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Knuckles Up
Artist: Flatfoot 56
Label: Flicker Records 
Length: 13 tracks/35:34

Flatfoot 56 recorded this disc in 2004 and it has been re-released by Flicker Records. It finds the Bawinkel brothers - Tobin, Justin, and Kyle plus bandmate Josh Robieson - tearing through a series of anthem-like punk tunes that mix some surprising elements. Heavy metal power chords support Robieson on bagpipes as Tobin shouts out the lyrics filled with Christian references and statements of faith.

This is not traditional gospel music. One listen to Flatfoot's cover of "Amazing Grace" proves that. The bagpipes state the melody before buzzsaw guitars push the song into overdrive. The intensity of Tobin's vocal has him pushing the limits of his voice in order to heard above the raging music. "The Rotten Hand" describes the singer's journey from non-belief to the realization that God has a plan for his life. The transformation takes a detour when the the woman of his dreams turns out to be more than she appeared 
to be !!!!

The opening track, "This Town," mixes ringing power chords with a jig-like melody on the mandolin that contrasts with the images of streets paved with blood as Tobin pleads for all to unite and turn the town around. "Brotherhood" is another tune that features Robieson on bagpipes on a tribute to those who stood strong "...we fight against sin / Our battle's not outward, our battle's within". (The cd includes a video of a live performance of this track) The title track is a tale of a man who fights everyday, "Knuckles Up," but Tobin lays out the thought that an eye for an eye means we all end up blind.

Justin Bawinkel drives the band with a pounding drum style that lays out a constant stream of big beats that make it impossible for the band to coast. He also handles the lead vocals on two tracks, "Chi-Town Beatdown" and "Breakin' the Law." Brother Kyle completes the rhythm section with his booming bass lines. 

The editors of the Phantom Tollbooth are always pushing the reviewers to step outside our comfort zone and try some music we would normally overlook. I can guarantee you that I got my fill of punk back in it's heyday of the late '70's. Flatfoot 56 is way outside my normal musical boundaries. Still, I found plenty to enjoy on this recording. Their Celtic punk approach can bring their message of faith and hope to a new audience. And they can win you over with their earnest approach, driving beats and whipsaw guitars. Give them a listen !!!

Mark Thompson


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