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Flogging Molly‘s 2004 album “Within A Mile Of Home” should be placed on a pedestal as an example for other folk-punk bands to stare at in awe. Rabble-rousing songs of piracy and defiance, somber ballads, nostalgic tunes of yesterday, this album’s got it all.
“Within A Mile Of Home” begins with a big in-your-face opener, the protest song “Screaming At The Wailing Wall”. Using the accordion as a megaphone, songwriter/lyricist/vocalist Dave King resoundingly criticizes the war crimes of the Bush regime, using metaphors that never seem to be cliche. Next is arguably the most fun track of the bunch: The now-classic pirate shanty “The Seven Deadly Sins”. Clever verses and a catchy chorus pay homage to Johnny Cash and Joe Strummer, two of the band’s greatest influences. It’s time to slow down just a bit and pull out the tin whistle for guest artist Lucinda Williams, who appears in the song Factory Girls, a bittersweet reminder of younger days.
Tracks 4 and 6 are two more songs critical of the American government and society as a whole. By track 6 (“Light of A Fading Star”), I’m getting a little bit weary of the same sort of message being repeated, but, hey, as long as you get the message across, right, Dave?
“Whistles The Wind”, “The Spoken Wheel”, and “Don’t Let Me Die Still Wondering” are all nicely packaged ballads that successfully draw emotion out from the listener, allowing him or her to sympathize with the lyrics.
“Within A Mile of Home”, “Tomorrow Comes A Day Too Soon”, and “The Wanderlust” all seem to be old-fashioned songs about times long past, and it’s a feeling that Flogging Molly captures very well.
Bassist Nathan Maxwell takes a crack at vocals in another pirate shanty, “Queen Anne’s Revenge”, and doesn’t do too badly, either. His voice allows the band to take a much more punk direction, almost Dropkick Murphy’s-esque.
If I had my way, I would have ended the album on “With A Wonder and A Wild Desire.” I think that defiant tone and energetic feeling would have felt more satisfying than the slower ballad. But it’s not up to me, and the closer still felt pretty good, I’d say.
This album has, over the last five or so years, repeatedly been a favorite of mine. Flogging Molly is the pinnacle of everything that I think makes a band great: Witty, clever, original lyrics, excellent musicianship, and a fun and interesting instrumentation. “Within A Mile Of Home” is perfectly representative of those traits.