Dance On Your Grave isn’t a part of my wheelhouse. I’m not a bagpipes and fiddles in my punk kinda guy. I’m the sort of snob who left Punk Rock Bowling early one night because Flogging Molly was playing. That’s the sort of guy I am. But—The Killigans, despite first appearances, are not just another celtic punk band. In fact, upon listening, they reminded me of something I do like a lot: the folksy troubador stylings of the late Erik Petersen. Here is holistic folk music, pulling from strummed cowboy chords, the perspective of the working class, and yes, occasional bagpipes and fiddles.
The Killigans won me over with their songwriting. These guys can craft a melody, they can write a chorus, and they can get you to sing along with it. Dance On Your Grave sits somewhere between The Orphans and Rancid, with a wide-range of orchestration. Opener “Throw It Away,” is a certified stomper with a melodic guitar lead, lots of gang vocals, and a pointed message delivered in lyrics like, “the rich blame the poor, while the poor just try to get by.” Lyrical asides like this, coupled with their catchiness were what made me see the Killigans as more than just a punk band playing in a gimmicky subgenre. These guys have things to say and they’re using folk punk (and is punk that different than just electric folk in the first place?) as their platform.
The album, from there, doesn’t lose momentum with “Peducah” and its aggressive folk opening, or “One Angry Voice,” with its big, sticky woahs. “Burn it Down” is the first introduction to slower, more traditional folk, but by the time the chorus hits the electric strums are laying down a heavy rhythm and once again, we have something to shout along with. “Bartender” is one of the heavy-hitters on the album, a big ode to the bartender, that’s probably just a hop and a skip from being Billy Joel’s “Piano Man,” (a worthy influence, if I ever heard one). It’s a fun song, that’s insanely singable and works well within the context of the album, balancing the political content with some working class barn-burning.
The most insistent song on the album is “Reality Bites,” a pure stomper carried by sharp chords and a sneering vocal delivery that comes off as nearly apocalyptic in its disgust with the war being waged on the working class via gentrification. It’s this sort of grounded approach that makes Dance On Your Grave feel like more than an exercise in style. They lyrics here matter, and the folk trappings only serve to reinforce the perspective held within. This is music and lyrics, in lockstep.
Dance On Your Grave is an album I didn’t expect to like, but it won me over with its earnest exuberance and cutting politics. And it helps that the Killigans are no slouch in the songwriting department, crafting catchy melodies and fun arrangements in an effortless display of chops. While I think the album could be a song or two shorter, there’s no denying what the Killigans have done here. Dance On Your Grave is exemplary working class punk rock—an under-documented perspective, put to music meant to be played as well as learned.
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