I’ve always thought of Flogging Molly as the microbrew to Dropkick Murphys’ Budweiser. They’re a little more refined, with more depth and a little more flavor—though that’s not to say I don’t like a Budweiser from time to time. But for my Saint Patrick’s Day, I’m going with Flogging Molly’s “The Kilburn High Road,” a three and a half minute long, helter-skelter ride through the best of Irish-tinged punk rock.
Though they’re based in Los Angeles, Flogging Molly boasts Dave King, their Dublin-born front man. Like Frank Turner, he began his career in a much heavier band—the metal outfit Fastway. As a result, his gritty, braying voice works well in this context, and his Irish accent is front and center for an added jolt of authenticity.
The most blatantly Celtic addition is the omnipresent penny whistle, which doesn’t sound as out of place as you might think. It replaces the guitar as the primary melodic instrument in the song, and the main riff, (such as it is), is played on it. The guitar kicks up front at 2:28 for a swollen, on-the-edge solo that provides a bit of respite from the Hibernian feel. The guitar solo feels maybe a touch perfunctory, but what the hell—it’s a nice jolt of adrenaline.
I’ve also always loved the lyrics, which are more evocative than any punk song has a right to be and are filled with a real melancholy: “Toast to tears of time’s past glories/This ageless clock chime stalls/Where to kiss the lips of that love forgotten/To fly where no others have soared.” Definitely a bit heavier than your standard American lager—but just as refreshing.