It took a while to catch on, but by the mid-to-late 1990s a slew of punks, using The Pogues catalogue as the template, started to forge a solid Celtic Punk rock movement in the U.S., merging the anger and politics of Punk with the instruments associated with Celtic music (mandolins, accordions, banjos and the occasional bagpipe). Like every other new genre that comes out of nowhere, there were some remarkable albums made. But at some point, seemingly every American kid with a stick and poke four leaf clover tattoo, a Fighting Irish jersey and at least some tenuous tie to Irish or Scottish ancestry started a Celtic Punk band and the public turned its attention elsewhere.
Flogging Molly’s sophomore effort, 2000’s Swagger, is easily one of the best album’s the genre has produced by a band that didn’t count Shane MacGowan as a member. The album also happened to be their first proper studio album, as their debut was a live effort. It helped that Flogging Molly, a band formed in Los Angeles, was comprised mainly of Irish transplants, including front man Dave King who was previously in the metal band Fastway in the 1980s. It also included, at its founding, guitarist Ted Hutt, who would go on the become of the most sought-after punk rock producers for the next couple of decades. Swagger includes a handful of tracks that have gone on to become fan favorites and staples of their live shows even today, songs like “Devil’s Dance Floor,” and the frantically brilliant “Every Dog Has Its Day”.
Swagger, on its 20th anniversary, is getting a proper limited-edition vinyl re-release from the label that first put it out, Side One Dummy. The double-LP package includes a remixed and remastered version of the album that features a bonus version of “Sentimental Johnny,” in Spanish. The song, easily one of the band’s best sounds even better in Spanish, oddly enough. The set also includes a bonus record of three live songs recorded in 2001 at Denver’s Bluebird Theatre, along with a traditional Irish Set. Both Swagger and this special traditional Irish set were recorded by Steve Albini, but the latter, impressively, was done in a single take with no overdubs. The collection also comes with a DVD documentary from 2000 (though never released) including a full live performance. It’s rounded out with an expanded lyric booklet, a Flogging Molly logo vinyl slip mat, and embroidered patch and four badge Swagger buttons.
Celtic Punk as a genre has definitely ebbed quite a bit since 2000, which is not such a bad thing when you consider how many mediocre albums by slapped together bands were coming out toward the end of its mass popularity. But groups like Flogging Molly are thankfully still at it and still putting out great albums, most recently just three years ago. This anniversary though gives the perfect excuse for breaking out the Swagger album again.