Record Review - 2 September 23 2004

In music, the third album is often the make-or-break set that separates the merely good acts from the really special ones. Where the debut is a statement of purpose and the successful sophomore release a consolidation of a sound, the third album offers the opportunity to broaden and enrich the sound or otherwise fall into a predictable pattern. Zen Arcade, Double Nickels on a Dime, and OK Computer are all third albums, and while that company’s a bit rich for Flogging Molly’s blood, there are hints on the group’s latest that suggest there’s more to the SoCal septet than an improved, (more) sober version of the Pogues.

The band’s churning, high-throttle Irish punk-folk is a joy to witness live in concert, but on the albums, the songs — while well-written lyrically — seem to fall into two categories (fast and slow), with little compositional distinctiveness among them. While the new album opens with expected verve, the third song, “Factory Girls” (with Lucinda Williams), signals a willingness to stretch, exploring a shuffling folk-blues reminiscent of John Prine. Unfortunately, the band doesn’t trust those more adventurous instincts on such minor gems as “Queen Anne’s Revenge,” or “Wander Lust,” with its subtle 2-Tone undercurrent, and the anthemic title track, which recalls Big Country in its heyday.

Overall, the first half of the album will please diehards, and singer Dave King is an estimable writer. But in hewing to the stylistic line, Flogging Molly fails to prove worthy of continued notice.

-- Chris Parker
Flogging Molly plays the Roxy Thurs., Sept 23, 8 p.m. $19.