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Street Dogs - Back to the World
by Travis Becker

Five Star: A look at albums that are so good that they impress even the most cynical of critics. Very few albums are superior enough to obtain a five star rating but occasionally a band slips through the river of mediocrity that is the modern music industry and they produce an album that restores our faith in the future of rock! This series is a look at such albums. 

When Mike McColgan left the Dropkick Murphy’s in 1999 to pursue a career as a firefighter, the band lost what may have been its most distinctive element.  McColgan lent a very unique prescience to the vocal duties of the Murphy’s with his huge delivery and bombastic sound.  He truly sounded like he was singing without a microphone at times, like he was just belting out those Irish pub-ballads over the din of a crowded watering hole.  To say the least he left a void when he departed not only in the band but also in all of punk music, which is wanting for decent vocalists in a serious way.  The release of the new CD by the Boston-based Street Dogs is reason to celebrate for all fans of serious punk music.  McColgan has returned with this new band, joined by the former drummer from the Mighty Mighty Bosstones, Joe Sirois, veteran bassist, Johnny Rioux (the Bruisers, the Disasters) and an unknown young guitarist to reclaim the heavyweight title of bloody knuckles, conscious punk rock.  With “Back to the World”, Mike McColgan has returned to the world of punk rock with an authoritative statement.
The overall sound of the disc grabs the listener immediately, hearkening back to big sound of early Clash and Stiff Little Fingers records.  There is an urgency to the sounds coming from the speakers that rarely finds its way out of a punk record anymore.  The hooks are huge and the disc never loses its sense of melody.  Even when razor sharp guitars cut straight through the song, the bass and drums keep everything tight and the whole record keeps your feet tapping and your fist pumping.  If this record were to play in your local pub, the Guinness would taste that much better as you raised your pint skyward.  There is a spirit of camaraderie that spreads throughout all of “Back to the World”.  That spirit flows directly from the disc and into the consciousness of the listener.  The songs all feel as if they are filled with meaning, and a closer listen to the lyrics proves this out.  Whether it’s the political fire of “White Collar Fraud” or “Tale of Mass Deception” or the personal sentiment of “Patrick” the music goes deeper than the typical whining fans are stuck with in most punk today.

The vocals may have been the most anticipated aspect of this release for a lot of fans that missed McColgan’s distinctive stylings.  They end up being a little bit of a mixed bag.  On the plus side, McColgan has become and exceptional singer as opposed to the shouter he used to be.  On the flipside of that, however, he hardly sounds like he did on “Do or Die” and the vocals at times sound a little bit low in the mix.  It’s probably not fair to expect him to sound the same, though, since certainly he’s grown leaps and bounds as a person and a singer in those nearly six years since he quit the Murphy’s.  Still, a song or two of the Mike McColgan of yore would have been a nice touch, but who knows what all that smoke inhalation from being a fireman does to a singing voice.  The sing-a-long quality of the lyrics is still there, which is a huge plus.  The feeling that the audience is one voice and one mindset is tough to achieve, especially on a studio record, but Street Dogs have captured it perfectly on “Back to the World”.  So much so, that it may be tough for them to pull it off live without it being a little bit of a letdown.

It’s hard to say enough good things about this release.  Based on this outing, there probably is not a better punk band out there right now in this more traditional punk style.  Everything in the music and the words comes together perfectly on this debut record and it never lets up from the first urgent guitar notes reminiscent of “White Riot” by the Clash until the final diatribe on “Unions and the Law”.  Street Dogs have stepped into the ring and landed a straight right, knocking out the front teeth of any other current punk band trying to be real.  This is the kind of band that music needs more of to finally put Emo and Pop-Punk down for the count.  Absolutely exceptional. 

More Info 

Street Dogs - Back to the World
Release Date:  January 25, 2005
Track Listing:
Strike A Blow
You Alone
In Defense Of Dorchester
Back To The World
Tale Of Mass Deception
Drink Tonight
White Collar Fraud
Pull The Pin
Hands Down
Unions And The Law

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