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CD REVIEW

Dropkick Murphys

Unmistakably a Boston band

By Rebecca Loh
PHOTOGRAPHY EDITOR

The Gang’s All Here

Hellcat Records

Release Date: March 17, 1999

From the streets of Boston come The Dropkick Murphys, whose rowdy tunes with an Irish feel have brought them widespread popularity in punk circles. Their upcoming release, The Gang’s All Here, is their second full-length album, a follow up to 1997’s Do or Die. Featuring a new singer (Al Barr, formerly of The Bruisers), The Dropkick Murphys’ latest proves they’ve still got what it takes.

There are some features of DKM tunes that make the band one of my favorites. First, they’re unmistakably a Boston band. Some lyrics make references to local areas, like when “Skinhead on the M.B.T.A. mentions the Kendall Square station, Roxbury, and Jamaica Plain. I can’t help but get a certain thrill of recognition. DKM might be getting big, but they don't forget where they came from.

Dropkick Murphys songs are also very rowdy, with rousing choruses that feel like they’d be best enjoyed at a local pub with your twenty closest friends. Many of the band’s tunes have an Irish feel to them, sometimes featuring a bagpipe, fiddle or tin whistle in addition to guitar and drums, and the combination works out surprisingly well.

From their music, one gets a sense of where the members of The Dropkick Murphys came from. Their lyrics speak of a long line of Boston locals with Irish roots. They speak of men who spend their days laboring for pitiable wages, frequent local pubs at night, and who fight and die for the country during times of war. They speak of friendships that start in playgrounds and that are strengthened in a dozen barroom brawls. These lyrics convey a tradition of honest labor and friendship that you can’t help but respect.

DKM’s latest release, The Gang’s All Here, offers sixteen tracks of fun, moving Irish tunes that are typical of the Murphys. I miss Mike McColgan’s authoritative voice, but Al Barr makes a good replacement. The first track is a fade-in of a drum cadence, with a large chorus announcing, “The gang’s all here,” an appropriate opening to the album. This immediately jumps into the first song, “Blood and Whiskey,” which is fast, moving, and typical DKM. Next is “Pipe Bomb on Lansdowne,” a fast and furious song with lyrics (“You say that our shows are for violent thugs,/ but we’re not the ones on designer drugs.”)

The next few songs are a touch slower and more melodic. “Perfect Stranger,” “Ten Years of Service,” and “Upstarts and Broken Hearts” have a nice, toe-tapping, head-bobbing, sing-along feel to them. You can’t help but be moved by the tunes.

The album picks up the pace with “Devil’s Brigade,” a driving tune that speaks against getting into crime. The song never gets preachy, instead focusing on how rough the path of crime is with lyrics like “You’ve got no one to defend you; you’re out on your own. / Still fighting on the corner, you can never go home.” Fast and moving, it makes you want to get up and dance.

Curse of a Fallen Soul,” previously released on vinyl, starts out slow, but speeds up whiplash-quick. The song is catchy, with a fun sing-along tune. The following songs, “Homeward Bound” and “Going Strong,” have a large group of background vocalists to give them that Dropkick Murphys punch.

“Boston Asphalt” has a quick drum beat and lyrics that are punctuated by the guitar. The song speaks of the struggles of the men who came to this country looking for a better life: “Intelligent, respectable, but made of modest means, with an independent spirit, so full of hopes and dreams, opportunity denied them in a doomed and starving land, came these openhearted kindly spirits of a truly threatened man.” “The Only Road” is a fast-paced tune, with guitars being driven by a relentless drum beat.

Several songs have that Irish flavor that is part of DKM’s distinctive style. The “Fighting 69th” is a traditional song with a subtle Irish feel. Of course, it’s been sped up, with a driving drum beat, solid bass tune, and guitar accompaniment. I couldn’t stop bobbing my head and tapping my feet when I was listening to it. “Wheel of Misfortune” is a slow, melancholy song featuring Johnny Cunningham on the fiddle. “Amazing Grace,” much like Do or Die’s “Cadence to Arms,” is a traditional song arranged by the Murphys and played on the bagpipes with a tempo driven by the drums. Listen closely and you’ll hear people in the background softly singing the chorus. The closing song, “The Gang’s All Here” also has a fiddle accompaniment, whose melody dances around the solid chorus. The song builds to a furious pace, with the fiddler fiddling like a madman, and the chorus hollering, “Hail, hail, the gang’s all here,” until the song -- and the album--finish with a flourish.

Fittingly, The Gang’s All Here is set to release on March 17, St. Patrick’s Day. If you can’t wait two weeks to hear them, check out their show on March 14th in Duxberry. They’ll be playing with The Pressure Cookers and The Trouble, and the show should be a lot of fun. This will be the last show before The Dropkick Murphys go on their nation-wide The Gang’s All Here CD tour with Oxymoron and The Ducky Boys.