On March 11, just around the corner from St. Patrick's Day, the Dropkick Murphys dropped a limited edition deluxe CD/DVD of their killer 2007 release The Meanest of Times on the masses. This well-known Celtic punk rock band, which hails from my neck of the woods in Quincy, MA, just finished its annual (and long sold-out) St. Patrick's Day shows in Boston and Lowell, MA a few nights ago as well.
The Dropkick Murphys have become legendary in Boston during their twelve years of existence, but it seems that with each passing year, they gain new audiences and more mainstream exposure, even beyond the music industry. For instance, the band's breakout Woody Guthrie-inspired hit "I'm Shipping Up To Boston" was featured in the box office hit The Departed in 2006 and played at Fenway Park each time Boston Red Sox closer Jonathan Papelbon entered a game in 2007.
In fact, the Dropkicks have become heavily involved in Boston sports over the past several years. In 2004, they covered the Red Sox-themed piano-led boogie and rally song "Tessie," which could be heard following the conclusion of Red Sox games at Fenway Park right after The Standells' 1966 hit and ode to Boston, "Dirty Water." They've played at several Sox games, all of which the team has won, including Opening Day 2005 as part of the beloved home team's celebration for winning the World Series in 2004, their first since 1918. The Dropkick Murphys have also played free concerts at the TD Banknorth Garden after Boston Bruins home games in recent years, and performed on a flat-bed truck alongside Red Sox players as part of the team's 2007 World Series Championship parade last October, their second in four years. [Hey, Boston Celtics! You might want to give these guys a call sometime soon.]
Footage of the Dropkick Murphys' celebration with the Sox appears on the DVD portion of the band's Meanest of Times reissue. The original, CD-only version hit store shelves in July 2007 and debuted at #20 on the Billboard 200 chart, the band's highest debut ever. It was the band's sixth full-length, the follow-up to the excellent Warrior's Code CD from 2005. Talk about paying your dues!
This limited reissue contains twenty audio tracks, including five bonus cuts. It may be a bit too long, but you still get more than your money's worth. It features a mix of rowdy, fast-paced punk rock and some slower folk-punk ballads, all with plenty of attitude and energy. The tunes are routinely laced with slick banjo riffs, bagpipes, tin whistles, and other elements characteristic of the band's brand of Celtic rock.
There are fight songs, tales of hard luck, and stories of families torn apart on singles like "State of Massachusetts" and the "spleen"-kickin' "Flannigan's Ball," which was recorded in Ireland with The Pogues' Spider Stacy and Ronnie Drew of the Dubliners. Elsewhere, gritty yet soulful choruses can be heard on the likes of the folk-rocker "Fairmount Hill." The bonus tracks include a new, piano-heavy version of the uplifting fan favorite "Forever (2007)," originally from 2001's Sing Loud Sing Proud record. It's a catchy sing-along song. Call it their "Piano Man."
The most impressive of the extra songs is the band's cover of Thin Lizzy's "Jailbreak." The Dropkicks, led by singer Al Barr, actually stay true to the original for the most part, but obviously bring a bit more punch and grit to the performance. Even though bassist/singer Ken Casey says his band is like AC/DC in that it doesn't change much from record to record, they continue to write memorable songs that stand out, and in this case, they've recorded a great cover that does as well.
As for the bonus DVD, it's entertaining, as you would expect, but there isn't a wealth of material you're likely to watch over and over. It's a great accomplishment that the local charity the DM performed for on St. Patrick's Day '07, My Brother's Keeper, was able to give over 7000 presents to the less fortunate last year. However, the audio mix for the band's acoustic show at the event isn't so great — you can barely hear the acoustic guitars, for instance, on "Forever." Other inclusions, such as the aforementioned footage from the Red Sox '07 championship parade in the "Johnny, I Hardly Knew Ya" video is very cool and entertaining, as it's centered on star Sox closer and fellow DM fan Jonathan Papelbon. He danced and posed like a rock star for fans alongside the Dropkicks during their performance on the memorable parade route. The music video definitely captures all that crazy fun.
In all, The Meanest of Times CD/DVD deluxe edition is definitely worth buying, even if you have the original CD. It may not be their best album, but it's up there, no question. Some stores (e.g. Newbury Comics in the Northeast) will sell this limited edition with CD booklets signed by the band as well. Think of it as a collector's item, especially if you were at the charity event, as you might see yourself on the DVD! The rest of you Dropkick Murphys fans and fellow punks who missed out the first time: What are you waiting for?
For more info on the Dropkick Murphys, go directly to their Myspace page.