Posts Tagged ‘ Dropkick Murphys ’

Dropkick Murphys – Signed and Sealed In Blood (Music Review)

Signed and Sealed In Blood cover

Dropkick Murphys – Signed and Sealed In Blood

Maybe the best way to summarize Signed and Sealed In Blood is with “Jimmy Collins’ Wake”. A fun, life-affirming track that mixes the Dropkick Murphys’ love of Boston, punk, Irish culture, and sports, it’s definitely a good song. If you’d never heard the band before, you would probably be very impressed. But if you are already familiar with them, you’d know that they already have a couple superior songs about wakes, and at least one better one about baseball. That feeling persists throughout the album. In some ways, it’s to the band’s credit that their sound is so familiar now, but it’s still undeniable that Signed and Sealed is a consistently good album that just can’t escape the shadow of earlier songs.

It’s possible for the Murphys to escape this curse. 2011’s Going Out In Style was a rousing success, presenting punk as an inseparable part of their community-centered Irish roots. Signed and Sealed takes a turn to harder music, with less sincerity and more comfortable formulas. They have several compelling songs about hard drinking and fighting for what’s right, but their lifestyle seems less well-rounded without the expected ballads and traditional songs.

There are several high points: “Rose Tattoo” could have been the album’s slow ballad, but with the band unwilling to slow down, it becomes something new and surprising. “Out On The Town” experiments with a rawer punk sound than the Murphys have used in years, and “The Battle Rages On” is their most spirited call to battle since “The Gauntlet”. On the other hand, the gimmicky, mean-spirited Christmas song “The Season’s Upon Us” is a rare misfire from the band.

Don’t expect Signed and Sealed In Blood to be another Going Out In Style, but this band can’t fail to make good songs. Just ask yourself whether you’re excited about the prospect of hearing the Dropkick Murphys’ third-best song about a wake. If you are, and there’s nothing wrong with that, then you’ll enjoy this. If you’re not sure what I’m talking about, though, there are better albums to start with.

Grade: B-

 
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Best Albums of 2011

It’s traditional for end-of-year lists to start with a self-aware apology. I’ll gloss over the standard part, because I assume you already know how silly and arbitrary this process is, that it’s only meant to reflect my own opinion, and so on. The only part that really gives me pause is how incomplete it is. I do this as a hobby, which means that I’m generally only reviewing the albums I’ve chosen to buy (or in a couple cases, borrowed from friends). This year, I reviewed 67 albums, only 32 of which were actually from 2011. I still have about 15 more from this year that I have yet to review. Now, I listened to part or all of a couple hundred albums online before I decided I was interested in the ones I bought, but it’s still a limited sample.

So, I’m sure I’ve missed a few gems. But at this point in my life, I’m pretty confident in my ability to find the music I’m most likely to enjoy. So I think it’s fair for me to pick a top 5 for the year. Even if I did buy and review a couple hundred more of the year’s popular albums, I think that these ones would manage to stay within the top 10.

I don’t really feel like there was a runaway #1 this year, but I’m comfortable defending each one’s position near the top. Yes, even the albums that no one else picked.

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Dropkick Murphys – Going Out In Style (Music Review)

Going Out In Style cover

Dropkick Murphys - Going Out In Style

Don’t let the Dropkick Murphys fool you. Though they named their latest album Going Out In Style, they have no plan to disband anytime soon. They’re an institution now, so much so that their Wikipedia page needs a chart to record the members who have come and gone over the years, and they know exactly how to please their fans with every new album. (It helps that they wait a few years between each release, so there’s never a glut of Murphys music.)

That’s not to say that the Dropkick Murphys sound exactly the same from year to year. Interestingly, Going Out In Style is possibly the Irish punk band’s hardest album yet, but the standard punk signifiers are almost missing. Bagpipes and flutes, which used to appear sporadically for flavor, are now as prominent as the guitars, and a new listener could easily interpret this as an especially raucous Irish band.

Despite this change, the band’s strength is still in how naturally they connect Irish and punk culture. The wild party in Going Out In Style’s title track is a punker’s dream, but the specifics draw from hard-drinking Irish culture. “Sunday Hardcore Matinee” is about going to concerts as a kid, but describes punk shows as a character-building experience that their community-oriented fanbase will embrace. And of course, the Murphys’ rocking renditions of traditional songs (here “Peg of My Heart” and “The Irish Rover”) still sound like they should have been the definitive versions of the songs all along.

Even more than the Irish elements, the thing that really sets the Dropkick Murphys apart from other punk bands is their perspective as mature adults. It’s a traditionally youthful genre, but they manage to sound perfectly natural looking back at a hard-fought life (“Cruel”) or giving life lessons to those around them (“Deeds Not Words”). This element features even more strongly than normal here, with Going Out In Style being billed as a tribute to a (fictional) 78-year-old veteran and longshoreman named Connie Larkin.

In short, the Dropkick Murphys have once again released one of the best legitimate punk albums of the year, while also writing songs that will appeal to a lot of people who would normally even never give punk music a chance.

Grade: A-