Under Review

Dirty Pretty Things

Waterloo to Anywhere


Review By Mono Brown

When I was fifteen, I was the first of the Kitchener-Waterloo Drunk Punks to get into Oi’s favourite boys, the Dropkick Murphys. Mohawks were shaved and band t-shirts traded for Fred Perrys the year we discovered the Murphys’ debut, through to 1998, when we saw them play at Warped Tour with recently installed streetpunk heavyweight, Al Barr. And while punks still dangled their suspenders dangerously low and skins pulled themselves up by the braces and traded up their 40s for four-packs of Guinness, Barr and the boys joined Motörhead on a tour that had actually billed a date at Kitchener’s Elements nightclub. The Murphys, in 1998, were still something punks and skins could agree on.
All that changed the night Al Barr took to the mile-high stage at Elements with eyes only for the skinhead boys chanting aloud each chorus of his working-class streetpunk anthems. I knew every song in the Murphys’ discography too, but I also knew that night that I had hit streetpunk’s glass ceiling. As my friend Darryl—yes, a fan of the Murphys thanks to the chance I took in Dr. Disc while he was still markering “NOFX” on his skateboard—sang arm-in-arm with Mr. Barr, I left behind a chapter of my life that I’ve been reluctant to revisit.
Waterloo sat on my desk for the better part of a month, even though some decent reviews could be written on the rising of Dirty Pretty Things out of the ashes of The Libertines. I know, I know—Dirty Pretty Things could hardly be counted among the likes of the Murphy Clan. They never say “Oi!” on the album, nor do they wear boots and braces. In my books, though, Waterloo comes dangerously close to the streetpunk sound I discovered in 1997 and abandoned in 1998. To be fair, Waterloo displays a simple elegance that makes it the Lincoln Town Car of streetpunk albums: a must-have for fans of the genre, and worth the ride for nearly anybody else.