Thursday, June 9, 2011

40 Songs, 40 Days (2011 Edition), Day Nine: Devil's Brigade by The Dropkick Murphys of my favorite bands, and definitely my favorite Celtic band--and I owe my discovery of them to The Boston Red Sox.

Here's the deal--as I may have mentioned elsewhere, I am a native New Yorker who was driven a long time ago (thanks to a combination of things, most importantly my repulsion at the sense of entitlement the bulk of New York Yankee fans have, the way the Wilpons just will not run the Mets with any sense of coherence and my need to follow a sports team with an actual legacy, as opposed to stealing a legacy from the Los Angeles Dodgers) to become a Boston Red Sox fan...which did mean a lot of suffering as the Yankees beat our asses time and time again. All the pain fetish objects were in place--Buckner, Dent, etc.

And then in 2004, when I was watching the abberation that was ESPN's Cold Pizza in the mornings before going to work, I learned about this band called The Dropkick Murphys, who had been contracted by the Sox organization to rework the team's old rally song, 'Tessie' for play at the games.

I trust we all know what happened in 2004, right?

I really liked what I heard. I may only be one seventh Irish (don't ask), but I've always had an affinity for Celtic Rock--Hell, there was a period in my younger days, when I was running around with a crazy Turkish girl who would tease my co-workers with stories of being a virgin before going home with me, stripping naked and letting me do whatever evil thing I wanted to her perfect body, where I followed the New York based Celt-Rock combo Black 47. I don't know if it's because of my partial heritage, or because I respond to the unique sounds of the instrumentation, but it's one of my favorite musical genres. And in the Dropkicks, I found a band that combined my love of that genre, my Boston-filic tendencies, and a general attitude I dug.

This song is from The Gang's All Here, the band's second album, and the first to feature Al Barr on vocals. Barr's voice is rougher than original vocalist Mike McColgan (who left the band to become a firefighter--how much more Boston can you get?), but he's also got that raw emotionalism that I respond to in other vocalists I've discussed in this series in the past, like Dickie Betts and Joe Jackson. It makes a lot of their songs--which at turns paints pictures of living poor, political activism and strange, electrified recreations of classic Irish standards--more vital, breathing a battered life into them that many other Celt-Rock bands just can't get right.

The song itself is both a morality play and a tragedy--it addresses a young man who has allowed the easy avenues of crime to dictate his path...but because he refused to dig in and find 'the strength within,' he's now become part of 'The Devil's Brigade,' which are marching him toward a fate that will lead him lying in the gutter, shot or insensate. It's an unvarnished, loud, confrontational song that hides the poetry in its heart with an unsentimental sense of reality. Nowhere does the singer blame other ills--yes, he says, this world you're living in is pretty nasty, but you chose not to rely on yourself and rise above...and now whatever promise you had has been torn apart.

The band didn't make a video for this's a performance from Al's first gig with the band....

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