Hard to believe it’s been almost 5 months since my last post. Cramming an entire year’s worth of album reviews into one month was grueling. I’ve done it before, and each time I say this year I’ll review things as they come out. Of course I never do, but dammit I’m gonna give it a shot this time. I’ve also seen a lot of these acts in concert in the last few months, so where applicable I’m going to throw in a live review or comments. Let’s start out with the latest offering from the Dropkick Murphys.
Released Jan. 8th on Born & Bred Records
I’ve never been a big fan of the Dropkick Murphys. They’ve come a long way since their early Oi! efforts, certainly, but the whole Celtic punk thing got tired for me fast. You know all the subject matter going in: blue-collar solidarity, Irish pub tunes, and Bostonian pride. That’s not a put-down of the band, but after a while it all blends together. That’s probably why, despite having a couple dozen DKM songs in my library from various compilations, I’ve only ever bought one of their albums until now (2007’s The Meanest of Times). Their last one, Going Out in Style, was apparently a concept record about (what else) the life of a working-class Irish immigrant. Signed and Sealed in Blood has no such narrative; it’s a dozen raucous numbers about drinking, tattoos, and friends and idols lost.
And that’s not a bad thing. It certainly delivers in fist-pumping energy, like the get-ready-for-a-wild-night opener “The Boys are Back”:
Lead single “Rose Tattoo” is a fine example of everything this band does best, blending Irish folk music seamlessly with punk energy:
The band’s hometown pride pops up in “Jimmy Collins’ Wake”, an ode to turn-of the-century Boston baseball icons like the titular third baseman, who played for the Boston Beaneaters and was the first manager of the Americans (later the Red Sox), leading them to victory in the very first World Series. Then there’s “The Season’s Upon Us”, a tune about getting together with crazy family members during the holidays. It seems strange to have a Christmas song smack in the middle of an album that came out in January, but they did get the single/video out in December. It’s just unusual for these sorts of holiday novelty tracks to show up on regular albums.
The back half of the album cruises by with signature DKM sounds on “The Battle Rages On” and “My Hero”, both of which are designed to inspire circle pits. “Out on the Town” is a standout, with swagger and a bouncy bass line. Closer “End of the Night” brings down the tempo, just as its title suggests, and features some nice backing vocals from the Parkington Sisters. It’s the Dropkicks’ “Closing Time”, if you will.
Eight albums in, the Dropkick Murphys are very comfortable with their sound. While Signed and Sealed in Blood doesn’t try anything new, it is a solid bunch of rousing tunes that will definitely please their fanbase. On a side note, in the aftermath of the Boston Marathon bombings the band designed a “For Boston” t-shirt sold through their webstore, with all proceeds going to the victims and their families. According to reports, they raised over $150,000 in about a week. I’d expect a song about the bombings to turn up on the next record, given how much hometown pride these guys have.