When Dropkick Murphys are at their best, they are unbeatable. Even when they aren’t, they are never boring. Here, on Signed and Sealed in Blood, they are phenomenal. They make you want to dance, and make you want to fight. They make you want to embrace your family and punch out your enemies. Mostly, though, they make you exhilarated, excited, and very, very happy.
According to the press release, the band took a break from touring this past spring and spent time in a warehouse/rehearsal space in South Boston to write the songs for this album. They were on fire with creativity, cranking everything up and blending their traditional guitars and acoustic instruments into what has turned out to be one tremendous musical result.
The themes of the CD are familiar to every follower of the band: solidarity, community, family, respect for the past, honor, respect, and in-your-face bravado.
The first song on the CD, “The Boys are Back,” pretty well says it all. This is rock meant to be sung for and with a crowd, and it puts everyone on notice that “[t]he boys are back, and looking for trouble.” And that is just the way the fans want it.
Next is “The Prisoner’s Song,” which reflects that Celtic feel that Dropkick Murphys always weave into their work, and speaks of the yearning for a day “where the ship comes in.” “Don’t Tear Us Apart” is a plea for unity, a wish for someone to come and restore our faith, and an affirmation: “You won’t tear us apart.”
“My Hero” honors the memory of a father and shows respect and love for a strong guiding hand. It has that same mix of tough sound and loving lyrics that are so much a part of the band.
There’s “The Season’s Upon Us” as well, a Christmas song for dysfunctional families. This one is for all those who don’t always love their families on Christmas day! It’s wild and funny and should be an instant Christmas classic for the band.
This reviewer’s favorite song on the CD is Ken Casey’s “Rose Tattoo,” which is about the stories behind tattoos, including the rose tattoo Casey has which honors his grandfather. It is about family and love that is literally “signed and sealed in blood.”
There is almost always some sort of eulogy or song for the departed on a Dropkick Murphys CD, and on this one it’s “Jimmy Collins’ Wake.”
The rest of the songs on the CD are pure Dropkick Murphys: “Burn,” a great song for fighting and dancing, and “The Battle Rages On,” which is Celtic and punk at its finest. “Out on the Town” and “Out of Our Heads” are great drinking, partying songs. “End of the Night,” which ends the CD, will also be a perfect concert-ending song, with the rock and roll piano, slower pace and sing-along lyrics.
Dropkick Murphys have not lost any of their edge. They have never sounded better than they do on this CD. They always write for their fans, and those fans will not be disappointed. Even though the year has just begun, Signed and Sealed in Blood may well turn out to be one of the best CDs of 2013, in this reviewer’s opinion.