Dropkick Murphys - The Gang’s All Here (retro review) (Cover Artwork)

Dropkick Murphys

The Gang’s All Here (retro review) (1999)

Hellcat Records

In The Gang’s All Here, Dropkick Murphys didn’t give us their best, or even most iconic, work. Instead, this, their second album, served as a bridge of sorts, a transitional album that gave us glimpses of what the Murphys would be. And the biggest agent of change would come in the form of new vocalist Al Barr.

Barr had been fronting Oi outfit The Bruisers, and when original Murphys vocalist Mike McColgan left the group, Barr came aboard. His vocal delivery complimented Murphys bassist/singer Ken Casey quite well, and on Gang’s All Here listeners were given their first listen to the back and forth between Barr and Casey that still forms the core of some of DKM’s best songs. It’s also of note that while Barr’s vocal style is a bit tougher, a little more of a growl than McColgan’s at the time, he stepped in seamlessly. Replacing a lead singer can be extremely difficult, but both in recordings and during live shows, Barr was a more than capable replacement.

Musically, the record is classic early-Murphys. Songs like “Homeward Bound,” or “Pipebomb on Landsdowne” are fast, loud punk rock anthems. The group’s hardcore roots are more on display on this record than their later efforts, but these songs serve a good reminder of the raw energy the band had in its early days. “Boston Asphalt” is another ripping, sub-two minute track that’s also a good example of the Murphys wearing the working class on their sleeves.

Certainly, the group’s first record was not without political songs, but on The Gang’s All Here, the sentiment of the working man and his plight are little more on the nose. The aforementioned “Boston Asphalt” is about working “18 hour days for the B.A.C” while “10 Years of Service” laments “Who's gonna save us from this lonely picket line/

Ten years of service but I'm still not worth your time.” The band was never shy about politics, but the songwriting got a little tighter on this second record.

The Dropkick Murphys now, as in the Fenway-headlining, friends of Springsteen, and The Departed-attached Dropkick Murphys, are a distant thought on The Gang’s All Here. But this record has just a little bit of everything that will end up making this group the massive success they are today. The blue collar work ethic is there in abundance. They’re talking about Boston a good bit - which, for better or worse for us listeners outside of New England, really did help catapult them to stardom. There’s also a few songs such as “10 Years of Service” that have a more melodic and straight rock ‘n’ roll sound; a sound the group will eventually lean into on their more successful albums.

While not perfect, The Gang’s All Here gave us a glimpse of what the ultra success the band could go on to achieve. Looking back, it’s a fun listen and a good reminder of Dropkick Murphys’ musical roots. It also is the record that has the kick-ass “Amazing Grace” cover, a take on a song that almost makes the record noteworthy on its own.