8 January 2017

Dropkick Murphys - 11 Short Stories of Pain & Glory

The Dropkick Murphys always have a gang mentality and sound like a fight is going to start in any room that appear in, they are a fun band to watch live, but they also have a heart of gold to them as well.  The Claddagh Fund heavily influenced the album, this is a charity that the band set up in 2009 to help support addiction recovery as well as children's and veterans' organizations.  This is their ninth studio album and their first to be recorded outside of their home city of Boston, so they are branching out and trying something new, let us see how it has turned out.

01 – The Lonesome Boatman

This atmospheric opening is stepped in Celtic drama and mixed with punk overtones as well, the oh’s and chanting could be used to bring a sports team to the field as it builds into a great number that links into the soul.  It reminds me of some instrumentals I have heard from the likes of the Fureys and Wolftones, stirring up the traditional tones of the Irish sound with the band’s punk roots to maximum effect.

02 – Rebels With A Cause

As usual the band sound as if they are acting out their gang mentality here, a song about strength, determination and having the dedication to follow your ideas to the end, something which was inspired by their work with the Claddagh fund.  It is a solid enough number, possibly missing a punch behind the guitars for my tastes here, but it is not something that takes anything away from the tune.  A positive number that will motivate anyone who requires that extra pep talk which everyone requires every now and then, also one which gains deeper meaning after you find out what it is written about.

03 – Blood

The pipes are out in full force on this number, a song about the importance of standing up for yourself and being ready to fight when it is required.  It is a slow number, one that sounds as if it is ready for chanting and could be a battle cry when required.  It is also a grower and takes a few listens to show what it is all about, it is a nice change to be honest and one of my favourite from the record.

04 – Sandlot

A song about looking back on the formative years, getting away with all sorts of schemes and having the bottle to follow through with those ideas and enjoying the simple pleasures in life.  There is a bit of jealous in the mix as well and the song is decent enough, it is a lighter moment with a rock ‘n’ roll theme running through as the song is driven by the acoustic guitar.  It reminds me of Against Me in places and Green Day as well during their ‘Minority’ period, but it is not exactly setting the world a light or starting the party off, if anything it is towards the end of the party when memories come back into play and you bemoan how the good old days are gone.  A strange, but decent number.

05 – First Class Loser

A song about a selfish dick who you would cross moving traffic to avoid, this Celtic stomp is not hiding anything about the dicks in their life’s and it has a large dose of dark humour at the very centre of the song.  Musically it is still very gentle and the punk is taking a backseat once again, but it works so well on this number.  It is a funny and brutal number, definitely one of the best of the album.

06 – Paying My Way

When the drum beat started, I thought it was going to be a cover of Queen’s ‘We Will Rock You’; no, this is a song about paying your dues and making your own way in the world.  A song about never giving up and taking all steps to hang on in there is something to be admired, the message of the song is an inspiration which cannot be denied.  Musically though, it does not quite match the lyrical grandeur of the song.  It is not bad, it just feels as if it is aiming for epic and it sort of feels forced for the best part of the song; it gets its act together by the end of the song as you can imagine the crowd joining in, but the beginning parts are trying to sound the same and it does not click until those last few passages. Almost there, but still missing pieces of the puzzle.

07 – I Had A Hat

A song that sounds like a fight is forming from the opening chord and the party is happening as the fists are flying at a wake, a bar and everywhere else until the “hat” is returned to its rightful owner.  When the band are making this sort of song, it showcases their strengths for me; anarchic, mad as a box of frogs, full of energy and it could start a party by itself.  They have other facets, but this is the one which works the best for me and this is the best song of the album for me.

08 – Kicked To The Curb

A song about being dumped is a straight forward punk number with a rock ‘n’ roll bass line, changing the sound of the band once more on this album.  It is not one of my favourites to be honest, but it is one that I cannot help listening to; I guess it is a grower that I will love in the future, at the moment it is a little strange – nothing more, nothing less.

09 – You’ll Never Walk Alone

In the UK, this song from the musical ‘Carousel’ is most associate with Liverpool Football Club as it was adopted as their anthem in the sixties.  The band themselves have been hit with deaths of close ones and this song played as they were leaving one and it summed out how they were feeling.  It is something that is easy to associate with, people are losing the will to live and feeling so lonely in the modern age where we are supposed to be more connected than in previous generations.  I salute them for their cover, it is a beautiful version of this anthemic song.

10 – 4-15-13

Another song with a strong message, this time as a tribute to the victims of the Boston Marathon bombing on April 15th, 2013.  It is a hard song to listen to in places, but as the bands are natives of that fine city who visited the victims in the hospital after the event and wanted to pay tribute to those men and women, instead of how it affected them.  I think they have done a fine job here, one that shows that whilst the city was wounded, it did not make them stand down – it made them determined.

11 – Until The Next Time

Ending the album is ‘Until The Next Time’, a song about the end of the night and those goodbyes as people sing songs of farewell.  It feels like a natural place to end things, it also feels like it is pulling you into reality after those two emotional moments that stirred so strong emotions.  It feels a little bit flippant after those moments, but to be honest I think it is needed as well.  You leave on a fun moment and wish each other well, job done on this number.

There are issues with this album, for me it is not as fluid as other records by the Dropkick Murphys and it sort of drifts a bit in places where the lyrical content is demanding a focused performance.  The band have always had lighter moments, sometimes it shows the best of the band; on here though, they rarely come together in a way that feels natural.  It does not quite make the bridge between their lighter side and punk side, which is something that they have managed to do before.  Now with that said, this song does have a stunning set of songs towards the end of the album, ‘You’ll Never Walk Alone’, ‘I Had A Hat’ and the brilliant ‘4-15-13’ are as good as anything off their back catalogue and those songs along save the album for me.  I also applaud the community spirit and sentiment from the band, their work in their home city is something that makes them legends for another reason apart from their music.  But just like a bad pizza, an off-key Dropkick Murphys album is still something to enjoy; it is only in comparison that it sorts of falls down.  Decent and worth a listen, especially for those three songs named above.

7.5 out of ten – This is good and worth checking out.

Top track – I Had A Hat

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