Over the years, Dropkick Murphys have evolved (depending on your standpoint) from a full on Hardcore band into a good time Celtic Punk juggernaut. Their current incarnation has been knocking out huge sing-along feel good songs for some time now. A heady mix of bagpipes, penny whistles, choruses that are easy to chant when three sheets to the wind, and chest pounding guitar riffs is, as it would turn out, endlessly entertaining.
Despite the accusation that all their recent output sounds the same, their last effort, Going Out In Style, was a concept based around the fictional life and death of the character Cornelius Larkin. They clearly are capable of bigger ideas. There are no such highfalutin notions this time around though. No Bruce Springsteen throwing his weight behind the songs (although Don’t Tear Us Apart would fitt onto the Boss’s Wrecking Ball album); just straight up Dropkicks Celtic Punk.
The Boys Are Back sets the barrel rolling with a great big anthemic chorus stuck on to a full throttle verse. A stock Dropkicks tune it might be, but it gets the pulse racing with incredible ease. The hypercharged sea-shanty is also something that Dropkicks return to with some regularity and Prisoner’s Song is their latest take on it. Essentially Shipping Up To Boston by another name, it raises the question of whether it’s possible to plagiarise your own material, or at least it would if it were possible to stop doing the hornpipe while it plays out.
So far so typical, but Rose Tattoo shows that Dropkick Murphys aren’t just about dancing wild drunken jigs and bellowing. A tender tale of a life laid out and commemorated in body art it yanks at the heartstrings and fills your glass at the same time. Jimmy Collin’s Wake addresses similar themes of loss (this time it’s in memory of the Boston Red Sox player/manger who led the team to the 1903 World Series), but rather than head for the emotional edge of Rose Tattoo, they evoke a grand old piss up.
The Christmas singalong of The Season’s Upon Us meanwhile is a strange inclusion for an album released in January. The influence of The Pogues is undeniable, and it’s reflected not just in the concept of the festive concept but the lyrical switcharoo that details a fraught time spent with a dysfunctional family. Maybe it’ll get a single release around December. The Pogues’ influence is also in evidence on Out Of Heads with a subtle nod to Sally Maclennan hidden under the bombast of the guitars.
Elsewhere it’s business as usual, as The Battle Rages On and My Hero tap into the blistering punk tirades of the band’s past. There is a strange stop off courtesy of Out On The Town however when the band are suddenly possessed by the spirit of Glam Rock. Quite why they thought Devil Gate Drive or Gary Glitter were worth emulating is anyone’s guess. Presumably it seemed like a good idea after a night on the town.
Closing the album is End Of The Night, which has clearly been written with their live show in mind. There will be much swaying of glasses held aloft to this tune in the foreseeable future. It also contains a line which succinctly sums up Dropkick Murphys’ more recent career. “I got thousands of stories, you’ve heard them before, and I’ll tell them again and again” sings Al Barr and although he’s adopting a persona, it’s not far from the truth as far as the Dropkicks are concerned. The point is, that when the stories are this well told, it doesn’t matter that Dropkick Murphys keep re-writing them.