February 6, 2013

Record Reactions: Dropkick Murphys – Signed And Sealed In Blood

The first statement on the new Dropkick Murphys record is a declaration. “The boys are back, and they’re looking for trouble.

This may not sound like an earth-shattering revelation, and by most accounts it’s not. But for this group, it’s a bit of a different message. This is a group that since 1996, have mostly kept to their own devices – originating around the Boston bar scene and touring areas where their fan bases loved them. Dropkick might not play arenas, but that’s not to say they ever wanted to.

Dropkick Murphys are the definition of a live band. The atmosphere and the energy of their performance is a huge part of their appeal. So what’s remarkable about this new recording is how they managed to somehow capture that essence through a studio, and not in front of a screaming audience. Additionally, their usual salt of the earth punk sound has been supercharged with anthemic stadium rock production.

After spending time with concept albums, more progressive and inventive styles, Dropkick are coming home, back to what they do best – anthemic, not exactly ground-breaking, not exactly deep, fun punk-influenced Celtic-rock.

Like a metal band, they know their niche audiences, and unlike most pop acts around them, they don’t change their sound to sell some records. This is their eighth album in about 15 years, and there hasn’t been a drastic transformation yet. This is a band that knows how to have fun and they enjoy doing it.

Dropkick claims to take influence from classic punk rock bands The Clash, The Sex Pistols, and Irish rock band, The Pogues. The members of the band heard old Irish music growing up as children, and this style infiltrated their sound from the beginning.

The band, themselves, has actually spoken about their inspirations for this record. Bassist Ken Casey said this record was “just us having fun and making the most catchy, sing-along kind of songs we can.”

“This time we cut loose.”

One of the things I really respect about Dropkick is their complete unabashed love of what they do and their complete lack of desire to change anything about it. The familiar Dropkick musical elements are all there. Every now and then, you’ll hear a little shadow of a bagpipe, or a mandolin, or some Irish instrumentation. Acoustic guitars strum a million miles an hour. And electric guitars, slightly fuzzed out, chug alongside fast, aggressive tempos. And there’s lots of singing and yelling. Clearly it’s a winning formula, as the band has made no attempt, or even devoted a thought, to changing.

They don’t care their records don’t generally chart near the top. They’re just here to have a great time. This album accomplishes what it sets out to do. It’s not the most interesting, complex or ambitious of goals, but it accomplishes it with gusto. From a technical point of view, there’s nothing wrong with it. From an execution point of view, and from clarity of thought, it’s flawless.

Everything is fast, loose, anthemic, and fun. And almost every track features a shout chorus, just like you would find at a very happy hour at a bar in Boston, or in Ireland, or downtown wherever you might be. Put this on at your next party or trip to the bar. It’ll be sure to get your buds singing along. Party and dance and have fun.

The boys are back, back to doing what they do best. And they’re looking for trouble.


Image Credit: Dropkick Murphys

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