Stand Up and Fight: Mike McColgan Speaks Out About the War in Iraq

Posted December 5, 2006 in
“It’s time for people to fight fire with fire. I think the album speaks of that,” Mike McColgan, lead singer of Street Dogs, told me in the dimly lit basement of In the Venue on Oct. 25 prior to their performance. “We’re not experts on anything, but we’ve got things inside of us that we need to get out. We don’t want our music to be watered down, trite, de-compartmentalized or glossy. It’s got to be forceful,” says McColgan. Fading American Dream was released on Oct. 10; the album is much more politically charged than the previous two releases, covering topics that range from drug abuse, union workers rights, and most prevalently, the war in Iraq.

“Each album for the band is like a window into where we’re at right now. This album finds a band that’s really disenchanted with a lot of things. The disparity of riches is wider than it’s ever been in American history and with the glorification of American socialite culture—it seems like everyday common people are left behind,” McColgan said as he took a sip of his tea.

Mike McColgan (courtesy of

McColgan and the rest of Street Dogs don’t consider themselves rockstars, heroes or anything of the sort. McColgan is a Gulf War vet, who also fought in Desert Storm and Desert Shield, an ex-Boston-firefighter, and as everyone knows, the ex-lead singer of the Dropkick Murphys. He’s been heavily involved in the music industry, removed himself completely and eventually made his way back to it. Street Dogs are making music that three decades from now, people will still be able to relate to and will still listen to. McColgan has a message that can’t be ignored. At the beginning of Street Dogs, he made a conscious effort to avoid letting his experiences leak into the music. “I didn’t want to paint myself as a hero, or anything special. I’m just a regular, everyday person,” he said.

Luckily, on Fading American Dream, with the encouragement of producer Ted Hutt, some of his personal experiences did manage to make their way into the songs. On “Final Transmission,” he used his experience of carrying a picture of his family and the note that he had written to them in case he were to die. He used the uncertainty that he had felt then and combined it with the news footage from Iraq of 18- and 19-year-old kids dying in combat. The result is an acoustic song that is truly haunting. “Shards of Life” is another amazing anti-war song.

“That’s a song that we’re really proud of. It talks about the horror of war and the toll it takes on civilians and soldiers. War is inherently heinous, pointless and never really accomplishes what it sets out to do from the start,” McColgan said.

With the release of Street Dogs’ new CD, they have joined the ranks of multiple other punk bands that have released politically charged albums; albums that are focused on the atrocities committed by the Bush administration and that are often overlooked by the mainstream news media.

“It’s not a time to be singing Bobby McFerrin’s ‘Don’t Worry Be Happy,’” McColgan said. “Things suck. It’s time for bands to stand up in this genre and carry the torch. It’s not always easy. We feel fired up, and it’s not by design or premeditated.” That sentiment is very clear in the new release.

“I know what it’s like to be deployed far away and I know why kids enlist; it’s for college money because there’s no work. I have a level of empathy and sympathy for a foot soldier, both male and female. We [Street Dogs] pray for their safety and that they get home as soon as possible,” McColgan said, whose own choice to join the military was based on the college money.

Fading American Dream is a diamond among the rough as far as political-punk rock albums go. It speaks for a generation disenchanted with the current state of the world. Street Dogs have succeeded in showing what war does to the human condition, and the result is both alarming and beautiful. Whether you are for or against the war in Iraq, you must admit that the psychological damage being done to soldiers deployed there isn’t fair and neither are the horrific things Iraqi children have to witness as a result of this war. It’s time to “get off the bench of life” and “carry the torch.” If we don’t do it now, just imagine how much more destruction will occur.