The Real McKenzies - Oot & Aboot (Cover Artwork)
Staff Pick

The Real McKenzies

Oot & Aboot (2003)

Honest Don's

It could be that finals are finally done. It could be the blue summer skies and 70-something weather of Los Angeles today. But I am enjoying the new Real McKenzies album Oot & Aboot for what it is. It's not going to change your life, but you'll probably have some fun.

You can practically smell the whisky on this disc. I think the next Mckenzies album should have a scratch and sniff surface on the booklet, so no matter where you are or what the time, you can experience, in part, this band appropriately. I mean, you can't really throw back a bottle of ye ol' Scottish Chivas while driving down the freeway--well, those of us who aren't a part of the Mckenzie clan, anyway.

Heavy alcohol aside (if that's possible), this album is entertaining. The Mckenzies have been able to create something rather distinct, complete with Scottish bagpipes and kilts to boot. I'm not a Dropkick Murphy's fan. Say what will about the Irish influence there--besides that little clover on their band logo, it's mostly non-existent. Though the Real Mckenzies are ironically from Vancouver, Scotland (and yes, alcohol) remains a pervasive presence. I mean how many other punk bands have a bagpipe player who rocks it on stage with the standard lineup of guitars and drums? And Matt MacNasty plays the bagpipes well.

It's rather difficult to review the content of the album when a good number of the songs are something along the lines of, "Dance Around the Whisky," "Drink the Way I Do," etc. But you'll also hear self-reflexive, historical commentary on the punk scene in "Droppin' like Flies." The song is a nod the forefathers of punk like, The Damned, The Sex Pistols and The Ramones, and the overall rise of the scene. Yeah, it's been done before, but it's still refreshing considering that most of these mainstream acts that are negating "punk" to celebrity prankster shows and fashion and pop music probably would say, "Wait, what? Sex Pistols? I've heard of them, I think. That's like an old band right?" Punk is dying, sabotaged by the corporate control it once stood proudly against. The Real Mckenzies aren't really a combatant to that tragedy, but they are able to send it all up in an amusing package that benefits by not taking itself too seriously.

And while this band is more of a hybridized punked-up Celtic bar band and certainly aren't "punk" with the vigor of The Sex Pistols that they proudly give a shout-out to, Paul Mckenzie sounds vaguely like a Scottish Greg Graffin, and any Graffin influence scores points in my book. Listen for hints of Bad Religion on the chorus of "Croos the Ocean" and on "Lest We Forget."

Oot & Aboot kind of all comes together on "Heather's Bells" and on "The Night the Lights Went Out In Scotland." Here, the Scottish and punk influence seem naturally linked. It seems like the Real Mckenzies sound like they should sound on these two, with floating bagpipe melodies underneath the drums and guitars and Graffin-like, yet Celtic influenced, baritone vocal harmony of Paul Mckenzie. "Tailor Made" finishes this album off, a complete bagpipe anthem with pounding, pulsating traditional Scottish percussion. No, it's not the Braveheart soundtrack, it's just the Mckenzie clan stompin' off into the highlands. It sounds great. Bring on the Chivas, bring on the haggis, and bring on a fun summer album.