Dropkick Murphys’ 1998 debut, “Do or Die,” ranks as one of my favorite punk albums of the ’90s. Much of the album’s appeal was due to lead singer Mike McColgan, whose ramshackle growl brought to mind The Clash’s Joe Strummer and made the Murphys sound like Boston’s toughest group of barroom brawlers.
I was shocked when I picked up the Murphys’ follow-up, 1999′s “The Gang’s All Here,” and found out McColgan no longer was in the band. As I would later find out, McColgan, a Gulf War veteran, had left the group to become a Boston firefighter. He was replaced in the Murphys by Al Barr, whose voice was similarly rough and tough but not as charismatic as McColgan’s.
At that point, I thought I had heard the last of McColgan. But in 2006, I received my second McColgan-related shock. He had formed a new band, called Street Dogs, that had just released its THIRD album! I couldn’t believe I hadn’t heard about McColgan’s new band, but I chalked it up to the group’s relatively generic name. So I picked up “Fading American Dream,” and there was McColgan, sounding just as strong and urgent as ever.
Street Dogs just released their fourth album, “State of Grace,” this time on Hellcat Records, the former home of Dropkick Murphys. While the Murphys have kept their Irish influences front-and-center in their music, Street Dogs have abandoned most of that sound, instead focusing on more of a street-punk approach. The result is 11 songs of fast and furious punk rock, with McColgan singing about topics related to gritty city life.
I was a big fan of Dropkick Murphys’ latest album, last year’s “The Meanest of Times.” Barr has really found his niche as a vocalist, and fellow singer Ken Casey also never has sounded better. I’m not yet sure if Street Dogs’ “State of Grace” will have as big of an impact on me, but it’s off to a good start after a few listens.
Check out two of Street Dogs’ new songs, “Mean Fist” and “Two Angry Kids,” on the group’s MySpace page. What do you think?