Life is looking up for Boston's Dropkick Murphys. The group just headlined the WBCN River Rave at the Tweeter Center, where it served as unofficial guru for younger acts such as Good Charlotte and AFI. And that wasn't long after the Murphys played an impressive four nights at Avalon during the week of St. Patrick's Day.
Back in the studio trenches, the Murphys have conceived one of their best offerings yet. Punk ferocity is mixed with Celtic pride and a working-class-hero ethic on ''Blackout.'' The band slams through 14 songs that burn a hole in listeners' ears. The album is partly dedicated to the Clash's Joe Strummer, who would no doubt have grooved to these rhythmic blasts. There are songs about the pitfalls of alcohol (''The Dirty Glass''), the tribulations of love (''Walk Away''), the plight of miners (''Buried Alive''), and, yes, the joys of the Boston Bruins (''Time to Go,'' meaning time to go to the hockey game and shout yourself hoarse, which is what singer Al Barr does on a number of these tracks). The Murphys also flaunt their political edge in ''World Full of Hate'' and ''Worker's Song,'' a powerful, fight-to-the-finish tune about workers being the first to starve and the first to be sent to war to die. The band makes sure this album resonates long after the last draught of Guinness is poured. Dropkick Murphys are on the Vans Warped Tour at the Brockton Fairgrounds July 31.