Street Dogs

State of Grace

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The Street Dogs' last album, 2006's Fading American Dream, was a rabid indictment of the Bush regime, filled with fire and fury. But having served up polemics on virtually every political touchstone possible, the band decided to sit down and take stock on its next set, State of Grace. Looking back at the past and forward toward the future, the Dogs deliver their most intimate album to date. Love and respect are offered to those now gone, with a punk paean for Michael McColgan's uncle, "Kevin J. O'Toole," and an homage in Irish folk style for his adored grandmother, "Elizabeth." Musical inspirations are also given their due, with an excellent reworking of the Skids' "Into the Valley" and the band's personal hero Joe Strummer paid an apt Clash-soaked tribute. On that latter song, McColgan declares, "You lit a fire in us and we play on in your trust." And the Dogs do him honor with a song like "San Patricios," an Irish-American riposte to "Spanish Bombs." A proto-International Brigade, the San Patricios fought for the losing side during the Mexican-American war. Their bravery at the battle of Churubuco was the stuff of legend; the fate of the battalion's survivors -- tried, flogged, branded, and hung by the U.S. Army, remains a dark stain on this country's reputation. The song's message, though, is one of unity over tribalism, a theme revisited on the hard-rocking "Rebel Song." But this will have to be a bloodless revolution, for the band's anti-violence stance is clear on the eloquent, angry "Guns," the most infectious song on a set stuffed with singalong anthems. In a confusing world we're all searching for clarity and a bit of grace, as are the bandmembers on the title track and "Free," songs whose intimacy brings the revolution home. A decided departure for the band, but a highly successful one, and with the music as tough as ever, the Dogs roam new streets with abandon.

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