Street Dogs

State Of Grace

[4/5]

On Street Dogs’ fourth album in five years, former Dropkick Murphys frontman Mike McColgan is still singing about bloody idealists and fallen heroes with calloused hands-and few do it better. “Kevin J. O’Toole” eulogizes McColgan’s late uncle, a retired fireman. The anthemic “A State Of Grace” finds soul-crushing struggles raging in determined drinkers biding their time in barrooms. Will Hunting’s not the only guy in South Boston who’s read Howard Zinn’s People’s History Of The United States: McColgan tapped the iconoclastic book for the roughshod “San Patricios.” Dark but inspirational, the flamenco-kissed pogo-pit workout recounts the dilemma of 19th-century Irish immigrants recruited to fight against fellow Catholics in the Mexican-American War.

As with the Dogs’ previous records, even with McColgan’s deep Boston brogue, overtly Murphys moments are few. “Rebel Song” tips a tweed cap to Thin Lizzy’s guitar harmonies, splitting the difference between classic rock and classic-model punk. The band catch their collective breath on “Elizabeth,” a wicked-traditional tune with some “whoa-ohs” buried in the back of its chorus. All acoustic guitar and wailing harmonica, “Free” closes the album with a shot of folk. Mostly, though, the band’s Hellcat debut is a step faster, tighter and harder, thanks to the addition of drummer Paul Rucker. (HELLCAT) D.X. Ferris

ROCKS LIKE:

The Clash’s The Clash

Dropkick Murphys’ Do Or Die

Flogging Molly’s Float

IN-STORE SESSION WITH FRONTMAN MIKE McCOLGAN

You left the Dropkick Murphys after one album to pursue a career with the Boston Fire Department. Now you’ve left fire fighting to pursue Street Dogs. Do you ever kick yourself for leaving the Murphys?

No-and it’s really surprising. But there was never a moment where I second-guessed my decision to leave the group because mentally, physically and spiritually, I wanted to pursue the fire department opportunity.

Do you still talk to those guys?

I talk with Ken [Casey, Dropkick Murphys bassist/vocalist] every now and then. We’re on good terms, and the bands are on good terms.

Indie artists always say there’s no money in making records. You’ve released four albums in five years. Why record so much?

It’s the love of it. We’re always writing. If I wanted to make a lot of money, I think I could try to study to be a doctor or a lawyer or whatever.

I thought State Of Grace might be a reference to the Irish mob movie; obviously, it’s not.

State of grace [the idea] is about that interior personal struggle. You’re just looking for a reprieve, a second chance, a break in the storm, some immunity from the hell you might be caught up in. I felt like that applied to every song on the record.

In “Rebel Song,” you talk about the working poor, people with jobs who still can’t pay their bills.

Over the last seven or eight years, there’s almost been a collective resignation that things suck, that things have never been worse and that our leadership is absolutely inept or corrupt-probably the worst in the nation’s history. But everybody signed out because you have to turn around and work three or four jobs if you have kids or if you’re a student. [But] at some level, you can stand up and just say no and vote for a more progressive person. Who you pick in the next election does matter. Between John McCain and Barack Obama, it means a lot. If you pick Obama, clearly things are going to be more progressive. If you pick McCain, it’s going to be an extension of the Bush years.

You’ve always sung about labor unions. Do you see them as a solution?

People in the GOP, dating back to [President] Ronald Reagan, have successfully demonized organized labor or labor unions. If it wasn’t for labor unions, there’d be no such thing as retirement funds, minimum wage or the concept of days off. A lot of people don’t get that. In this political climate, it’s almost impossible to organize. I feel if you return to a more progressive president, a guy like Barack Obama is more sympathetic to organized labor. I’m not saying there are any quick fixes, but with a guy like that, things would get definitely better. [DXF]