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Flatfoot 56 - Toil Album Cover

Flatfoot 56 - Toil

Reviewed by
8.0
Flatfoot 56Toil
Record Label: Paper+ Plastick
Release Date: August 14th, 2012
I don’t really like to use the cliché “fun” to describe music, but honestly, sitting here trying to put words to Flatfoot 56’s latest rabble-rouser Toil, I can’t think of a better word. Might as well, then, ‘cause I know I’m not going to stumble upon another album this summer that rivals this one’s hoopla. So here it is. Toil: A “fun” album to end all other “fun” albums (not to be confused with a “fun.” album – those are enjoyable in a completely different way).

The first time I heard “I Believe” a few weeks back was the first time I’d ever connected with anything Flatfoot 56, so I can’t say I’m familiar with their back catalog. You don’t need to be to enjoy this one. Hard-pressed to describe their sound, I would say they’re Dropkick Murphys meets a host of Fat Wreck bands meet Springsteen. That ought to perk your ears, and if it doesn’t, I dare you to listen to “I Believe.” 30 seconds in and they’ve already rolled out gang vocals, handclaps and what figures to be a mandolin, all over a heartwarming declaration professing belief in “second chances.” That’s all it took for me to realize I needed this album.

Most of the rest of the songs follow similarly, combining frantic but nicely written punk rock melodies with wailing bagpipes and mandolins – your usual mental cues for a couple of Irish guys in a small Boston pub, or The Departed. My favorites are hands down the two opening tracks “Brother, Brother” and “The Rich, The Strong and The Poor,” which crash with fervor and conviction. But they manage to shake it up on a few numbers too. “Winter In Chicago” is kickstarted by Charlie Brown-y pianos and “6’10” begins as an alt-country ballad before unfurling into inebriated folk. Closer “I’ll Fly Away” is a cover of the renowned hymn, which they happily dip in their signature punk rock.

But what makes Toil more than just “fun” music are its surprisingly hefty lyrical themes, which revolve around spirituality and class warfare. The former is actually expected, since if you know anything about Flatfoot 56, you’ll know they take a lot of pride in their Christian roots. Don’t worry, none of it comes off as preachy if you’re not spiritual – only positive. On “The Rich, The Strong and The Poor,” they fix their eyes heavenward: “I’ll be singin’ as we travel through the mud and the gravel, this is not my home.”

It’s the latter, however – and this is where the Springsteen comparison shines through – that I think is most interesting. On the title track, they channel Wrecking Ball and Occupy sentiments. “From the steel workers in Pittsburgh, to the trucker and his load, they’re all feeding that old fat cat hoping he’ll explode,” it seethes before concluding, “we’ve been working for far too long.” The working class struggles are tangible just from the song titles too: “The Rich, The Strong and The Poor,” “Live or Die Trying,” “Work For Them” all evoke strong blue-collar vibes.

I went back and forth on whether to give Toil a 7.5 or 8. For me, the biggest downside to albums this immediately catchy is that they seem to burn out quickly. Indeed, at the time of the writing of this review, some of the tracks I’ve listened to 10 times in a row are starting to wear out. But at the same time, the lyrical themes are intriguing enough to endure. It’s not every day you come across a Christian group that’s unabashedly liberal politically. On Toil, it’s much less a gimmick and much more a reflection of the band’s genuity – their working class roots and the ability they have to combine faith, culture and song to stand up for them. That, to me, deserves a respect that runs deeper than the freshness, or lack thereof, of a melody.

8/10
This review is a user submitted review from Matthew Tsai. You can see all of Matthew Tsai's submitted reviews here.
 
Displaying posts 1 - 10 of 10
05:07 PM on 07/22/12
#2
Gregory Robson
Under Rug Swept
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"Toil" and "Live or Die Trying," clinched it for me. Great review.
01:41 PM on 07/23/12
#3
satanisanerd
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"Dropkick Murphys meets a host of Fat Wreck bands meet Springsteen"

This describes the kind of music I enjoy ;) I love this band and their new album so much. It has all the qualities I look for in an energetic, aggressive, yet melodic punk rock sort of way. Good job on the review.
06:29 PM on 07/23/12
#4
zooyorker182
Johnny Quest thinks we're what?!
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very excited about this
10:36 PM on 07/24/12
#5
heyzombiehitler
has feelings
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the RIYL sparks my interest.
08:04 AM on 07/25/12
#6
Gregory Robson
Under Rug Swept
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the RIYL sparks my interest.
The RIYL is spot-on.
04:57 PM on 07/25/12
#7
Thomas Nassiff
resuscitation of the year
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That really is a great RIYL haha, I like this record a lot!
11:21 AM on 07/28/12
#8
thepianominstre
@joshuahedlund
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Based on what I've seen from the Flatfoot guys over the years I'm not sure they're "unabashedly liberal politically," and I'm not sure this album is, either. Unless I'm forgetting something (I've only listened through it a few times so far) it's not really making statements about trying to change things or saying things should be different, but more just telling stories and recognizing the fact that a lot of people have to work hard to get by, which are truths that in itself shouldn't be a liberal or conservative thing.

/twocents
05:20 PM on 07/28/12
#9
Matthew Tsai
Born and raised
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Based on what I've seen from the Flatfoot guys over the years I'm not sure they're "unabashedly liberal politically," and I'm not sure this album is, either. Unless I'm forgetting something (I've only listened through it a few times so far) it's not really making statements about trying to change things or saying things should be different, but more just telling stories and recognizing the fact that a lot of people have to work hard to get by, which are truths that in itself shouldn't be a liberal or conservative thing.

/twocents
I probably should've been more clear - by "unabashedly liberal" I mean liberal in the economic sense. Listening to this album, I found it overwhelmingly more likely that the members of the band would side with Obama over Romney on issues like healthcare and labor laws, for example. The title track is teeming with a yearning for change.
01:14 PM on 02/06/13
Searos
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Paper + Plastic sent this out today for free digital to digital subscription members. Never heard of them before but I like what I hear a lot.

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