July 14, 2024

DROPKICK MURPHYS – ‘This Machine Still Kills Fascists’ – “rabble-rousing stuff”

DUMMY LUCK MUSIC / PIAS               30th September 2022

Woody Guthrie wrote A LOT of lyrics. Some he recorded, other he didn’t and, over the years the tunes he
used for them have been lost from memory and that’s only the ones he performed in public. Nora Guthrie,
his daughter, has been on a mission to get the best of these used. Around the turn of the century Billy
Bragg and Wilco assembled a couple of albums worth and they were a great listen but wait, there are
more! The Dropkick Murphys present ten more songs here, saved from the dusty shelf of history.

A committed union man and anti-fascist, Guthrie used his guitar and voice to fight for rights for the
working poor. If you don’t know him, ‘This Land Is Your Land’ is his, a riposte to ‘America The
Beautiful’. Albeit they are from the 40s and 50s, the battles are not so different today. At the time
volunteers had travelled to Spain to fight fascists before the Allied powers fought fascists in Germany.
With the Right on the rise again, we still need guitars to kill fascists today. And with the front-line folk
who struggled and risked right through COVID having working conditions cut and pay frozen, the words
of Guthrie are sadly still prescient today. He’d be standing there with railway staff, nurses and teachers in
the face of the Tory oligarchy. But these are upbeat, bouncy songs, even when telling us how hard work
can be, it hums with unity and pride; ‘The Last One’ compares the United States being united with the
way the powers-that-be there block workers uniting.

Where Bragg and Wilco sounded like Bragg and Wilco singing Guthrie – which was great, the Dropkick
Murphys are not only distinctively themselves, they are better than themselves. With a set of committed
lyrics and a new presentation, this is fresh. Played entirely without amplifiers, this is loud, in your face
and furious. Opening with the rebel song ‘Two 6’s Upside Down’, the first single, we get a holler-song in
the great story-song tradition, telling a story that passes from heartbreak to prison for 99 years. See, it
isn’t all workers rights. Similarly we get the tale of a travelling balladeer and another, Pogue-ish, duet
about the demon drink. Given much of this would sound great round a big pub table, the irony is strong
and gendered, with the female held responsible for policing the male desire to trespass. It was the forties,
I guess……

‘All You Fonies’ is pretty much “All You Fascists”, one of the punchy Guthrie greats. ‘Cadillac, Cadillac’
could almost be The Clash. It being the DKM, they can’t help but throw in an accordion jig on ‘Where
Trouble Is’. Elsewhere I hear the strength of Springsteen’s live recording of Pete Seeger’s songs and the
whole album is strong-boned and uplifting – with ten songs in only half an hour there is no chance of it
getting stale and they are promising more of the same next year.

Songs bang and pound with powerful vocals and resonating guitar. Call and response pops up, as do
marching chants played fast – rabble-rousing stuff. Since Al Barr took a break from vocals from 2021
there was an opportunity for doing something different and, since the idea for the album had been around
for a decade, the timing was perfect. Nora explained, “I collected lyrics on all kinds of topics…lyrics that
seemed to be needed to be said – or screamed – today.” Woody once said: “A folk song is what’s wrong
and how to fix it, or it could be who’s hungry and where their mouth is, or who’s out of work and where
the job is, or who’s broke and where the money is, or who’s carrying a gun and where the peace is.”

For people who don’t normally like the DKMs – try this.

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