Being attributed as a Celtic Punk band is somewhat a stereotypical assumption. Yes, the music puts Irish folk and rebellious punk rock adjacent to one another, but the label can be somewhat misleading. The Dropkick Murphys are a testament to that. The band derives a sound from Celtic traditionalism, yet maintains the loud viciousness of American punk rock. The Dropkick Murphys, a Bostonian punk band, seem to be the forerunners of modern punk that fuses foreign elements into its repertoire. Formed in 1995, with bassist/ songwriter Ken Casey, drummer Matt Kelly, guitarist Rick Barton and vocalist Mike McColgan, the Dropkicks got off to a rather quick start, releasing the Boys on the Docks EP and their debut full length album, Do Or Die by early 1996. However, McColgan and Barton left the band before they began their next recording sessions. Al Barr, James Lynch, and Marc Orrell replaced them. Barr, whose growling snarl sat in for McColgan’s snotty warble, brought a new energy to the band’s sound, a much heavier tone, especially with two guitarists behind him. With this new lineup, the band ventured into Boston’s recording studios once more, writing new material that differed immensely from the prior tonality. Thus, The Gang’s All Here, was birthed, due to a temporary debacle.
The Gang’s All Here maintains a hypnotic, militant premise that is very unique when compared to the band’s other, more fictional barroom tales. A “Roll Call” is instated to further this thesis, with a drum cadence evocative of the Royal Army in the American Revolution. Lyrical subject matters do not fray far from the all around ambiance of militarism and struggle. Vocally rough and untidy, Al Barr’s satanic growl, and Ken Casey’s scrappy croon provide about enough vocal harshness that would make any Social Distortion fan happily content. The oral performance alone, and it’s tender grittiness is enough to make this record above average. Musically, Dropkick Murphys provide an adequate hook to suit the likes of their catchiness, which remains to lie solely in the hands of vocal melody. Though Marc Orrell and James Lynch are both good punk guitarists, neither of them really wander out of the orthodox standards of power chord romps and quick leads. However, the heaviness of their similar tones and thick distortion pile up the solidity of what the band base their punk sound on. Ken Casey is an above average bass player, especially doubling as a vocalist and songwriter, and can be frequently heard on most of the songs. Though his lines are not fit enough to be comparable to Rancid’s Matt Freeman, Casey is ample enough as a musician to carry the songs that adorn this album. Matt Kelly, the band’s drummer since day one, has a presence in the band that lets you know how goddamn fast he is. Although he may be hard to hear-with the walls of distorted guitar and snarled vocals being heard above anything else- his bombastic, breakneck speed drumming is enough to make him likeable immediately. The Gang’s All Here seems to be the band’s most punk-rock effort to date, yet is instantly likeable, with a certain boisterous energy that many other bands lack.
Yet, no matter the amount of torrential punk rock that exists on The Gang’s All Here, an uncanny amount of melodic, humble effort went into the production of this album. Some selections reflect much maturity in more volatile ways than one would expect. “Upstarts and Broken Hearts” for instance, is Ken Casey’s ode to love, and the agony it brings to those who fall out of it. Curse of a Fallen Soul concisely contradicts its equal opposite. While seemingly sounding much more mature and mellow (assuming that it is in fact about the afterlife), the explosive verse changes alters its course to a much rockier road. The rest possesses an anthemic caliber, via the catchy-as-hell sing-along choruses and backing vocals from the entire band.
As awkward as my reviews are written (as well as strange to read) on a more typical basis where I am [somewhat] knowledgeable on what I write, I would like to congratulate and condone you, simultaneously, for reading this review. My previous familiarity with this genre itself is lacking enough to insult anyone, but somehow, I like it anyways. Now, to stray from my personal doubt and reflection, I would like to praise this album as one of the better that I have heard to emerge from today’s punk rock. With much ado, I end this review by saying that expanding musical taste is never a negative situation, no matter how much you may, or may not know about it.