Dorchester punk rockers are back from touring and have gigs in Cambridge, Allston and Norwood.
A veteran of the first Gulf War, Mike McColgan is still as politically charged as ever, but takes a more nuanced approach on the Street Dogs’ latest effort, “State of Grace.”
The fourth album – now on the national Hellcat Records label – has gained the Dorchester punk rockers mainstream attention as they’ve been touring, including a stint on the Warped Tour and promoting all summer.
This weekend, the band has three local gigs at the Middle East in Cambridge, Harpers Ferry in Allston and Newbury Comics in Norwood.
Often compared to bands like Green Day, the Street Dogs display a new level of musicianship and maturity on “State of Grace” without losing any punk-styled passion. The band’s political stances are subtle and some songs get personal, like “Kevin J. O’Toole,” which is dedicated to McColgan’s late uncle, whom he calls an inspiration.
“The surprising thing is that the song gets one of our biggest responses in concert, and it got immediate response as soon as we began playing it,” said McColgan, the former lead singer of The Dropkick Murphys.
He left that band to become a Boston firefighter, like his late uncle.
“I guess there’s a universal aspect to it that many people can relate to, and I’m happy we can remember him that way.”
The Street Dogs’ previous album, “Fading American Dream” was one of 2006’s best albums, and even if it sold a fraction of Green Day’s “American Idiot” it marked the Street Dogs as a band to watch for anyone seeking substantive content. This year’s CD continues that trend, but takes a wider view, less targeted on the current power brokers.
The only song about Iraq, for example, is “Into the Valley,” which describes the ordeal of being a soldier. Songs like “Rebel Song” and “Modern Day Labor Anthem,” (reworked from the version on “Savin Hill”) deal more with economic inequality.
One of the most arresting songs for Boston-area residents will be “Guns,” which decries the flood of firearms and gang violence and references an incident where stray shots struck a baby.
“That song tries to take you right into the ambulance with that girl, right into the frustration and insanity of that situation,” said McColgan, a former Boston firefighter. “I don’t have all the answers, but I do feel more in step using my music to sing about substantive issues instead of just recycling the usual overdone tripe we hear in most music today.”
“Two Angry Kids” is a nod to McColgan’s wild youth, where he and pals like Dropkick’s vocalist/bassist Ken Casey first jammed together.
“I feel this music definitely played a big part in my life when I needed it,” McColgan said. “I needed a way to focus all my energy and rebellion in a positive, productive way, and punk rock came along when I needed it most.”
Longtime Dropkick Murphys fans will especially dig the reference to the basement under the North Quincy barbershop, which was the Dropkicks’ first rehearsal space.
Part of the artist McColgan became, and helped steer the Street Dogs toward, is embodied in “Rebel Song,” and also the older “Modern Day Labor Anthem.” He has his political views, no doubt, but he also said he hopes they both serve to spur involvement by the younger generation.
“‘Rebel Song’s’ main idea is, ‘If you don’t like the way things are, get up and do something about it” McColgan explained. “... The main reason America is so great is because when something is wrong, people can go out on the streets and demonstrate or do something to change it. People need to realize that.”
Going from the general to the personal, the song “A State of Grace” portrays a workingman who deals with his frustrations by getting drunk, “wandering out of Foley’s,” and headed for trouble as alcohol provides no good solution. It’s a rare sentiment to find in a punk rock band.
“It’s all part of the difficult circumstances we find ourselves in, and that’s not the best outlet – getting loaded,” McClogan said. “But it’s all part of the sentiment of the record; people looking for a break, hoping for a second chance.”
Jay N. Miller covers popular music on the South Shore and in the Boston area. If you have information or ideas for Jay about the local music scene, bookings, recordings, artists etc., send it to him by e-mail to email@example.com. Attn: Music Scene in the subject line.