Flatfoot 56 – Toil


Flatfoot 56 are from Chicago and formed in 2000. They had a couple of independent releases before getting signed to Flicker Records and releasing ‘Knuckles Up’ (2006) and ‘Jungle Of The Midwest Sea’ (2007). They then signed to Old Shoe Records for ‘Black Thorn’ (2010) and onto Paper + Plastick for the release of ‘Toil’ (2012).

The band consists of brothers Tobin Bawinkel (lead vocals & guitar), Kyle Bawinkel (bass & backing vocals), Justin Bawinkel (drums & backing vocals), Eric McMahon (bagpipes & guitar) and Brandon Good (mandolin & guitar). Flatfoot’s sound is often compared to Dropkick Murphys, Flogging Molly and The Pogues.

It might seem a cliché, but ‘Toil’ is slightly better than their previous album. Don’t get me wrong, ‘Black Thorn’ was a great album, but it seemed to lack that extra spark. It’s hard to put your finger on it, but the word ‘resonance’ springs to mind. With all the turbulence in the economy, songs about the plight of hard-working men facing tough decisions resonate with us all.

Some songs feature experiences where people fall back into addictions that they had worked so hard to get out of. The opening storm of ‘Brother, Brother’ is a good example of this. “Brother, brother, can’t you see? / The path that you’ve chosen will lead you to misery / Brother, brother, emergency / The road that you’re bound on will lead you to misery.” You can also find it later on in ‘Strongman’.

When asked about ‘The Rich, The Strong and The Poor’, Tobin stated “This song tells the story of three different characters who all find themselves chasing different things. One man lives his life searching for riches and prosperity. The second is chasing physical strength and revenge. He kind of has this idea that if he just proves to the world how tough he is then he will achieve what he is looking for. The third character is the poor man who is obviously seeking basic life needs and happiness. All of these positions serve to remind that, even though we have three very different characters exemplified here, all three are very much in the same position in that happiness hasn’t been found in chasing these various desires.”

After the full throttle delivery, they slow things down for the acoustic ‘Toil’. Instead of the rampaging punk, this stripped back approach gives the lyrics a harsher impact. “From the steel workers inPittsburgh, to the trucker and his load, all feeding that old fat cat just hoping he’ll explode. With a silver spoon breaking my teeth, the boys on the line working just to eat, are you picturing the stories that I sing?”

But if you are looking for that spitting fury, you can find it in ‘(We Don’t) Work For Them’.

There are great foot-tapping tunes aplenty. None more so, than their glorious mandolin, bagpipes and throaty guitar cover of the hymn ‘I’ll Fly Away’.

Rating: 9/10

Reviewed by Peter John Willoughby

01. Brother, Brother
02. The Rich, The Strong and The Poor
03. I Believe It
04. Take Hold Again
05. Toil
06. Live or Die Trying
07. Work For Them
08. Terrorizing Truth
09. Strongman
10. 6’10”
11. This Time
12. Winter InChicago
13. I’ll Fly Away

Record Label: Paper + Plastic Records, Oct. 2012

Band members:
Tobin Bawinkel – vocals, guitar
Kyle Bawinkel – bass, vocals
Justin Bawinkel – drums, vocals
Eric McMahon – bagpipes, guitar
Brandon Good – mandolin, guitar

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