“Six long months I spent in Quincy/six long months doing nothing at all/six long months I spent in Quincy/learning to dance for Flannigan’s Ball” Quintessential Irish lyrics, and a quintessential tune by Boston’s favorite sons Dropkick Murphys. The Celtic punkers are back with an expanded CD and DVD edition of their 2007 CD The Meanest of Times. Fresh off the success of their last CD, and an appearance on the soundtrack to the Best Picture Oscar winner The Departed, the Murphys ratcheted up the noise and improved the songwriting, delivering a one-two punch that Irish Mickey Ward would be proud of.
Times is a solid effort, full of the usual hard-edged punk-flavored Celtic–influenced mix that the Murphys have made their trademark. There is a polish to the songs lacking in their previous efforts. While that is generally a cause for alarm for most bands the members manage to keep things raw enough to offset any dip in quality.
“State of Massachusetts” was the first single released and one the band played on the TV show Late Night With David Letterman. It’s a good tune, bringing to light another unique aspect of the band, their lyrics. The band tackles subjects a little more weighty than the usual, ranging from drug addiction to rising above adversity.
The bonus tracks on this CD/DVD include a cover of the Thin Lizzy classic “Jailbreak.” On this song, you can get a glimpse of the minimalist Murphys, heavy with power chords, light on Celtic instruments. The song is the strongest of the bonus tracks, which also includes the original version of “Flannigan’s Ball,” before it was punched up with guest vocals from Ronnie Drew from the legendary Dubliners, and Spider from The Pogues. The revamped “Ball” is the one track that speeds right out of the gate and grabs you with its hook, never letting go. It’s everything that’s great about the Murphys: rocking, hook-laden, and most of all, authentic.
The DVD has a few performances and a charity event hosted by the band with an appearance by aforementioned journeyman boxing legend Irish Mickey Ward and a rousing sing-a-long of “The Wild Rover.”
The Murphys have been taking some hits from the old-time fans who think they are losing their punk rock roots. It’s often the case as a band increases in popularity that there are cries of “sell-out” from those who were fans since the beginning. But in this case, I think it’s a misplaced concern. The band is expanding their musicianship as well as their take on two venerable musical genres. The Murphys are still not mainstream and their rocking rendition of the Irish anti-war song “Johnny I Hardly Knew Ya’” is not something you’ll be hearing on American Idol.