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When The Pogues first emerged onto the bleak musical landscape with 1984's thrilling Red Roses for Me, the group could barely have imagined that their clattering marriage of Celtic melodrama and punk energy would give birth to a whole new musical subculture. Not just that, but an increasingly popular subculture as well. Going Out In Style, the latest album from Boston's Dropkick Murphys (featuring an appearance from none other than Bruce Springsteen), entered the US Billboard Top 200 album chart's top five, while there is every chance that Speed of Darkness, the fifth studio effort from LA's Flogging Molly, will debut in the same chart at number one.
It ought to be said that a lot has come out in the wash since the day of The Pogues, to the extent that Celtic-tinged punk - Sham Rock, you might call it - might well stand as the most reactionary and creatively uninventive of all of music's modern sub-genres. Gone are protest songs about the Birmingham Six and threats to "scare the Camden Palace poofs", while in their place stand homilies about brotherhood and other notions of blue-collar bonhomie. Even so, the lack of a cutting edge doesn't itself mean that such songs aren't lacking in charm, and each one of the 12 compositions that makes up Speed of Darkness does feature a tune that the listener can whistle.
Flogging Molly are not without their nuances either, and despite the fact that 49-year-old Dublin-born frontman Dave King once played in heavy metal also-rans Fastway, it doesn't detract from the sense of authenticity he bestows upon his band's music. "I spent 27 years in this factory / Then the boss man says you're not what we need," he spits on the defiant Revolution, while on Don't Shut 'Em Down he sings of "life in a modern town" where "the windows [are] smashed open and the doors kicked out". In an emotional more than an intellectual sense, on record this is convincing stuff, the sentiment coming powered on often manically paced flurries and the strongest of melodies. But as with The Pogues, you can bet your last orders that it's in the live arena that Flogging Molly are at their most convincing.