Artist:  Flatfoot 56
Title:  "Knuckles Up"
Label:  Flicker

A band of brothers – Tobin, Justin and Kyle Bawinkel and Josh Robieson – the Chicago-based Flatfoot 56 cranks out brawlin’ punkers that recall an earlier, more passionate era in Christian rock.

These gritty rock anthems, punctuated with just enough bagpipe and mandolin to earn the “Celtic” label à la The Pogues, would not have been out of place 20 years ago when So. Cal. bands the Altar Boys and Undercover were giving Christian punk music legitimacy.

"Knuckles Up," the third indie effort from singer/songwriter Tobin Bawinkel & Co. (although it’s been re-mastered for a national debut on Flicker), has a raw, unpolished bar-band quality, which works out just fine because that’s what it is. Songs such as the title track, “Blood and Sweat,” “Chi-Town Beat Down” and “Fight to Live” suggest a certain adolescent rough and tumble street bravado; and the fast-paced polka-on-steroids punk tempo, albeit redundant, suits them just fine.

Influenced by classic Irish rockers, Flatfoot lacks the subtlety and musical variations of, say, L.A. band Flogging Molly. But, there’s a truth in advertising quality, as these songs of fighting for one’s faith and family more than live up to the disc’s title. There’s an acceptance of violent metaphor in the song “Brotherhood,” where “a punch to the face, a kick to the rib” is a given; but the real issue is spiritual rather than physical: “We fight against sin/ Our battle’s not outward/ Our battle’s within.”

Fast, loud, aggressive and unrelenting, Flatfoot 56 is for hardcore music fans. While not always discernable at first glance, the message is an affirmation of age-old faith and “Amazing Grace.” 


   
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