Dropkick Murphys Deliver More Good Ol’ Fashioned Drinking Music On Their Latest, 11 Short Stories Of Pain And Glory
By Jeff Feuerhaken
Ever have those moments when time creeps up on you and smacks you in the face with a vicious left hook, leaving you wondering “How did I get so old so fast?” Well, I’m sitting here reeling as I just realized it’s now been 20 years since punk n’ rollers Dropkick Murphys stomped onto the scene with their debut album, Do Or Die. Despite some member changes here and there, the band has remained true to their sound throughout their career, and the fans have remained true to them for it. What Dropkick delivers to the masses is a whiskey-swillin-irish-folk-punk-barfight soundtrack. I know that for me, personally, there are certain times where this sound hits the spot just right, particularly when I’m whiskey swillin’ and bar fightin’ (ok, maybe not so much the fighting part). Simply put, Dropkick Murphy’s is perfect drinking music.
The band’s new album, 11 Short Stories Of Pain & Glory, finds them in familiar, if not over-familiar, territory. From the opening flute and chants of the leadoff anthem, “The Lonely Boatman”, it’s made clear right away that there won’t be too much straying from the formula that has helped the band become so successful. The first single, entitled simply enough, “Blood”, has been accompanied by a stylish lyric video that does a fine job of capturing the band’s essence. The song’s melody bears more than a passing resemblance to Johnny Cash’s timeless “Ring Of Fire”, or more accurately, to Social Distortion’s cover of it. In fact, it’s not just the melody itself that reminds me so much of Social Distortion. Dropkick Murphy’s seems to have taken a page from the Social D. playbook in that the emphasis is more on the vibe of the songs than on any clever song structure. The songs are simplistic, but that’s the way the band (and the fans) like it. Call it blasphemy on my part, but I could stand to hear a little bit more deviation between the songs in DM’s repertoire. But hey, that’s just me.
The standout songs on 11 Short Stories are the ones that venture to do something a little different. For instance, “4-15-13”, a tribute to the Boston Marathon bombing, just kills it with mandolin, bagpipe, and flute all thrown into the mix. Sprinkle the recurring theme of unity in the face of adversity, and you’ve got yourself a very powerful tune. Some of the album’s more uptempo numbers, such as “I Had A Hat” and “Kicked To The Curb” are pure fun, and other more diverse jams like “Sandlot” and “First Class Loser” utilize just the right orchestrations of instruments to mix things up a little. The Irish influences, being a crucial element of the band’s sound, are on full display here, most notably in “Boatman” and in a sweet cover of “You’ll Never Walk Alone”.
If you’ve been riding the Dropkick Murphy’s train for a while now, chances are you’re going to love this album. It captures brilliantly all things the band does so well. If you’ve been hoping for the band to break out of their comfort zone and try something a little different, you won’t find much of that here. But this is a band that has built its reputation on tradition, and therefore keeping it real has its merits. The production of the album is superb, and the mix leaves little, if anything, to be desired. The alternating vocal attack of Al Barr and Ken Casey sounds just as sharp as ever. 11 Short Stories Of Pain & Glory should not be missed, whether you’re a die hard fan, a casual fan, or even just curious as to what these guys are all about. This album is an accurate representation of their sound, and a welcome entry to their discography. So grab yourself a pint of Guiness or a bottle of Jameson, put this album on, and enjoy!