Life has gone south for many people over the last year and a half, and for many, it has become a grind. Flatfoot 56, in their intro ("The Escape") to their album Black Thorn, addresses that very problem and offers a getaway from it all with what they call a romantic adventure. But is the Celtic punk band's third project really that captivating?
The answer to that question lies in the aforementioned first track and the ensuing title track. The rough, Irish sounding vocals that drive the intro lead perfectly to the determined punk song, "Black Thorn," carrying over into much of the album. Armed with traditional instruments featuring (but not limited to) key drums, a mandolin, and pipes (and electric guitars when needed) the band offers terrific melodies which won't alienate fans of their previous work and fans of folk/punk rock groups like Flogging Molly.
Much of the album runs the same sounding tunes consecutively which works only because of the lack of artists in the Christian genre and Flatfoot 56's ability to turn out insanely catchy tunes. The Chicagoans get pretty ambitious on several songs and may cause some to think of what Children 18:3 might sound like if they went Celtic (specifically "Smoke Blower" and "Hothead").
Fans of more conventional punk will be at home with songs like "Born For This" and "Courage" which are both fun and upbeat. Although not the best moments on Black Thorn, the ballads are just as smile-inducing as the puck/rock tracks promote fist pumping. "Shiny Eyes" retains an emotional Celtic sound as well as a comparison to House Of Heroes' terrific song "By Your Side," while the softer sound of "Son Of Shame" is also a good change of pace.
While not overtly a spiritual album at heart, Flatfoot 56's message of perseverance, determination, and courage all ring out loudly. Both "We Grow Stronger" and "Way Of The Sun" promote endurance while a man feeling sorry for himself in "Son Of Shame" sees that "everything is new" and dedicates his life to something greater because of God ("But I know there is someone out there and his mind remains on me. Says the Father o'er his children, 'It was for you that I came. You're the apple of my eye, son, my precious son of shame'").
Other mentions of God come in "Shiny Eyes" where the singer cherishes the memory of his dead lover who is "now resting at your Father's feet." Elsewhere, "You Won Me Over" documents God's work in his life in the form of pronouns. The only drawbacks lyrically are some mentions of Family Force 5-esque violence in "Stampede" and a mild profanity in "Shiny Eyes" ("In times of hell...").
Is Black Thorn the perfect romantic getaway the intro boasted of? Not necessarily, but for an album that wasn't even on my radar when the year started, I'd say I was more than pleasantly surprised by the excursion. Flatfoot 56's energetic Celtic punk is a blast which will probably end up as being one of the top punk albums of the year.- Review date: 4/29/10, written by Nathaniel Schexnayder of Jesusfreakhideout.com
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