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Christian Music - Reviews, News, Interviews

Knuckles Up

  • reviewed by Christa Banister Copyright Christianity Today International
  • 2006 1 Jun
Knuckles Up
Sounds like … The Clash or The Ramones meet The Chieftans or The Pogues in an unlikely fusion of punk rock and Celtic instrumentationAt a glance … although Flatfoot 56 makes a unique contribution to the rock scene, the band's formula quickly grows tiresome, both musically and thematicallyTrack Listing This Town Brotherhood Knuckles Up Hold Fast Breakin' the Law Blood and Sweat The Rotten Hand Battle of the Bones Chi-town Beat Down Fight to Live The Long Road Amazing Grace Arran Boat

It's widely accepted that all musicians are influenced by artists before their time, and that there's really "nothing new under the sun." But a music critic's greatest complaint—especially in the Christian market—still commonly involves a lack of originality. A unique sound is not a problem for Chicago band Flatfoot 56, however. In fact, you'd be hard pressed to find something quite like Knuckles Up in music, Christian or secular. After all, it's not every day you hear the usual three-chord punk rock performed with bagpipes and mandolins throughout.

The evidence suggests that this could make for an exciting live show, but something gets lost in translation on the CD itself. Things will seem extremely repetitive and tiresome for anyone but the most devout of underground punk rock fans. It's a densely raucous sound that has too much going on instrumentally in the mix, often burying vocals that are already imperceptible in delivery on some songs.

Not that there's much to gain from lyrics that tend to favor punk frivolity over spiritual depth. True, "Brotherhood," "The Long Road," and "The Rotten Hand" provide some hope-filled spiritual takeaway, and what bagpipe-driven punk band can resist a cover of "Amazing Grace"? But other cuts are more ambiguous in nature, particularly "Breakin' the Law" in which Tobin Bawinkel belts, "Flatfoot 56 will beat you with his Billy stick/He's rough, he's tough, and he'll call your bluff, turn out the lights, run away."

Despite such rough-and-tumble turns of phrase, there's no doubt about the band's passion to rock out and praise God, and there is surely a core audience that will favor the punk rowdiness. Now if only Flatfoot 56 could rise above the gimmick of their sound and channel some of that energy into better songs with more focus (and clearer vocals), then they might be on to something greater.

© Christa Banister, subject to licensing agreement with Christianity Today International. All rights reserved. Click for reprint information.