Talk about a New Year's surprise! Rum Bar Records has kicked off 2021 with a special treat I never saw coming: the most comprehensive collection to date of classic recordings by the mighty Dogmatics! Back in 2013, I wrote a review of the long out-of-print Dogmatics 1981-86 compilation. The new Rum Bar collection Est 81 finally brings all of this material back into circulation, with the addition of the rare track "X'mas Time (It Sure Doesn't Feel Like It)". It collects the songs from the band's two albums Thayer St. (1985) and Everybody Does It (1986) along with its debut single "Gimme The Shakes" and some old compilation cuts to form the definitive retrospective on one of the greatest bands to ever come out of Boston and one of the greatest bands of the '80s, period. I previously described 1981-86 as a "must-own for anyone who reads this blog or digs the kind of music I write about". That goes double for Est 81, which will be available on CD from Rum Bar later this month!
Peter and Paul O'Halloran met Jerry Lehane in the first grade at St. Matthew's in Dorchester, Massachusetts. They remained schoolmates for eight years until both families moved out of Dorchester. These three eventually formed the Guttersnipes in Boston with drummer Dan Shannon. The Guttersnipes were quickly renamed the Dogmatics, and Tom Long joined on drums after Shannon left for college. The rest, as they say, is history. Throughout the early to mid '80s, The Dogmatics and their Thayer St. loft were at the heart of Boston's thriving underground music scene. I know I've said this numerous times about numerous bands, but the Dogmatics should have been huge! Ultimately the band's failure to conform to the fashions of punk and hardcore in the mid-'80s is what made it so great. At a time when the hardcore scene was becoming humorless and rigidly conformist (a phenomenon the band goofed on so spectacularly on the classic track "Hardcore Rules"), here you had a bunch of smart-assed kids playing fun rock and roll songs about good looking girls, drinking by the pool, teenagers on drugs, and tyrannical Catholic school nuns. And musically, the Dogmatics weren't going to fit into any neat category. They took pieces of punk rock, garage, pop, and '50s rock and roll and created a sound that was uniquely their own. In a very short amount of time, the Dogmatics wrote more classics than a lot of bands come up with in decades. I mean, come on: "Sister Serena", "Shithouse", "Thayer St.", "Gimme The Shakes", the semi-cover "Teenage Lament"...I could go on and on!
Tragically, the world lost Paul O'Halloran in a motorcycle accident in 1986. Knowing it wouldn't be the same without Paul, the band chose to call it quits. The Dogmatics later did several reunion performances with brothers Johnny and Jimmy O’Halloran filling in on bass. Eventually the band got back together on a permanent basis. In October 2019, Jerry Lehane, Tom Long, and Peter & Jimmy O’Halloran joined the Rum Bar family and recorded She's The One, the first new Dogmatics release in over 30 years. The band continues to honor the memory Paul O'Halloran, to whom Est 81 is dedicated. I'm certainly not the most unbiased reviewer in this case. Rum Bar Records is my favorite record label, and the Dogmatics have been one of my favorite bands ever since I caught one of their reunion shows in 2007. But I honestly believe that Dogmatics 1981-86 is one of the most essential punk rock band retrospectives ever assembled, and I'm beyond excited that it's been reborn as Est 81. Fingers crossed for new Dogmatics music in 2021!