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Street Dogs - State of Grace (Cover Artwork)

Street Dogs

Street Dogs: State of GraceState of Grace (2008)
Hellcat Records

Reviewer Rating: 3.5
User Rating:


Contributed by: GlassPipeMurderGlassPipeMurder
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To say the expectations surrounding the Street Dogs' fourth full-length and first on Tim Armstrong's seminal Hellcat Records label were enormous would be a colossal understatement. With each new release and each trek across the map, their popularity has swelled, from the humble beginnings of a name-.
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To say the expectations surrounding the Street Dogs' fourth full-length and first on Tim Armstrong's seminal Hellcat Records label were enormous would be a colossal understatement. With each new release and each trek across the map, their popularity has swelled, from the humble beginnings of a name-recognition Boston band with Savin Hill to capturing devoted fans across the world with the 2006 release of the virtually infallible Fading American Dream. And with each record far better than the last, the task of continuing this trend was pushed to the forefront in the anticipation leading up to the release of State of Grace.

Even before the process of recording had begun, the Street Dogs were not discreet about the more varied host of sounds that came into play during the album's writing, as frontman Mike McColgan testified: "I feel like this new release will sound like a battle royal wrestling match, with bands like U2, AC/DC, Thin Lizzy, the Ramones, TV on the Radio, Stiff Little Fingers, Bloc Party, Michael Franti and the Clancy Brothers being the contestants/influences... We have always said that we work for the freedom to say and play whatever we want, and on this upcoming release that ethos has never been or sounded stronger." This conscious stylistic expansion certainly seems logical given how the band had already pushed their brand of melodic street punk to perfection come Fading American Dream, and following a probable desire to avoid rehashing success to the point of predictability and stagnation (as some may charge of McColgan's former band, the Dropkick Murphys, among other acts, committed to one particular direction).

Even while exploring new territory, there are still tracks that are classic Street Dogs through and through. Though McColgan's wailing melodies take on a bit more of a slurred-shout snarl, the album's opener "Mean Fist" wastes no time establishing the Street Dogs' presence. Like their covers of Sham 69 on Savin Hill and Billy Bragg on Fading American Dream, the Street Dogs hit another home run with their State of Grace cover installment in the form of the Skids' "Into the Valley," with a booming chorus and infectious guitar playing, neither of which ever return with such conviction on the remainder of the album.

"Rebel Song" is where things begin to get a little interesting. Though the lyrics of both inspiration and dissent are expected and welcome, the revving guitar arrangements (also heard in "Two Angry Kids") resemble something more akin to Black Label Society than anything from the Street Dogs thus far. "The General's Boombox" -- a tribute to the life and immortal legacy of the late Clash frontman Joe Strummer -- is the album's strongest track, and coincidentally the most reminiscent of what was heard on Fading American Dream, likely because it was actually written in that album's sessions, but somehow didn't originally make the cut. A song that almost didn't make the cut for State of Grace is the Celtic-leaning "Elizabeth," which prominently features the vocals of Heather Waters, though it's McColgan that really carries the song with the emotion and passion that he puts forth.

Studies and surveys in the last seven years have consistently placed both firefighters and military service members in the list of top ten professions most respected by the public. Likewise, it's probably fair to say that punk enthusiasts tend to look up to their favorite musicians when assembling a list of those they admire. So in Mike McColgan, you have a rare combination of all the above: a Gulf War veteran and former Boston firefighter dedicated to the principles of tolerance, equality and community, with a rebellious punk rock spirit using music as a vehicle to fight injustice, futile war and corporate tyranny. With the album's final track, the harmonica-led acoustic of "Free," McColgan gives the first introspective account of the struggle for identity attached with his experiences: "All of my life I've searched for clarity / I have wrestled with the demons inside me / […] / We're looking for the chance…to be free."

While few of the tracks reach out and grab you with such hooks and aggression in the way songs like "Not Without a Purpose," "Back to the World," "Pull the Pin" or "Rights to Your Soul" do, there aren't any throwaway tracks on State of Grace. In fact, consider it a success that the Street Dogs' first major effort toward expanding their sound has yielded such pleasing results. State of Grace is both the band's most diverse offering yet and is also among McColgan's best lyrical outings. If not following Back to the World and Fading American Dream, State of Grace might be heralded. Even in its present context, though, the Street Dogs have affixed another solid album to their name, and have opened up new channels that make the band's future all the more alluring.

 

 
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Fine Print: The following comments are owned by whoever posted them. We are not respon sible for them in any way. Seriously.
BarleyPat (October 7, 2008)

This album is fucking terrible. I love these guys and won't give up on them based on this outing, but damn is it BORING. Maybe 3 good songs, and that's a big maybe. If I hadn't gotten a burned copy from a friend, I would have bought it and felt extremely ripped off.

MN_punkmaster-skaman (September 9, 2008)

Way better than what the review says.

jumptheshark (August 29, 2008)

This is the first album I've listened to by them, but damn it's good. At first listen I wasn't that impressed. But it has grown on me so much since then. Tracks 4-7 are an absolutely killer sequence and "Free" is awesome too. Killer album.

baseball (July 22, 2008)

So I got a copy and have listened several times. This has really grown on me. It doesn't hit as quickly as their other albums but there's so many good songs on here.

I actually think this album finishes stronger than it starts, which doesn't seem to occur too often.

oldpunkerforever (July 21, 2008)

Fucking brilliant, just as good if not better than fading, hook after hook and you can just hear the crowds singing along at the shows with this ( btw, baltimore on the 23rd of sept). Generals boombox is my fav, but dam if im not signing "ahoy,ahoy" on my way into work everyday from into the valley. Love it love it. See ya at the ottobar!-oldpunker-

damo (July 20, 2008)

really disappointed with this. the best thing about their songs has always been the choruses but only the general's boombox has one that is half decent. lack of faster songs too

i think on this album they've stopped doing what they do well. maybe they'll sound better live

trevor905 (July 20, 2008)

randomly saw them at warped yesterday they were great

misterspike (July 20, 2008)

Wasn't a fan of the cover when I first saw it a few months ago, but it has really grown on me and given the record a certain feeling of unity.

Redscare (July 19, 2008)

Yeah, that's a sweet cover. Funny how something so understated can be so appealing. Man, am I tired of seeing all that art from T&N and Fearless releases.

essenceoftong (July 19, 2008)

i was a bit underwhelmed when i first heard it but as others have said it's definately a grower. great cover of into the valley, possibly betters the original

candypatrol (July 19, 2008)

One of the consistantly great live bands out there right now. My favorite DKM stuff was with Mike McColgan anyway, so it made perfect sense that the Street Dogs would be just as good, if not better and to me, I'm right. I see them whenever I can, can't wait for the new album.

Sorry, had to do it.

jacknife737 (July 18, 2008)

This album is definitely a grower; but i probably hit repeat about 5 times for the first track the first time i heard it, sooo catchy. Not sure how'd I'd rank it with the others however.

red_eye_inc (July 18, 2008)

"Posted by Medley on 2008-07-18 16:01:55

That's a really great album cover. Looks like it belongs to an old vinyl album from the 70s, but not in a inauthentic retro sort of way."

Yeah, I thought the same thing. It's pretty timeless.
I don't own any of these guys' records but I see 'em every time they come to town. Score is for blowing Tiger Army and Anti-Flag out of the water at two separate shows.

Cyanotic (July 18, 2008)

I quite like this album. Not as good as the previous but like others have said, they had to eventually make an album that wasn't better than its predecessor. The only song I don't like is Elizabeth; I know McColgan is big on family and everything but surely he must realize how corny that song sounds.

baseball (July 18, 2008)

This band was showing significant improvement with every subsequent release, which was great to see unfold. I loved every album more than the previous.

I listened to the stream of this once and my initial impression is that they took a pretty large step backward. Just not as dynamic as Fading American Dream. I just didn't hear the great sing a longs like "Not Without a Purpose" or "Tobe's Got A Drinkin Problem".

I'm not going to write it off yet, as I've only heard the poor sound quality stream. I really need to get a copy of this and see if it grows on me. Street Dogs are still one of my favorite active straight up punk rock bands, and their live show cannot be beat.

miniblindbandit (July 18, 2008)

I honestly tried to get into this album. I wanted to like it. But even after like 13 or 14 listens, it's still forgettable. "Mean Fist" is a great opener but after that it's like the record stalls at the gates and doesn't really carry that same punch as previous records. Even the slow closer "Free" sounds kind of forced and poorly executed. They did set the bar pretty fucking high with Fading American Dream but I expected them to come closer to that than this.

misterspike (July 18, 2008)

Not enough good things I can say about this record. "The General's Boombox" is one of the top songs of the year, in my opinion. Missing Street Dogs' headlining tour this fall would be a Mistake.

wonton (July 18, 2008)

"The only track I don't like is San Patricios"- i agree

solid album, but it grows on you. initially i thought it was kinda boring but i gave it anohter shot.

theonetruebill (July 18, 2008)

http://airraidlive.com/review.php?id=67

3/10. More explained in the link above.

holy_hack_ben (July 18, 2008)

It took me a few listens to get into this one. The only track I don't like is San Patricios. The bilingual thing seems a bit contrived. Other that that it is a really good album. Not a good as Fading American Dreams but then again, what is?

Medley (July 18, 2008)

That's a really great album cover. Looks like it belongs to an old vinyl album from the 70s, but not in a inauthentic retro sort of way.

ashtraymonument (July 18, 2008)

I have hard time debating whether or not this is better than fading american dream, or just on par with it. Great fucking album

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