[27 August 2008]
PopMatters Associate Music Editor
Based solely on their live show, and some impressive compilation tracks over the years, the Real McKenzies should be considered alongside the more high-profile Dropkick Murphys and Flogging Molly—though they don’t quite ever match up to the latter—in the exclusive club of well-respected Celtic punks. Unfortunately, their full-lengths go a long way towards cutting away at that status, and Off the Leash is no exception. There’s some solid moments, namely “Old Becomes New”, which is catchier than anything else on the album, and the breakneck joyride anthem “White Knuckle Ride”. Both show the band’s ability for giant guitar licks and muscle-twitch energy. But the rest of the album suffers from a painful lack of both. Even potential live show favorites like opener “Chip” feel like they’re played at half-speed. “The Maple Trees Remember”, which is a nice try at folk balladry, never quite works because the band seems to be yawning through the quieter track. The band sounds crisp and tight on Off the Leash, but they also sound safe, like they’re trapped in the studio, incapable of exerting any real zeal. The Real McKenzies may be a band built for the stage, but their studio output doesn’t do much to inspire fans to head out to the show.