Director Rudy Childs’ documentary The Dogmatics: A Dogumentary delivers the way-inside scoop on 1980s Boston punkabilly garage band The Dogmatics. The film’s website sums up the band neatly: “…no different than any other talentless, self-deprecating, beer-swilling, girl-chasing lunkheads with guitars.” Eventually, the band did develop talent and creative acumen, building an enduring legacy as a hard-rocking local act. Their former manager, Julie Kryslur, refers to The Dogmatics as Boston’s House Band.
Childs delves into the history and mystique of the band with the fervor of a true believer. This is made by fans, for fans, which is usually a selling point to tell the story. However, in this case, a little bit of an on-ramp for folks who weren’t drunk in the SRO crowd at the Rathskeller in 1982 would have been helpful. At the outset, the casual viewer will sense they’ve missed something. There will be an impulse to hit pause and Google The Dogmatics to see who TF they are. But, for the uninitiated, the band was formed by brothers Paul O’Halloran (bassist) and Pete O’Halloran (guitar) with their friends Jerry Lehane (guitar) and Tommy Long (who replaced the original drummer).
Musically, The Dogmatics wander around styles from straight-up punk to psychobilly and all shades in between. On the punk side, they have an anti-homage to a despised nun from a Catholic school called Sister Serina. They have another classic song called My Little Sister’s Got a Motorbike that sounds like what would happen if you got profoundly high and tried to play Mojo Nixon’s Elvis is Everywhere. The band enjoyed local success until October 23, 1986, when Paul O’Halloran died in a motorcycle accident. Since then, his brothers Jimmy and Johnny have often filled in as bass players at the band’s live shows.
“…the way-inside scoop on 1980s Boston punkabilly garage band The Dogmatics.”
The band name is genius as it denotes a group that either makes or follows strident rules. This is a concept that is anathema to a punk-centric band. Unlike a lot of poseurs from the time, The Dogmatics walked the talk. They lived in a loft garage strewn with beer cans and motorcycles they worked on. They occasionally fired up those vehicles for motorized jousting sessions indoors. The title, The Dogmatics: A Dogumentary, on the other hand, needs work. There’s no natural flow between the band name and the neologism “dogumentary.” If I’m watching a “dogumentary,” I would expect to see something more along canine subject lines. It’s a minor nitpick, to be sure, but still.
When it comes to playing live all these years, the band is still all-in for charity shows and does wind up performing quite a bit. “There’s something wrong with us,” says Lehane. “We like to torture ourselves. They are also back to creating new music. Chris Parcellin, director of another Boston music documentary about the punk days, Boys from Nowhere, remembers them fondly. “Great Boston band. I had their two albums back in the ’80s. One of my band’s first gigs, when I was a teenager, was with the Dogmatics and the Classic Ruins. I thought they were kind of like a cross between the New York Dolls, early Rolling Stones, and the Ramones. They had a really cool rock n roll attitude that permeated their music.“
The Dogmatics: A Dogumentary is an affectionate love letter to a band, a city, and a time when it all came together in the ultimate garage band punk lifestyle. If you know The Dogmatics, you will enjoy the nostalgia and good times remembered. If you don’t, then you’ll love getting to know them and what it was like in Boston when they appeared on the scene.
"…an affectionate love letter to a band, a city, and a time..."