Essential New Music: Flatfoot 56’s “Odd Boat”

Chicago’s Flatfoot 56 continues to defy odds. For 17 years, the band has thrived playing faith- based, traditional, instrument-accented Celtic punk that’s considered passé unless you’re Flogging Molly or Dropkick Murphys, or are a regular at the London Celtic Punks blog. The trick, as it appears on Odd Boat, the band’s fifth full-length, is to examine America’s ills while celebrating its working class and pastimes—using baseball metaphorically on “Ty Cobb” is a stroke of populist brilliance—to a sound most people would assume backdrops bar- room brawls but is actually smoothed out and quite melodically palatable. The hardened, jaded critic might see this as appealing, if not pandering, to an unsophisticated demographic, but any fan of melodic, punky drinking songs won’t be able to deny the upbeat, four-on-the-floor hook strength of “P.S.” and tasteful layers of bagpipe counter- point on “The Trap” and “Stutter” that’ll have even the most black-hearted cynics raising salutatory pints.

—Kevin Stewart-Panko