Perseverance pays off, that’s what they say. It’s rarely true in the music world as bands tend to hit their peak early on before churning out substandard material as their careers continue, inevitably destroying everything that the band once stood for.
Dropkick Murphys however have bucked this trend quite magnificently. Sticking to their guns and continuing down their particular path has resulted in what might well be their best album to date.
With The Meanest of Times DKM have perfected their mix of Celtic folk and breakneck punk. As the title suggests many of the subjects tackled on the album are not exactly party material; so there’s plenty of death (God Willing) and a fair dose of whiskey war suicide and guns.
This being the Dropkick Murphys, such dour subject matter doesn’t hamper proceedings. God Willing’s refrain of “It’s the last time I’ll put my arms around you, the last time I’ll say goodbye” is far from the lament it sounds. Instead it is the sound of riotous celebration, and it sums up exactly what it is that DKM do so well. The mix of bagpipes, roared choruses (which ultimately will sound fantastically ringing out drunkenly at the live shows) and frantic hardcore guitars you’ll find waiting for you gel perfectly to make a thunderous kick to the head. You can practically hear the beer glasses shattering on the rafters.
The State of Massachusetts repeats the trick mixing traditional Celtic instrumentation with the Dropkick’s roaring punk. Al Barr’s vocals are as usual spot-on tuneful and possessing so much grit it sounds as if he’s been gargling with sand for the best part of his adult life.
Tomorrow’s Industry and I’ll Begin Again find the band back in familiar territory, with their heads down and foot to the floor pelting through blazing punk, not to mention the band’s belief in working class solidarity. It suits them well, but it’s when they bring together their folk and punk influences that they really shine.
Flannigan’s Ball is a perfect example of this. A tale of a typically debauched party that inevitably ends up a massive ruck, it’s a full three minutes that sounds like the greatest party you’ve never been to.
It is perhaps fitting that the album closes with a cover of Thin Lizzy‘s Jailbreak. It is perhaps not the most original choice but it sums the credos of the band perfectly. Lizzy were of course one of the progenitors of the collision of rock and Celtic tradition, fronted by the most unlikely (at the time) of pop stars, an illegitimate, black, Irish man. Dropkick Murphys know their history, their traditions, and they believe in hard work and self improvement. This album proves that this is a band that is improving with every release.
The Meanest of Times is a lyrically dense album, but in spite of it all Dropkick Murphys know how to turn a wake in to a party.