KNIGHT RIDDER NEWSPAPERS
Update: After years of vacillating between Irish neo-traditionalism and blitzkrieg bop, this decade-old Boston gang finally hit its stride in 2003 with "Blackout," a superb fusion of its heritage and hardcore punk that positions the Murphys (along with Flogging Molly) as the best of its kind since the Pogues. "The Warrior's Code" issued two weeks ago, extends that breakthrough.
"Every record had been a reaction to the last one," says bassist Ken Casey. "Our first was considered heavily Irish, so our second was a hardcore reaction to that. And the third was a reaction to the backlash from fans who wanted more Irish music. With 'Blackout,' we started to write for ourselves and find a balance."
How important were the Pogues? "Most of us were 13 years old when they came out. We knew Irish music but we thought it was our grandparents' music. Then the Pogues came along and everyone suddenly said, 'Wait, this is our music.' Hopefully we're doing that for kids now."
New Pogues or not?
So are they the new Pogues? "A lot of people have said that, but don't ask some older traditionalists. Like [Celtic legend] Tommy Makem. We asked him to sing on the same record that [Pogues frontman] Shane MacGowan sang on. And his manager said, 'Local guys? Sure. Long as you don't sound anything like the Pogues. Tommy thinks the Pogues ruined Irish music.'
Ah, see ya later, then.
"But a lot of other people realize that if Irish music isn't done in the way we're doing it, then it might not be passed on at all. A lot of kids get into our sound, then after a few years go back and hear the real Irish music. So maybe we're a lifeline. I always look at it as the Pogues were a traditional band with a punk-rock mentality; we're a punk-rock band with a traditional mentality. It comes out differently."
Why do Warped? "The appeal for us is to get out of clubs and play in the daytime with a lot of other bands we're friends with."
But how do they go over? "In a lot of ways, yeah, we're out of left field to some kids. Most of 'em may have their fingers in their ears while we play, just waiting through it for their favorite band to come on. But some of them might just go, 'What the hell is that?' That's what I want to hear."