Face down in the gutter won't admit defeat though his clothes are soiled and black; He's a big, strong man with a child’s mind, don't you take his booze away!
He's been at it for years drinking balls and beer he's a hero to most he meets.
But inside he cries black swollen eyes, this man he sheds no tears!
Now his wife and kids sing a different tune as they worry about their daddy dying,
But this arrogant fool breaks every rule it'll be nothing but pride that kills him.
Could he listen" No he won't!
That's all she wrote, he'll be dead before the daylight shines,
But the thoughts and prayers of a million strong might keep this fool from dying.
- Barroom Hero
Can you hear that" Why, it’s the sound of sweet progress.
It’s the mid 90’s, and Hellcat records is just getting underway, and Epitaph hasn’t seen any hot Oi action for long months. Somewhere in Boston, Massachusetts, among everyday civilians, laid the answer to a label’s problems. Friends Mike McColgan and Ken Casey loved playing music down in a friends basement, until they decided to give it an extra effort. They picked up guitarist Rick Barton, and “pick of the litter” Matt Kelly on drums. You’d guess by now, they picked up the local name of a bar, Dropkick Murphys
, and began playing with the passion they are widely known for in that basement until daylight came, and wouldn’t you know it, they got signed to Hellcat records. The Dropkicks mentioned back then that they liked to mix their own work with elements from classic punk, Oi, 80’s hardcore, and traditional Scottish folk music. Upon releasing their E.P, Boys On The Docks
, the band met up with Rancid co-star Lars Frederiksen to chat about a full-length. In summer of 98’, the Dropkicks released Do or Die
, the first album of it’s kind, and one of the biggest punk romps of the 90’s.
Now, I’m pretty sure McColgan said it best when describing his band. As much as I fully respect debut albums, Do or Die takes some time to conquer, and it becomes some of the most straightforward punk out there, as well as some of the more sloppy side that Hellcat has released so far. It may not be the production, but the entirety and structure of the music. It’s been placed like this because it was always meant to. The production on this album is excellent, but the structure of the songs lack further knowledge that could have easily made the music a lot easier to get used to. This goes to show that you can be sloppy and still put out a breakthrough record.
Cadence to Arms
echoes the trademarked Dropkick pipes, giving you a glimpse of what side the band can give an introductory track, before snatching it all away. The pipes are brought down by a heavy lick off Barton’s guitar, and while keeping the rhythm, the song progresses into the title track. I think this two-parter is genius, and is a must for anyone who has to start out. The player of the bagpipes, I could never figure out, and the instrument itself doesn’t show up many times after the title clash-mash. The band gives away some of their more crafty use, and how far the use can go.
McColgan had the right idea. Do or die is McColgan’s first and last album with the Dropkicks. Hell of a way to start off the band, I say. If you take liking to sir Biafra from the 80’s politically-enraged Dead Kennedys, chances are you’ll enjoy McColgan’s company on the album. Quite monotone, but very lively, crisp voice, and speaks of pretty much drinking, drinking, and then drinking in jail, among freedom, riots, and undying power. McColgan has managed to write two of the most easily acclaimed punk songs to date. Skinhead on the MBTA
is a noise hurricane centering around a story about a character who indulges in his own sort of activities on his way from town to town. Barroom Hero
is a chant-fest as McColgan preaches out the story of a drunk who has the biggest reputation in town. His medieval-lead on Far Away Coast
is a different taste for Mike, and his leads to handclaps on the infamous Boys On The Docks
shows that he can handle bigger tasks. McColgan is what started the band off for good, and in such a way, that his stuff is what all of the band’s later material may have rooted off of.
Now there comes a time
In every man's life,
Where decisions have to be made
Whether to toil, to labor,
Or just plain piss
Your days away, away, away!
- Caught in a Jar
Ken Casey is what did
keep the band on its feet since members have left in a jumble. Bassist and co-vocalist extrordinaire, and a damn fine cocker-spaniel look-alike. Casey’s vocals are a lot raspy, compared to McColgan’s on the album, and standout a lot if you hear him on the parts he’s assigned to. His bass-playing is well-heard when the music has a folk edge to it, and is at times drowned out completely on the cult tracks. Nothing is ever very complex, but keeps the bad tunes at bay. The rapid-fire Finnegan’s Wake
, and Noble
are highlights for his musicianship, but he’s mostly recognized in the band to this day for his written work. Casey writes most of the music on Dropkicks albums, and puts the rock tunes together, as well as mixes them.
Rick Barton’s lines make the album. As a musicianship, he fails to show that there’s something that’s that more valuable in his playing, as he doesn’t write his material. Get Up
, Memories Remain
, and the fabled, yet freakishly mystical Far Away Coast
show off some of his more attended playing, and as well as maintaining a mean lick for the other musicians, he keeps the fury that McColgan follows in his singing.
Matt Kelly, as I’ve said before, is simply an orgasmic fellow, and ranks in the same chapter as Headon from The Clash on my book. Kelly’s drumming on this album is a bit rushed, and takes the stage with the same fills at times, and signatures. Nothing excellent to start out with, but you can see progress.
Some heavy, some very laid-back, and some, sounding quite freakishly medieval. Do or die
has since been known, obviously as the starting line for one punk’s biggest acts, but also as an icon. The message of the album, is, I’d have to guess, drink ‘till you have to phone in for a new liver. Not a very good one, but you’d have to look up to someone of that caliber anyways. The album is quite the milestone for a starting punk band, and a forever undying cult objects for fans, and fans-soon-to-be everywhere. “Doctor, you’ve created a monster!”
As much as I’d love to keep my liver, I’ll drink to that.
Did he ever return,
No he never returned
And his fate is still unknown
He may ride forever
’Neath the Streets of Boston
He's a skinhead who never returned.
- Skinhead on the MBTA
Dropkick Murphys- Do or Die
Mike McColgan- Vocals
Ken Casey- Bass, Vocals
Rick Barton- Guitars, Background Vocals
Matt Kelly- Drums
Stand Out Tracks:
Cadence To Arms/Do or Die
Caught In a Jar
Skinhead on the MBTA
Lick Yer’ Fingers.