On this, their ninth album, the Young Dubliners show few if any signs of age or of slowing down. A statement of vital lyrical and musical energy comes right at the top, as “We the Mighty” opens the disc in muscular style. Oddly, the second track tugs back to the ’80s with shades of Huey Lewis, as does mention the title, “Say Anything,” which brings to mind the 1989 John Cusack flick of the same name. What the song’s about, though, is retaining one’s own innate sense of agency, and that’s a message that never goes out of style.
Punk-pop pace quickly returns with the emotionally charged “Up in the Air.” Then the band’s folk-Celtic side bursts forth with evocative mandolin in the intro to the power ballad “Rain,” which laments a farewell: “Can’t stay forever, you have to move on.” But “Seeds of Sorrow” takes the form of an Irish dance fused with a raw punk chorus that turns the song into an up-on-your-feet shouter – you’d have to be a read sad sack for this song not to get your blood pumping. Yet the words betray the group’s lyrical side: “Throw away seeds of sorrow…Love will follow, cross my heart.” It’s a smart and effective juxtaposition.
“Fall” has a similar rebellious rawness, and also bracing is the instrumental Abhainn Mór, driven by racing violin, uilleann pipes, and whistles. Throughout all this variety, the band displays a solid knack for melodies, which ties this album together as much as their tight arrangements and Celtic energy do. It’s also why a group that’s been around long enough to put out nine albums still sounds relevant. A good song is a good song, whether it feels Irish, punkish, like ’80s pop, or like music from no particular time or every time.
“We are the ones not for the world to see – only you and me.” So goes the piano ballad that closes the disc in a slow storm of grown-up passion. It’s a fitting end to a set of songs that display the Young Dubliners’ gift for mature songwriting, persistently youthful energy, and, equally important, a sound that evinces with every note their complete dedication to their art.