Drunken Lullabies, the 2002 release by Irish rock group Flogging Molly, starts with a firestorm of guitar, tin whistle and fiddle, and 45 minutes later leaves you like an Irishman at three in the morning: body-battered and soaked with Guinness.
Sure, there have been attempts at the Irish rock formula before, but where bands like The Dubliners and The Pogues leave off, Flogging Molly picks up, taking traditional Irish influences, and infusing them with hardcore punk attitude.
On their sophomore album, Flogging Molly diverted a wee bit from their underground hit first effort, Swagger, and mixes up pub sing alongs with sea shanties.
Flogging Molly fires off heavy caliber musical ammunition in jig inducing tracks like “What’s Left of the Flag” and the title track, “Drunken Lullabies.”
Yet through the raucous guitar and drumbeats, lead singer Dave King finds time to compose soft songs of want, loneliness and longing.
In “If I Ever Leave This World Alive,” King sings of a man accepting his faults, coming to grips with his own mortalit, and apologizing to those he’s left behind. It is here that Flogging Molly establishes themselves as more than just a bar band.
King cries, “I’m okay; I’m all right, though you have gone from my life. You said that it would, now everything should be all right.”
On the next three tracks, Flogging Molly picks the listener up off the barroom floor with the proud ballads “The Kilburn High Road,” “Rebels of the Sacred Heart” and the instrumental “Swagger.”
However, after “Swagger” Drunken Lullabies passes out cold for a bit.
“Cruel Mistress,” written and sung by bassist Nathan Maxwell, is an ill-advised and ill-timed foray into songs of the sea. The track throws the album off course. Maxwell’s voice simply can not compare to King’s.
Masterful work on the accordion by Matt Hensley isn’t enough to bail out that sinking ship.
Following “Cruel Mistress,” the fiddle driven “Another Bag of Bricks” falls flat musically, sounding like something out of Pirates of the Caribbean.
Just in time, we’re brought back to solid ground with a splendid cover of “The Rare Ould Times” and the wonderful original “The Sun Never Shines [On Closed Doors]”
While it’s not exactly the soundtrack from The Quiet Man, the lyrics and music of Drunken Lullabies throws you deep into the Irish state of mind.
Songs of pain, love and love lost are not a far stretch from traditional Irish music.
Listening to Drunken Lullabies is like a night in an Irish pub. It has its ups. It has its downs. But ultimately on that long stroll home, we all know that we’ll be back again.
Lucas Murray can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org