Looking at America

Flogging Molly's Dave King left Ireland for a career in rock, but he couldn't escape his roots

Flogging Molly's "Screaming at the Wailing Wall" may be the best real punk song in half a decade. A blazing rush often accompanies the best political rants and "Screaming," from the band's latest album Within a Mile of Home, is no exception. With nods to the Sex Pistols and the Clash as well as classic American hard core such as Minor Threat and Bad Brains, the band, led by Dublin-born Dave King, integrates Irish song structures and subject matter into their swift and memorable roar.

"Coming from Ireland and looking at America, 'Screaming' is an outsider's view of the religious and social overtones influencing events these days," says King from a tour stop in Columbus, Ohio. "It's a song about division, whether that's the Berlin Wall or the Middle East."

Indeed, the song is a legitimate heir to the Pistols' "Holidays in the Sun," with King stepping into Johnny Rotten's bewildering shoes, shouting at a symbol and a region where passions trump reason with little hope of peaceful resolution. The song's traditional Irish melody, woeful and beleaguered, only adds to its sincerity and importance.

Yet the 44-year-old King hasn't always been eager to accept his musical heritage. In the '80s, he was part of Fastway, a dubious pop/metal act formed with Motorhead's Eddie Clark. After the band floundered, King found himself out of work in Los Angeles and spent the better part of a decade working for minimum wage with music as an afterthought.

But all wasn't lost in Los Angeles--King happened to catch a gig by fellow countryperson Bridget Regan, and it renewed in him a musical focus and a sense of national pride.

"I couldn't go back to Ireland physically," King says. "But then I heard Bridget play the fiddle and I knew that I could go home musically."

King recruited Regan, along with a quartet of native Irish folk, and Flogging Molly came into being. The basic sound was from his homeland, but King and crew found that punk, specifically the fast-paced American variety, provided the necessary power to get his points across.

"Punk hits you over the head with its intensity, with its heart and soul," King says. "After all, there has to be an argument."

Throughout his songs, King argues like a man possessed, shouting about inequality both personal ("Factory Girls," a lovely duet with Lucinda Williams) and bitingly political (the anti-imperialist "Tobacco Island"). "I don't cater to any genre," King says. "Whether it's country or punk, the best music is always about injustice."

 
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