Kaos200 Magazine: What does 'Oi!' mean to you"
Al Barr: 'Oi!' to me means unity. It's a call to unity. People who say it, from a standpoint, it's basically "where we're from", like sticking together or sticking up for yourself. There are a lot of f**ked up people out there that think it means “white power”. People are really confused.
Like the punk phrase “Oi!”, the Dropkick Murphys have been around for a while now, 10 years to be exact. The phrase is British and has been traditionally used as a chant for punks all around the world. You’ll hear it in almost every street punk band’s songs. This term is also valid for Irish punk, like Dropkick Murphys. I had just recently gotten into the band and I’m glad I did. They sound like a fusion of The Clash, The Pogues, and Stiff Little Fingers, in my opinion. The music can be chaotic at times, but usually takes the road of the catchy melody that plants a smile on your face. But the best part for me it seems, is when the entire band joins in for one song. It gives it this beautiful anthem effect. They also have some pretty nice bagpipes. What else could you expect from a band whose first two albums were produced by none other than Lars Frederiksen.
Let me begin by saying that Al Barr is a great vocalist, but the original vocalist was under the name Mike McColgan. It can only get better when the person carrying the songs is Rick Barton. Then in comes the bassist Ken Casey who can certainly deliver. These were the original three guys who composed the band. But the groups still needed a drummer. We all know when trying to make a band, there’s always that one instrument you cannot find a stable person to play. After a series of drummers the band chewed up and spit out, Matt Kelly landed the permanent job in 1997. After the band got acquainted with their final drummer, the Dropkick Murphys released a series of EPs. These EPs are all very good sounding, but it wasn’t what the band was looking for. Rick Barton left the band to get married, so James Lynch joined, who is better anyway. Not to mention that bagpipes were added to the line-up, some fellow aptly named “Spicy”. Marc Orrel came in as clutch. He could play accordion and piano very, very well. A mandolin was also thrown in the bunch to make the band a septet. It only added to the greatness of the sound they already had. The band finally released “Sing Loud, Song Proud”, their finest achievement to date. They were certainly going places. The band recorded a live album on St. Patrick’s Day to show their Irish pride, it was the biggest Irish event of the year and it only showed how far the band would go to put on a great show. If you ask them “Our stage is your stage”.
2003 rolled along and the highly anticipated “Blackout” from the Dropkick Murphys is due for release in June. Some pretty harsh boundaries were put in the way for the band, due to the departure of “Spicy”, the bagpipes. Also, Foltz left for undisclosed reasons. It was awfully harsh after the band had gotten so far. Luckly, someone named “Scruffy” came in as the new bagpiper, and Tim Brennan came in as the mandolin, tin whistle, and the acoustic guitarist. It was released on Hellcat Records, once again, and had just finished before the due date. Even through all of the hardships, the album was a high success for the group.
The tracks on Blackout are all extremely well written. My favorite of these would probably be the first track “Walk Away”. That would be one of the more serious and meaningful tracks on the album. The vocals are catchy, and the guitars are just perfectly distorted. The track is also played with heavy emotion, so heavy that you wouldn’t expect it from an “Oi” band. To be honest, this as the first track on the album is pretty weak. When you pop in a cd for the first time, you expect the first track to showcase the band’s sound. That is not the case here, but it is still a very good track. Below is the first verse, as you can see it’s much different from what you’d expect.
So you say you fell in love
And you're gonna get married
Raise yourself a family
How simple life can be
Somewhere it all went wrong
And your plan just fell apart
And you aint got the heart
to finish what you started.
I have never been a big fan of bagpipes either. Now before you whip out your hunting equipment, let me tell you that it makes this album great. James “Scruffy” Wallace certainly rips on his plaid sacks of air, he carries most of the songs with a simple melody. It’s all the difference, the beautiful screech of the pipes can lull you into the happiest of people. It’s true, and if you don’t agree then you have no soul. This is most apparent on “Workers Song”. The song is an anthem to all those hard workers out there that win the bread for their families. I just noticed that this is two songs in a row about family, hmm. Well anyway, the bagpipes play throughout the chorus, and they carry the anthem-like group vocals farther than any other instrument could. I’m glad that Dropkick Murphys finally use this instrument as much as they should. It was a rare sound on “Do or Die”, but on “Blackout”, you hear them much more often.
Yeh, this one's for the workers who toil night and day
By hand and by brain to earn your pay
Who for centuries long past for no more than your bread
Have bled for your countries and counted your dead
There are too many standout tracks on this album to count. “The Outcast” has an orgasmic intro, and leads into the sexiest verse possible. Songs like “Black Velvet Band”, “This Is Your Life”, and “Buried Alive” are just too generic for me. They are still listenable, but are all practically the same. They all have the classic verse, slow pre-chorus, then back for the heavy actual chorus. It is too much of the same for me to recommend these songs to you over the other ones. I guess you could call this “filler” but they are still good songs, just no match for the others. Another really good hockey anthem would be “Time To Go”. You can always find a few of the members at Bruins games, and this is the song they made for the game of hockey. Not only is it a great track, but it is one of the best on the track. It has a great tempo and chorus, with the lyric “Go! Go! Black and gold! Old-time hockey, bar the door, clear the track it's all-out war!” They members are all hardcore sports fans, which is cool because they include the love for their teams in their songs.
“The Dirty Glass” is one of those songs that can never be matched in punk, as one of the most original songs by any punk band today. It is a story/conversation track, where someone under the character name Dessie is upset with someone named Murphy. Dessie is rumored to be played by the band’s equipment manager, and let me tell you, she can sure sing. She starts off the track slowly, with the lyrics, “Murphy, Murphy, darling dear, I long for you now night and day. Your pain was my pleasure, your sorrow my joy, I feel now I've lost you to health and good cheer”. Then the song basically turns into a punk opera. The chorus equals amazing. The intensity increases 200 percent, and the lyrics would be, “Darcy, Darcy darling dear, you left me dying, crying there, in whiskey, gin, and pints of beer, I fell for you my darling dear”. Every instrument is at it’s loudest at this point. It just makes you smile. It is one of the best things I have heard coming from a punk band and I mean it. This is class work from the Murphys.
I guess if you wanted to call “Gonna Be A Blackout Tonight” the title track, then go for it. It is the title track and also shies slightly from the band’s usual sound. It seems that this track is much more street oriented then the other songs on this album. The entire song is screaming about how Al Barr’s town owns. I bet it does indeed own. The chorus is the best part of the song in my opinion because of the sweet drum fill that leads into it. Another sweet effect is the alarms in the bridge. It makes the song sound like a huge riot, which just feels great if you are a fan of riots.(") It is not my favorite track, nor is it hated in my eyes. I just feel that it deserves to be mentioned.
Whoever is reading this may already be a Dropkick Murphys fan, and may have never heard this album. They may be wondering, “well, this sucks because of the lack of alcoholic anthems that the band is known for”. Well I’m going to have to prove you wrong. The last song on the album is probably the Dropkick Murphys’ biggest drunk song, if not for “Bar Room Hero”. “Kiss Me, I’m Shit
faced” is the album’s closing track. It’s basically a sales pitch for a girl in a pub. The lyrics are actually somewhat comedic, I found them pretty funny. Below is the second verse. After the song has it’s slow period of whininess, the song speeds up almost instantly. Soon into this five minute classic, you’ll find yourself singing along to it as if it’s second nature. What a great way to close this beast of an album.
Kiss Me, I’m Shitfaced
I can bench press a car
I'm an ex football star
with degrees from both Harvard and Yale
Girls just can't keep up
I'm a real love machine
I've had far better sex while in jail
I designed the Sears tower
I make two grand an hour
I cook the world's best duck flambe
I'll take the pick of the litter
And girls jockey for me
I don't need these lines to get laid
“Blackout” is a fantastic punk album. I would recommend it to anyone that is tired of pop/punk (raises hand). Seriously guys, grow up. Listen to the roots of all the music on MTV nowadays. “Blackout” is certainly different from the past Dropkick albums, and that is for the better. Including the bagpipes more often definitely makes the overall sound more accessible and diverse, and just a lot more fun to listen to. There were very few tracks to avoid here, the good song, bad song ratio is non-existent here. I can’t think of one song to absolutely avoid at all costs or anything. All the songs are all listenable here. If you are just getting into the band, this is the album to get. It shows all the diversity of the band in one complete album. Though there were too many “filler” tracks on here, it kind of brings down my overall rating on the album. It was just too much of the same on four or five of the tracks. But all in all, it’s a great punk album that deserves a listen.
The Fantastic Four
The Dirty Glass
Time To Go
K2K: Any last words"
Al Barr: Yeah, stick to your guns.