ALBUM REVIEW: THE KILLIGANS- ‘Dance on Your Grave’ (2018)

The Killigans are a Celtic-Punk band from Lincoln, Nebraska. Now over a decade young, they are honed and steeled for action. Glass-raising anthems for tenacious underdogs, lonely vagabonds and anyone who’s just trying to make it in this world. 

Born in a filthy garage in 2004 The Killigans have gone through various personel changes in their time together but have kept at their core a set of foot-stomping beer-loving raucous anthemic numbers drawing from traditional Celtic music along with streetpunk, gritty rock’n’roll and working class country music. Having become one of the most popular bands in the Nebraskan music scene they have gained a rapidly growing army of fans across the States and overseas as well. One of the highlights of their early career came in 2010 when their song ‘Lessons from the Empty Glass’ was used on the soundtrack to the big budget Universal Studios hit move Robin Hood. Dance On Your Grave is The Killigans fifth album and their development over the years is plain for all to see. From the rough and ready Irish folk-punk of 2006’s Brown Bottle Hymnal to 2010’s Honor which saw them shift towards a more stripped down punk sound and then to their last album Another Round For The Strong Of Heart from October 2012 which saw them raise the bar with their best release to date with a collection of songs that took the catchy Irish Celtic-Punk of their early days and the anthemic punk of Honor and combined the two for something particularly special that will go down as one of the best album’s that the Celtic-Punk genre has ever produced. Not bad for a bunch of working-class blokes from flyover country!
Dance On Your Grave was five years in the making with some of these songs three or four years old. The Bhoys admit to having lost motivation and to having run of steam. After all their lives had changed from young raggamuffins to being middle aged family guys 
“We never meant for the music to stop, and it has shaped us and our families along the way.  Its just been a lot more difficult for us to make new music happen.  I like to think we have a lot more to offer in the way of songwriting than a couple 22 year old punks who have been on their own for a couple years.”
The Killigans have endured a lot of life and one thing that has always shone through with their releases is their utter honesty. A straight up band that has always played a straight deal. Dance On Your Grave carries on from where Another Round for the Strong of Heart left off. Hardly surprising as that era is from when many of the songs here were written or first imagined with old drummer Ben Swift starting the writing process that new drummer Mikey Elfers would help finish by coaxing the band into actually finishing the album! 

The Killigans left to right: Trevor- Bass * Brad- Vocals, Accoustic Guitar * Mikey- Drums * Pat-  Accordion, Mandolin, Trumpet, Organ * Greg- Guitar * Chris- Guitar, Vocals, Mandolin, Harmonica, Trombone *

The album saw the light of day on  April 28th this year and kicks off with Throw It Away’ and shows a maturity that comes with middle age but the Bhoys still play with a wild abandon that brings to mind early Flogging Molly. The era when they combined folk and punk perfectly and had their audiences both slam dancing and jigging away. It’s fast and furious and with lyrics that show The Killigans may not have stayed still but know what we love in the Celtic-Punk scene and are more than willing to give it us! Second song ‘Peducah’ was the first release of the album and begins with an accordion gypsy flourish before trumpet and trombone come in adding a somewhat ska’ish sound while the pace never slows. Even more surprising is that they are not guest musicians but brothers Chris and Pat who play a multitude of instruments for the band including mandolin and accordion. Third brother Trevor plays bass in the band. Its trad Celtic-Punk and it don’t get any better!

The songs are short and snappy and played at breakneck speed like ‘One Angry Voice’ which could easily fit in any punk rock play list. The words decry the way has become a fashion and the values and spirit of why it exists are fading. When punks would rather spend £30 to go to a gig or £100 to go to a festival rather than a local pub down the road then I’m afraid punk has a terminal disease. Putting on gigs here in London it is something I noticed get worse over the years as promoters and bands struggle to get people to come a gig for £3 or a fiver when everyone is up the road watching some reformed old fogie punks at £30+ a ticket.

“Fact is I’m getting older but if the honest truth be told

There’s something changed about punk rock

What does it stand for?

Is it a t-shirt and a drug scene? A hairdo and a piercing?

We think it’s more!

It’s the kid awake at midnight, living life how it feels right

Though his parents are concerned and think him strange

And at school the students shun him, and the teachers make fun of him

But he knows in the end he’s gonna make a change!”

The album takes a folky turn with ‘Burn It Down’ and I’m a bit of an old fogie myself as these days its the folkier songs that i like more than the punky ones. Not to say it don’t have a punk edge and it speeds up nicely mid-way. The accordion and brass instruments make for a great combination and Brad’s vocals fit perfectly beside the music. The Dropkicks rear their ugly heads for ‘Fight Today (Knock Them Down)’ with a killer chorus the Bostonians would die for. Over far too quickly its a beaut of a song loud and proud and aggressive. We back in Molly territory for the next bunch of songs with ‘The Best Words’ played like FM on speed and with ‘Bartender’ you get another song that plays like fast FM but are in fact two quite different songs. I don’t like to compare a band too much to others and you would be wrong to take away from this review that The Killigans are just a Flogging Molly band as their sound is completely their own and if you go back and trace their trajectory from their early days its easy to see where they have come to. For ‘Particle Board’ the band put their heads down and plough through a fast punk number and on ‘All Good Men’ they play to their strengths with fast paced Celtic influenced punk with Brads voice strong and clear. ‘Cracked Rear View’ is one of the songs they began after last album way back in 2012 and begins with a thundering bass before the band join in and we soon end up with my album favourite. Elements of pop-punk and it sure is catchy enough to call it that. A cracking song and the Celtic takes a back seat for a couple of minutes. We are nearing the end of the album and ‘Realty Bites’ is a right proper anthem for the American working class.

“This gentrification is necessary good

A complete revitalization of your neighbourhood

A lonely puddle in  a cracked brickmavenue

Throw up a LED street light it’s as good as new”

and ends with

“This district

You’re no longer part of it”

At a time when the American left have turned their backs on the working classes by adopting the poison of identity politics its a timely reminder that they are still here and still fighting. Its another speedy song and leads into ‘Artificial Hip’ where we get thirty-six seconds of punk rock oompf before we arrive at the final and title track ‘Dance on Your Grave’. This is the bands big sound with accordion and brass coming together to wrap things up wonderfully for a sure fire dance floor filler about everyone who wronged Brad including school bullies and ex-girlfriends getting their just deserts!

So The Killigans are back with a bang and maybe not one for the more folk inclined it certainly rocks along and if you miss the early days of Flogging Molly then this is the album for you. Sometimes maturity doesn’t make you a better band but here The Killigans have soaked in influences from all over and come up with something that will have you wearing out your shoe leather while also giving your heart and (Celtic) soul a workout too.

(you can have a *FREE* listen to Dance On Your Grave on the Bandcamp player below before you buy it!)

Buy Dance On Your Grave

CD- FromTheBand  Download- Bandcamp iTunes  CDbaby  

if you live in Europe then please check out MacSlons shop here for their new CD, back catalogue and other merchandise.

Contact The KIlligans

WebSite  Bandcamp  Facebook  YouTube  Twitter

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