Dropkick Murphys - The Warrior's Code (Hellcat) By Sev firstname.lastname@example.org
Every time I get a new Dropkick Murphys album in the mail is like striking a little bit of gold. I know that a lot of my most recent records are going to have to take a back seat to make space for the DKM in my CD rotation for quite a while. At this point in their careers the band has transcended the status of being a punk band and evolved into an all-out national phenomenon. Their last album, Blackout, was easily their most accessible record to date, giving the band a universal rock appeal that not too many bands in the punk scene enjoy. But as good as Blackout was, the Dropkick Murphys continue to grow as musicians and top themselves yet again with The Warrior's Code, an album that finds the band at a point when they no longer have anything to prove and are so confident in what they do that they can seamlessly pop out gem after gem.
One of the best things about the Dropkick Murphys is the anthemic quality to their songs - these are songs that you want to scream from the top of your lungs, fist raised, and you get that invigorating feeling that brings a smile to your face. Well, one thing for sure is that the band hasn't sounded this anthemic since their first full length Do or Die, where pretty much every song was an anthem in its own right. Right from the very beginning the band grabs you with the speed of "Your Spirit's Alive" and oh those sweet gang vocals. I think this song has the power to join "Cadence to Arms" and "For Boston" as a potential opener to their live shows. "The Walking Dead" is a punk rock gem that would feel right at home on Rancid's ...And Out Come the Wolves, whereas "Citizen C.I.A." is a rousing hardcore number that takes full advantage of Al Barr's growling voice. Even the album's first single, "Sunshine Highway," which is one of the poppier tracks the band has ever written, has a wonderfully crafted melodic chorus that will have the toughest skinhead in the block singing along.
As always, the band offers a couple of traditional songs arranged in DKM fashion, and the hilarious "Captain Kelly's Kitchen" may be the band's finest arrangement to date; and yes, even better than "Finnegan's Wake." The music is fast, fun, and catchy, and you can tell that this will be a fan favorite at their shows. "The Green Fields of France," which was written by Eric Bogle, is the slowest song in the band's repertoire, and incidentally, one of the best. The piano-driven ballad features some of Al Barr's most accomplished singing to date - who knew that he could sing so beautifully. If anyone ever thought that the DKM lacked emotion, listening to this song could bring a tear to anyone's eye. The Dropkick Murphys have also always channeled AC/DC and classic rock on a few songs, and on this album they offer "The Burden," which has the irresistibly catchy line of "Frankie's gonna be alright."
Key to the band's success has been their ability to tell wonderfully compelling stories musically, and The Warrior's Code continues this tradition. The title track is a wonderful song about Massachusetts boxer Micky Ward, whose description by the band can only be paralleled by the band themselves. At times the material can be quite heavy, as with the aforementioned "Your Spirit's Alive," a song dedicated to a friend of the band who passed away after a motorcycle accident. Dropkick Murphys have always carried a reputation of being a patriotic band, but their anti-war sentiments are channeled in this album. The band is very subtle with this theme but quite effective, containing a trilogy of tracks that drives the point home. "Citizen C.I.A." pokes fun at the country's foreign political intervention and questionable recruitment practices, whereas "The Green Fields of France" details the fallen dead during WW1, with a key line that goes, "The suffering, the sorrow, the glory, the shame/the killing and dying, it was all done in vain./Oh Willie McBride it all happened again/and again and again and again and again." This theme is rounded out by the tragically moving "Last Letter Home," the story of a soldier who was killed in Iraq and requested a Dropkick Murphys song to be played at his funeral. The band includes actual words from the soldier's letter, and if there ever was a song that would make you think twice about war, you don't need to look any further. But the band knows when to play it light, as in the hilarious "Wicked Sensitive Crew," in which the band jokes about the testosterone-raging reputation they've acquired. Similarly, "I'm Shipping Up to Boston" is centered around a Woody Guthrie lyric about a sailor who lost his wooden leg in Boston.
As an added bonus, The Warrior's Code closes with the Red Sox anthem "Tessie," which many superstitious folks have credited as having something to do with last year's Red Sox World Series victory. One thing's for sure though, the band's love for Boston (and the city's reciprocated love) cannot be denied. And as much as the Dropkick Murphys are a Boston band at heart, they're truly a band for anyone and everyone, because these songs are a testament that when there is so much heart and soul in your music, there really are no boundaries.