Boston's Dropkick Murphys don't write songs, they write anthems for the working class, Irish, Bostonians, hockey fans, punk rockers, and anyone who wishes they were any of those. The amazing thing is that even if you don't have any of said desires, you'll still probably find Blackout to be one of the best albums of the summer.
The Dropkick Murphys originally received recognition for their modernized street-punk/oi! anthems. Their first two albums provided the same kick in the teeth once provided by Sham 69 and the Angelic Upstarts, yet behind the Murphys' ornery shell, a distinct affinity for folk music hides. At first, folkish leanings came through on a song or two, but it wasn't until the band's fourth album, Sing Loud, Sing Proud (2001, Epitaph), that they came to the forefront. With the addition of bagpipes and mandolin, the Murphys fully embraced Irish folk and invoked The spirit of the Pogues at their finest. However, there was always the feeling that one was listening to two bands as it bounced between punk and folk styles: the Irish Dropkicks and the punk Dropkicks.
On Blackout the unevenness is gone, replaced by a supremely confident band eager to flex its newfound muscles. The first track, "Walk Away," is misleading as its hook-laden guitar riffs and gang-chorus borders closely to the territory inhabited by most Southern California punk bands. Soon after, however, the band rectifies things with "Worker's Song," a fine homage to those who toil "when the fat cat's about." Proving that the Murphys truly understand where their music comes from, they infuse the Woody Guthrie penned "Gonna Be a Blackout Tonight" with a rage that Guthrie never had the resources to convey.
The band continues to study its roots with the covers of "Black Velvet Band" and "Fields of Athenry." The first is a traditional Irish number, while the second, penned by Pete St. John, vividly paints a picture of life in Ireland during the famine of the 1800s. The record features two acoustic numbers, "World Full of Hate" and "Bastards on Parade;" the latter features the first fiddle breakdown in punk history. For those who only savor songs suited for a sweaty mosh pit, there are the anthems "Time to Go" and "This Is Your Life." Then there are the two gems, "Kiss Me I'm Shitfaced" and "The Dirty Glass" both of which stand out on a brilliant album. "The Dirty Glass" features Stephanie Dougherty trading barbs with front man Al Barr and bassist Casey. Dougherty's sass is the perfect foil for the bravado of Barr and Casey as the rest of the band eagerly provides them with a backdrop for their heated battle of who was worst to whom. Every band in America should be forced to play "Kiss Me I'm Shitfaced," before last call, as it song features Barr bragging to a women about his manliness, and features brilliant boasts like "I can bench press a car, I'm an ex-football star/ With degrees from both Harvard and Yale," or, "I designed the Sears Tower, I make two grand an hour/ I cook the world's best Duck Flambé." Finally as the raucous dies down, our hero admits he's full of shit before begging "Kiss Me I'm Shitfaced." It's truly a song to which any bullshit artist would be proud to raise a drink.
The Dropkicks are more than good, they're awfully smart, too. By paying homage to their roots, they show a clear understanding for where they've come. By updating those same roots with sharp songwriting, and a wicked lyrical approach they prove up to the task of surpassing those that came before them.
- Adam Dlugacz