Killigans “Dance on Your Grave” Album Review by Jon Weirman
Run down tenements, new and fleeting loves, warm stew after a long journey, and the intense beauty of locations such as Dublin Castle are very fitting subjects for folk songs. When iconic acts like the Pogues belted out cuts like “Dirty Old Town” way back in 1985, an immediate attachment was created to their appreciation for rewards of toil, love of country, and yearning for post-industrial romance. Since 2004, the Killigans have been belting out their own form of reverent hymn, and with their fifth album release this year, they are once again producing their well-versed wares for the masses. No strangers to the road, the demand for their craft has already taken them far from home, and many of the friends they made along the way will be eagerly awaiting this installment of stories.
“Stories, instead of songs?” anyone with a pint after a long day right here in the Heartland may ask. One thing about the Killigan's instant appeal was always about the characters spun into the soundscape. While some may argue that anyone can plug into a JCM-900, get rowdy, and “proclaim themselves Irish”, these boys have taken their appropriate licks well before they became the most in-demand St Patty's day act in the state. The intricate writing, love for their own large families, and deep Midwestern roots have solidified their prowess for more than a decade, as well as wet the appetites for those who are searching for a bit more depth than the traditional fist-pumping Guinness and Harp Harrier acts. The link to listen and check out the fresh release for yourself on Spotify is right here.
No stranger to rough-and-tumble locales myself, the song “Throw it Away” properly evokes the vibe I felt when I saw my first off-the-books bare-knuckle boxing match in Boston. Commanding the listener's attention, the devil is portrayed as a host keeping time, and the heavily-discussed issue of class war is lamented upon. Drawing back the curtain figuratively and literally, its an appropriate anthem regarding the price to be paid for our sheer existence, and what it feels like to watch something burn to the ground. The mix is just what you would expect from this rich group, who have long evolved from 3-chord monte, but the desperation is fitting: many worldwide have lost any patience with the sensation of being crunched under the banking cartel's heel.
“Paducah” begins with a truly Irish sound, and bassist Trevor Nebesniak gets to wander around while being appropriately in synch, and this track really reminds me of world-class and heavily-layered act Gogol Bordello. The accordion here is first-rate, and is the perfect addition of warmth and commanding expertise. Hitting the bottle harder, asking questions of existence and fate, and a seemingly fateful accident paints a picture that is not perfect, but one must remember those bustling streets of Dublin aren't always rosy and prim on a daily basis either.
“Bartender” is a playful number that is asking the local establishment's proprietor to “save us now”, by frequent pouring, and deep understanding of everyday strife. Needing a good friend that won't abandon them, as well as the reassurance that everything will be alright, is painted in a manner that is more than fun: the age-old thirst of the working class will never be fully quenched. Songs like this are what drew many to this band in the very first place: rich instrumentation along with tasteful and mid-rangy guitar solos simply take the cake, or “the keg”, as it may be.
“Burn it Down” is an introspective and rather stripped-down piece that begins with an acoustic guitar and accordion, along with the vision of taking a walk across the land of opportunity. This song really hits home to me what true progression is supposed to sound like: Charlie Johnson at Fuse Recording Studios really clocks a firm win for the books here. One mistake in production of folk, rock, and punk is to heavily lay on the buckets of distortion, and this common error does not take place in the least within this final mix.
Guitar-driven rock can make a lot of mistakes, as Replacement's frontman Paul Westerberg laments about the added effects and “other garbage” music during the 1990's. There is not even a hint of this type of saturated production here, and this song is a solid number about the sensations one would experience remembering a tragic fire in your very own city. In retrospect, this entire album release seems timely: many metro areas as of late have been surely sensing a crackling of kindling underneath them, and heavily present unrest from the inside out.