Flogging Molly
Life Is Good


3.8
excellent

Review

by Jom STAFF
June 1st, 2017 | 28 replies


Release Date: 2017 | Tracklist

Review Summary: Aging gracefully with no signs of slowing down.

I saw Dave King and Co. in 2016 with Frank Turner and Chuck Ragan, and at the time, you'da thunk Flogging Molly were touring in support of a Greatest Hits compilation. Wearing their relentless touring pedigree like a badge of honor, the Irish-American group's balanced playlist pulled from each of their previous five studio albums, with the raw-and-ragged Swagger and Drunken Lullabies having slightly greater emphasis to the more streamlined sounds of Float and Speed of Darkness (although Within a Mile of Home's "The Seven Deadly Sins" justifiably kicked off the encore). Even King has joked that the band could play "If I Ever Leave This World Alive" 50 times in a row every night and people wouldn't mind.

The Molly-Turner-Ragan tour also premiered "The Hand of John L. Sullivan", which would ultimately make its way onto Life Is Good, the band's sixth studio album in their 20-year run to date. Truthfully, Life Is Good is a logical progression for the band, whose signature Celtic folk songwriting remains as robust as ever. As you would expect, their multi-layered songwriting exudes congruence with King's lyricism, a staple calling card throughout the band's discography. In songs like the caustic, marching "Crushed (Hostile Nations)" or anthemic, banjo-driven lead single "Reptiles (We Woke Up)", he weaves his observations and sociopolitical commentary through a gentler lens compared to the subversive soapbox-and-megaphone approach he opted for throughout Speed of Darkness. Meanwhile, the 1-2 punch of the aforementioned "The Hand of John L. Sullivan" (no pun intended) and "Welcome to Adamstown" infuses King's imaginative historiographies with his seasoned vocals in the album's first quarter. In the same vein, the Irish-born frontman also acknowledges how certain flashbulb memories inform his perspective on the present and future with an overarching air of optimism. For example, look no further than "Hope", which is "still a shout away / Like it was yesterday / Away we shout once more". Altogether, these three themes are effortlessly interwoven throughout the record.

Life Is Good's infectious gusto is palpable in spades, a tribute to producers Joe Chiccarelli and Ross Hogarth. Further, "Returning" drummer Mike Alonso, who had played with King in Katmandu during the early '90s, has a particularly pronounced impact on the record's energy. His rollicking fills in the second half of "Crushed (Hostile Nations)", the pace-setting snare in "The Hand of John L. Sullivan", and "The Bride Wore Black"'s thunderous rolls in the chorus drive each song's momentum. Collectively, the rest of the septet - Bridget Regan, Matt Hensley, Bob Schmidt, Dennis Casey, and Nathan Maxwell - seem to have developed undeniable chemistry in that each performer augments the others and gives songs room to flourish and breathe. Written in Open D tuning, "The Guns of Jericho" is a quintessential example, but their synergy is perhaps best exemplified in "The Days We've Yet to Meet", where Regan's violin is complemented by accordion, electric guitar, and hearty bass. Another obvious highlight that will assuredly tantalize in live settings is "Crushed (Hostile Nations)", which is Flogging Molly's heaviest song in recent memory. While the song's first third starts slowly, with fickle violin and King's throaty vibrato straining in spots, the song's transition into its explosive zenith, featuring copious distortion, gang vocals, and a searing guitar solo that mimics the tin whistle, is certainly memorable. The brass-laden "Welcome to Adamstown", coupled with copious hand-claps for antiphony, is decidedly brilliant in its juxtaposition: the vibrant instrumentation is in stark contrast to the reality of Adamstown and its citizens, who are merely "shadows in a ghost town" due to Ireland's sharp economic downturn and recession.

The record's title track, however, could be Life Is Good's most powerful due to its immediacy. At the tour I mentioned earlier, King stated that "This Present State of Grace" was dedicated to his recently-deceased mother, who had died around Christmastime in 2015. When King and Regan had visited her in the hospital, King's mother had quipped, "Enjoy yourselves, 'cause I surely did." To always have a record of this conversation, King wrote "Life Is Good", incorporating that exact sentiment into a verse ("Come to me here / [And] whisper in your ear: / 'Oh, enjoy yourselves, I know I surely did'"). With "Life Is Good", it's evident that King invested significant emotional capital in ensuring that the song honors his late mother without alienating the listener, an effort in which he succeeds.

That said, Flogging Molly are consistently consistent, and just like their preceding albums, there are some missteps along the way. For instance, the meandering "The Last Serenade (Sailors and Fishermen)" doesn't pick up steam until its second half, and even then it's difficult to regain interest despite the shared vocal melody. Meanwhile, "The Bride Wore Black" feels like a bluegrass-soaked B-side that serves as a buffer between the sonically-similar "Hope" and wistful closer "Until We Meet Again". Overall, Life Is Good is a cogent evolution in Flogging Molly's trademark Celtic folk sound and a welcome gift from a band celebrating their 20th anniversary this year.

Jom recommends:

"Welcome to Adamstown"
"The Days We've Yet to Meet"
"Crushed (Hostile Nations)"
"Reptiles (We Woke Up)"



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user ratings (27)
Chart.
3.3
great


Comments:Add a Comment 
cosmopazz
June 1st 2017


410 Comments


hi i'm jom and i'm gonna review an album without giving it a rating in the database

brainmelter
June 1st 2017


4716 Comments


v nice

Digging: Malthusian - Below the Hengiform

Toondude10
June 1st 2017


11693 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

glad to see this is good, this band was a part of my childhood when Drunken Lullibies first came out.

Digging: Machine Head - The Blackening

STOP SHOUTING!
June 1st 2017


748 Comments


Not gonna check this out - based on low user rating.

kingdedethefifth
June 1st 2017


4562 Comments


Jom should've reviewed jomsviking

ATARI
Staff Reviewer
June 1st 2017


22784 Comments

Album Rating: 3.7

love you Jom. thought about reviewing this since I reviewed all their other LP's in the past, but life's been crazy



top notch writing as usual. haven't heard anything but the singles but looking forward to this... very nostalgic band for me

Digging: Amy Shark - Night Thinker

Jom
Staff Reviewer
June 1st 2017


2992 Comments


They're awesome live (no surprises). Dave King's a phenomenal frontman. He tells lots of stories and the band must go through a slew of Doc Martens each tour.

I know that they start with "The Hand of John L. Sullivan" and have "Reptiles (We Woke Up)" later on in the set, but that's it from the new record until the encore (where they play "Crushed (Hostile Nations)"). Looking forward to seeing that one live for sure.

Maybe if they tour with a ska act later they can teach them the brass parts to "Welcome to Adamstown".

Coldplaz
June 2nd 2017


51 Comments


This band has a new album? I had no idea, I am gonna see them live in a few weeks so I'm pretty hyped.

Spec
June 2nd 2017


34843 Comments


They're on my list to see live one day. Didn't know they had a new one coming out, gotta check.

Toondude10
June 2nd 2017


11693 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

For a guy who is in his mid-50s Dave King certainly sounds as good as he did in Swagger.



This is a really nice and fun album. Nothing too different from their previous albums but still enjoyable.

ATARI
Staff Reviewer
June 2nd 2017


22784 Comments

Album Rating: 3.7

I had the dj play if I ever leave this world alive as the last song at my wedding a few years back. don't regret it one bit and even my mom grew some appreciation for flogging molly that day haha



gonna jam this today, and it will probably force my hand to dust off my 2 flogging molly vinyls as well

truekebabpower
June 2nd 2017


787 Comments


They are indeed amazing live that's what they're all about.

Their albums can get boring though, so not sure I want to check this out. What is the "drunken punk rock song vs existential acoustic ballad ratio" on this album?

Jom
Staff Reviewer
June 2nd 2017


2992 Comments


This record is a bit more buoyant/optimistic and moderately-paced compared to past efforts; there's a fair bit more storytelling and folk leanings.

"Crushed (Hostile Nations)" is most raucous of the bunch once it gets going. There aren't many candidates for 'drunken punk rock', although "Until We Meet Again" has the same ethos as something like Dropkick Murphys' "End of the Night" from 'Signed & Sealed in Blood'. The closest drinking song might be "The Bride Wore Black", and "The Last Serenade (Sailors and Fishermen)"'s la-da-da-da-da vocal might fit your criteria, too.

truekebabpower
June 2nd 2017


787 Comments


Not sure I am too excited about it, but will check it out at some point. Thanks.

Spec
June 2nd 2017


34843 Comments


Got an Against Me! vibe from reptiles wth.

tommygun
June 2nd 2017


26713 Comments


the boys are back

the boys are back

the boys are back

for friday night footy

ATARI
Staff Reviewer
June 3rd 2017


22784 Comments

Album Rating: 3.7

this is much better than their last couple albums



some of their best work on here I'd say, it feels like the passion is back in a big way

Satellite
June 3rd 2017


25690 Comments


holy shit drunken lullabies was 15 yrs ago wtf i'm going to die soon

Digging: Sturgill Simpson - A Sailor's Guide To Earth

Toondude10
June 4th 2017


11693 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

this is much better than their last couple albums [2]

Tunaboy45
June 4th 2017


15627 Comments


I'm flogging molly if anyone wants some



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