Down By Law – Revolution Time
Dry Heave Records

down by law

I have a fear of dentists. it all stems back to me as a 10 year old boy being terrified of a tall man in a white suit with sharp instruments in his hand. I can’t begin to explain this irrational phobia. But there hasn’t been much sympathy for it in the proceeding 35 years. Even typing this my hands are starting to get a bit clammy and lumps appear in my throat. Listening to this album is its musical equivalent. Plainly speaking it is disappointing.

I remember when down by law played Dublin in the 1990s. We were so excited that a stalwart of the dc music scene was coming to play our city. The excitment was palpable as we discussed prior to Smalley and co’s arrival that there was no need for heroes. It was a lifetime ago and for some of us young punks in Dublin there was real buzz of anticipation in the air. We had no real perception of the outside world as our education was through records and fanzines interspersed with protest marches and leaflets from radical organisations. We had no feeling of Dublin being something to be proud of as we grew up here and most of us wanted to get out, those who didn’t have to leave to find employment of course. So when Americans came over and exclaimed how proud they were to be Irish we got ready to swap identities even for one night. Most bands that played over here felt some connection with the country and our cynicism needed to be left outside many venues. I will never forget down by laws introduction to barnstormers. They were so impressed with a Phil lynnott picture on the wall and wanted to talk about thin lizzy. To the young punk in me thin lizzy and their ilk were the enemy, pin them up against the wall with blue oyster cult or whatever they were called. They played a pretty energetic set though and whilst I have mellowed through the years I still haven’t felt a need to listen to “the lizzy” though but I appreciate that Dave Smalley was just a fan like we were of his band.

This is their 9th album and it starts with some note ‘New Autonomy’, ‘The future is good’ and ‘riot riot’ give a little insight into the potential that was once there. It has that melodic punk rock feel that you’d get from Stiff Little Fingers but more of the Go For It era when we all wished they would play Suspect Device instead. ‘Rebel conformist’ could have been good if it didn’t feel like they were just trying too hard. “Truth is you’re not a rebel at all. You hate all those who don’t think like you” is the line there but whilst Tte sentiment sounds good but it just doesn’t seem real. Whether that is dave smalleys self proclaimed celebration of capitalism I don’t know. I don’t call myself a rebel but I don’t appreciate American Republicanism, Smalley had a brief flirtation with it publicly and I find it extremely hard to let that go.

And then there’s the (filler) acoustics covers of elvis Costello and slf> They are the teeth extraction moments, painful. Acoustic sets are great, I’m found in rebellion at the acoustic stage as much as anyone else and love the feeling of a song being stripped bare and sung with real passion. The energy of one person and a guitar can be immensely powerful. But these are so weak in comparison. It’s no tim barry or chuck ragan, I really want it to be

Sorry but no


One thought on “Down By Law – Revolution Time

  1. Nice article Niall.

    I was a fan of Smalley as a vocalist going back to his dats wuth DYS (back on the road again). To this day “Can I Say” by Dag Nasty is my Number 1 LP – much of that being down to Smalley’s vocal delivery.

    I first heard Down By Law even before they released their first album, thanks to a penfriend who recorded their live set on a local Californian radio station. I was really impressed by those early songs and it helped that they did a Dag Nasty cover too. You can download the tracks here on my (much neglected) Blog:

    As time went on though the later releases didn’t connect with me as much as their earlier stuff. If you cgeck out Smalley’s posts on Facebook you’ll see that he’s also a supporter of the NRA and advicates strongly for gun ownership. Another reason why I won’t be rushing out to buy the latest release from DBL.

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