Guitar, bass, drums, bodhran, accordion, mandolin, tin whistle, dulcimer, and bagpipes. Dropkick Murphys use all these instruments on their fourth studio album, Blackout. I’m just going to pretend I know what the hell a bodhran is and act like I don’t know what a dulcimer is; I don’t want my cool points to rapidly deplete. Oh, did I mention Dropkick Murphys is a well-respected punk band?
Formed in 1995 in South Boston, Dropkick Murphys exploded onto the punk scene and secured a large following two years later with the Hellcat release Do or Die. Murphys combined Al Barr’s deep, strong and sometimes sneering vocals with fast, hard punk beats andIrish folk music. And they did it well and with pride in their Boston-raised Irish heritage.
Since Do or Die though, Dropkick Murphys music has become increasingly lighter with each album. Blackout extends this trend as the harsh guitars take a background seat and Barr even softly croons his way through some songs. The music has a steadier, happier (even when are words are anything but cheerful) beat and their Irish folk side dominates. But the Murphys previous ability to combine their proud, beer-drinking, Irish roots with the brash notes of punk just isn’t there.
They’ve lost a lot of their musical edge, but their sarcastic, fuck-off attitude and working-class loyalty hasn’t gone along with it. I mean, how can you not like a band with a song named “Kiss Me I’m Shitfaced.”
I’m not sure if they make fun of themselves or the one-night-stand lifestyle by proclaiming their ability to get laid whenever they choose without cheesy pick-up lines. Either way, Dropkick Murphys chants in the chorus, “So kiss me I’m shitfaced, I’m soaked I’m soiled and brown, In the trousers, she kissed me, and I only bought her one round.” Backed by an Irish folk beat and bagpipes, it’s the perfect song to, um, get shit-faced to.
“The Dirty Glass” is another drinking song set to an ultra-fast beat. Set as a fight between two equally pissed-off lovers, the vocals alternate between Barr and Stephanie Dougherty as they take (sometimes) cheap shots at each other. “You weren’t the first to court me mister you won’t be the last” is answered with “Oh, sure, I wasn’t honey, I know about your past.”
In true Dropkick Murphys fashion, the band includes an ode to the working class with “Worker’s Song (Handful of Earth),” a song that could become an upbeat (again with the bagpipes) but forceful anthem to the frustrated workers that get little respect in our corporate-minded society.
Blackout may be slower and a little more Irish folk than outright hard-ass punk, but the Murphys attitude makes it all right. Half a point is just for “Kiss Me I’m Shitfaced” alone. Listen to the lyrics with its accompanied Irish folk beat. You’ll understand.