Even the finest examples of the punk rock home video genre—Fugazi’s Instrument and Sonic Youth’s The Year Punk Broke—are unlikely and undeserving of recognition by, say, the AFI or Slant‘s 100 Essential Films list. So is it fair to evaluate the feature-length documentary Whiskey on a Sunday, the new Flogging Molly DVD, by the standards of an Errol Morris feature or even your average Nova episode? Even as far as tour movies go, Whiskey on a Sunday is far too self-congratulatory, far too long, and far too geared toward die-hard fans; understandably, the film is marketed with its accompanying soundtrack album as a CD rather than in a DVD packaging. Flogging Molly are the Pogues-lite, if not even Dropkick Murphys-lite, and their six-year and three-record existence probably only merits a longer-than-average Wikipedia entry.
That said, Whiskey on a Sunday is not without its charms; a Warped Tour staple for years, Flogging Molly puts on one of the finest live shows around, and when Jim Dziura’s film allows its concert footage to mark the tempo, Whiskey on a Sunday is an energetic, irresistible ride every bit as endearing as one of the band’s greatest songs. Ironically, the band could well serve as a topic for a “serious” documentary. Fortysomething frontman Dave King’s background growing up in the Beggar’s Bush area of Dublin in the midst of IRA insurgency ought to merit a bit more screen time; as a relatively new admirer of the group, I couldn’t help wondering a bit more about King’s pre-Molly biography (which also includes a stint in Motorhead side project Fastway). Considering the camera’s attention to gawky teenaged fans, the band-members’ multiple comparisons of Flogging Molly to the Rolling Stones, and dull-as-dishwater interviews with Side One Dummy label-heads (“We looked at each other and thought, ‘Okay, if we don’t work with this band, what band are we going to work with?’”), passing up a history lesson is a missed opportunity. Similarly, the quick clips of live footage intercut with still photos and admirers’ stock observations about the band’s Irish-pub-rock-meets-So-Cal-skate-punk sound tells when it should show. The bonus features include full-length performances of “Rebels of the Sacred Heart” and “Selfish Man,” suggesting the concert film that could have been.
The accompanying CD is a fitting introduction to the band’s sound: new track “Laura” fuses whiskey balladry with The Business-style oi! punk effortlessly under the merciless assault of George Schwindt’s drumming. The live tracks capture a band as musically deft as they are explosive—a nearly 12-minute-long rendition of “Black Friday Rule” is breathtaking—and acoustic versions of fan favorites like “Drunken Lullabies” and “Tomorrow Comes a Day Too Soon” are as warm as a tummy full of John Jameson. Whiskey on a Sunday, the movie, is about 40 minutes too long; Whiskey on a Sunday, the album, is all-too brief.