2 of 3 thought this review was well written
Everyone has a dream; Mike McColgan’s was to one day become a fire-fighter. So in 1998 he left Boston’s Dropkick Murphy’s to follow his dream. He left the band after they had recorded the ‘Do or Die’ album – the album that is said by many to be the Murphy’s best to date. While many were sad to see him leave, they would have been excited when McColgan announced his return to music with his new band – The Street Dogs. Unable to stay away from music forever, McColgan formed the Street Dogs, and they released their debut album ‘Savin Hill’ in 2003, feeling more fulfilled after finally realising his lifelong ambition. McColgan’s fulfilment is displayed here, as the album is very upbeat and lively. Street Dogs are certainly not reinventing the wheel with their straight up Irish-Punk, similar to both Dropkick Murphys and Flogging Molly, but as these two bands have proved it is a tried and tested formula for good music; and why change if you know that it will work anyway?
The Street Dogs fit in with the Irish Punk genre, although their Irish roots maybe aren’t as proudly on their sleeves as bands like Flogging Molly and Dropkick Murphys. Instruments that are commonly used in Irish Folk are used very sparsely on ‘Fading American Dream’ but they still have that unifying sound - that sound that makes you want to be involved with the music. It maybe that Irish Punk sounds so unifying because it has roots from both sides of the Atlantic: ‘American’ Punk and ‘Irish’ Folk. As you would expect from an Irish Punk band, you get songs about drinking and when listening to them, you think of crowded bars full of happy people knocking back beers, and having a good time.
The song that people are most likely to have heard off of this album is ‘Tobe’s Got A Drinking Problem’
. Played frequently on Mike Davies’ Lock Up Radio Show (at 2am), it will have turned many Brits onto the band and this album. It is an excellent choice for a single, as it is by far the best song on the album. It starts out with a harmonica intro, and thin textured first verse before a rapid triplet fill brings in the rest of the instruments. It is very rousing and anthemic, which is what the band are aiming for on a lot of the songs here, and is one of the few cases where it is pulled off well. The merry punk sound gives way to a 6/8 section, that completes the song and makes it all the more anthemic. Although the song was an excellent choice for a single for the band, as it would have attracted plenty of fans; the song is a poor, and misleading single for the fans, as the standard that it sets for the rest of the album is never met, and never even comes close. Many songs here, while not being bad songs, leave little impression and are decidedly average. ‘Rights To Your Soul’
and album opener ‘Common People’
are both particularly average. Both have good parts, but as a whole they are unimpressive. ‘Common People’
has a good trade-off of chants between McColgan and the rest of the band, but on the whole it us a failed attempt at unifying battle cry.
Maybe having realised that although their own songs aren’t bad, but are nothing special, the band decided to do two covers on the album. Although it is more likely that they decided to do these covers because this type of music is for everyone, and there is a lot of pride in the music, and would be suitable to show that they are proud of their influences. Billy Bragg’s ‘There Is Power In The Union’
stands out from most of the album because it much slower, and is a welcome change of pace. It has an almost bluesy sound to it, especially in the guitar solo. All in all, it is a very well executed cover version. However, their cover of Paul Delano’s ‘Fatty’
is better. As the track’s title suggests, the song is about bullying and how the victim must have had suicidal thoughts and had bullying playing on his/her mind for the rest of their life. It is both morbid and uplifting at the same time: morbid because of the talk of death and suicide; and uplifting in that it has a very upbeat mood and focuses more on creating an enjoyable atmosphere than musicianship-which works very well indeed as it is one of the best on the album, and is generally a happy song despite it’s suicidal connotations. The Billy Bragg cover is not the only slow song on the album, as ‘Final Transmission’
is even slower and unlike‘There Is Power In The Union’
is a sad song. It is about a 19 year old kid going off to fight in war despite his parents’ wishes. While many bands write anti-war songs without having much knowledge of the subject, Mike McColgan served in the US army during the original Gulf War so makes the song even more appropriate and poignant. In ‘Tobe’s Got A Drinking Problem’
the texture of the song picks up and becomes more lively, but in this song it stays melancholy throughout (without getting boring) suggesting that in this situation there is no light at the end of the tunnel.
Throughout the album there is very little derivations from the standard (Irish) Punk sound, with ‘Sell Your Lies’
being the main exception. It is more hardcore punk than Irish punk, but you feel that they may have been best off sticking to what they know. That’s not to say the song is a failure on all counts, as it most certainly isn’t. The vocals are very strong throughout: McColgan’s lead vocals are very confident, and the gang vocals are very good here (as they are throughout the album). However, it is nothing special and feels out of place amongst the Irish Punk surrounding it. Only once on the album do Street Dogs really try to make really
Irish punk, and when they do the result is somewhat disappointing, but still OK. ‘Shards of Life’
embraces the band’s Irish roots from the start using traditional instruments such as accordions and tin whistles to create a happy atmosphere.
Overall, the album could easily have been brilliant, but as it is it feels empty, yet at the same time close to being great. There aren’t any bad songs on the album, which is always a good thing but songs that strike you as amazing songs are few and far between; most stand-out songs stand out because they vary slightly from the standard Irish Punk sound. The album may be turn out to be one that grows on you, but after the first few crucial listens it is nothing special but not bad by any means. Generally, ‘Fading American Dream’ isn’t as unifying as it ‘thinks’ it does – the passion is there but sadly isn’t contagious. What they are aiming for here is a “By the people – For the people” attitude, and while sometimes this is achieved, most of the times it is more like “By the people – For those that it may concern.”