It’s been a long time coming for the fourth album from Germany’s The O’Reillys and The Paddyhats. Dogs on the Leash was supposed to be out months ago, but due to circumstances outside the band’s control (do I even need to say it at this point?), the release of the record was delayed until now. As I’ve mentioned before, I have a soft spot in my heart for Irish flavored punk rock, so I’ve had my eyes on this one for a while. It’s Rainbows in the Dark, featuring the best of all things non-metal and metal-adjacent.
It’s always really, genuinely amusing to me that so many of the Irish punk bands I find are from every place on the globe but Ireland. Irish culture has always been able to cross international waters and assimilate with ease, and historically speaking that makes a lot of sense, considering how mobile the Irish people have needed to be. Maybe there’s a deeper discussion to be had about what actually constitutes Irish culture and whether it can be summed up in just drinking, fiddles and punk rock, but at least The O’Reillys make a valid attempt to broaden their lyrical and musical depth by looking to Irish folklore and folk stories to give their songs a more rustic feel. While the blending of traditional folk instruments and electric guitars isn’t exactly an original invention of The O’Reillys, they do the format justice and manage to tip the balance just slightly in favor of the folk side of things, which lends itself well to their storytelling-based style of songwriting. Other than that, what you see is pretty much what you get: nothing that breaks the mold in terms of Irish-flavored folk punk, but it’s fast, fun, uproarious and a genuine good time.
Storytelling seems to be the basis for what sets the band apart from their contemporaries. While most other Irish bands are content to write an album solely about drinking or pertinent songs about modern social issues, The O’Reillys take an approach that borrows from classic barroom hangouts. Most of their songs deal with Irish folklore in a way that almost treats it like mythology. These are songs about ordinary people, doing ordinary things in a way that makes them seem mystical and grandiose. Take for example “James Brian” or “The Hobo of Mitchelstown” or “From Dublin to Moscow,” all of which are told to the listener as if they were stories of great mythological figures on epic quests doing superhuman deeds. It’s a way of celebrating the little people, the Joe Everyman in the small town working his ass off not exactly knowing why or for what, and it works pretty well. The approach pairs nicely with the folkier leanings of the album like “Ferryman,” “Back Home in Derry,” and “Shoeshine Boy,” all of which tone down the breakneck drums and distorted guitars in favor of gentle acoustics, melodic fiddles and subtle mandolin and accordion. But hey, if you want high energy punk rock, that’s here too. Take the title track, “Overtime Work,” “Beautiful Fear,” and “Farewell.” There’s plenty of pounding drums, gang vocals, fast paced power chords and soaring melodies to keep the spirits up and remind you that this is a punk band through and through. Overall, while there is a healthy amount of variety on Dogs on the Leash, the album is 13 tracks and almost an hour long, which for my money is a little too long for a sustained listen, especially when there’s a lot of sameness inherent in the style the band plays. Better to pick and choose choice cuts to throw on when the mood strikes, but there are a lot of winners to be found here.
Dogs on the Leash was originally scheduled for a release in March, quite serendipitously coinciding with St. Patrick’s Day (whodda thunk it?), but obviously life had other plans in store. Still, it’s as good a time as any to kick back with a stiff drink, if that’s your thing, kick up some tunes and get to dancing in whatever space you’re occupying and with whoever you’re occupying it with. Dogs on the Leash doesn’t break the game wide open, but if you’re looking for a good time, it’s an album chock full of them.