, least provocative album –  Within a Mile of Home was clearly a stab at bringing out a stronger trad sound while Float, though possessing little ‘umph’, sounded like Dave King was really feeling his age.

It’s not just about speed or base or heavier vocal yells.  Speed of Darkness it is a call to action that should fit right in with “London Calling” and “Alternative Ulster”.  King’s major influences like Johnny Cash, The Pogues, and Ronnie Drew, despite their varying musical genres have one undeniable similarity, their gift of storytelling.  His first few albums drew heavily on Cash’s raconteur style  for everything from love songs such as “Death Valley Queen” to epics like “Black Friday Rule“. Here, King has toned down the histories and pulled up relevant social issues which do honor to his more punk predecessors.

He’s dropped most of his themes of Catholic guilt with the exception of some fairly non-specific imagery (“Saints & Sinners”, “Present State of Grace” which actually have little to do with religion) and reminded us that this was a guy who, in his years before finding Molly Malone’s, toured with the likes of Motorhead’s Fast Eddie Clark, Humble Pie’s Jerry Shirley, and the Clash’s own Topper Headon.  Tracks like “Revolution” and “Oliver Boy” in both sound and message would fight right in on a Stiff Little Fingers album.

There is not doubt Mr. King’s new homestead (recently moving from LA to Detroit, as well as spending a significant portion of the album’s writing process in Ireland) influenced the album’s production immensely. Dave has always written pretty much what was directly around him and this album screams of thousands of dispossessed workers (I can’t help but see the Waterford Crystal strikes when I hear “Don’t Shut ‘Em Down” or images of dole lines and filthy factory streets on “Oliver Boy”).

As far as sound goes… In primo punk fashion Nathen Maxwell has stepped the fuck of on the base lines which are nothing close to basic on this album.  His foregrounding of the base parts on tracks like “Saints & Sinners” and “Don’t Shut ‘Em Down” is likely due to the fact that (at least from what I can discern from the credits section) the rest of the band has had a much heavier hand in the writing of the music than in the past – when King  played a very John Lennon styled band leader.  The rest of the band also appears to have expand their work with Bridget Reagen [King] even taking a run at lead vocals on “A Prayer for me in Silence” which sounds tailored just for her.

Of course it the work is hardly all fast and harsh.  You’ll see with your ears the occasional flogging molly styled ballad (“Present State of Grace”) and one piano laden piece (“The Cradle of Humankind“) fairly reminiscent of The Pogues’s “Fairytale of New York”.

All in all, it has been an EXTREMELY good day of listening.

Slan Abhaile, Mo Chroi

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