Popularity is nothing to hold against a band. Making a living isn’t a crime. Putting food on the family’s table is, contrary to what some may think, an important aspect of making a living and adult life. Teenagers with so-called ‘noble’ visions of bands toiling away doing basement shows all their lives are missing one thing – when the band (who spent years playing said shows) includes several guys in their mid-30’s with families, playtime is over. Bands normally can’t continue making records without making a living, which is why so many punk/skinhead bands fade into obscurity and break up. And, as an example, and this may just be me, but I’d have rather seen Bannon and Negative Approach play to 3,000 people and sell some records, instead of breaking up, releasing very few records and having them become a footnote in hardcore history that only true fans will appreciate.
In the end, when the dust has cleared and when all is said and done, those who are screaming ‘sell-outs’ at the Dropkick Murphys become ridiculous and appear stupid and selfish. And the Murphys are still standing. The band maintain the same high integrity and vision as they ever did, though their sounds have changed a bit. It makes no sense to whine about change – almost all of the revered Oi!/punk bands changed up their sounds, and most, unlike the Dropkick Murphys, did it very badly. So, while detractors wear their Cockney Rejects shirt and whine about DKM (forgetting that CR went shitty metal like the majority of British Oi/skinhead bands, as well as Boston hardcore bands, did) just be safe in the knowledge that the Dropkick Murphys core sound and values still hold true, and you won’t be hearing them doing a ‘Break It Up’ anytime soon….and, when those fans who do all the whining hit their mid-20’s and don’t have their parents money to fall back on and have to get a job in the real world, maybe they’ll realize that their d.i.y ideals weren’t always the ‘be all, end all’ that they made them out to be.
So, enough of my editorial, let’s check out Blackout! Early reviews I’d read by fans seemed split. The negatives mainly had to do with it being a more ‘poppy’ effort than we’re used to. As a whole, I’d agree it is more poppy, if by poppy you mean, more melodious and less hardcore attack. The early, charging streetpunk sounds are, for the most part, gone by the wayside. Replacing it, however, is great, melodic rock and roll. The Murphys hearts have obviously not changed – they still champion the cause of the underdog and raise a glass to those that will never win, but by God, will die trying.
The talent level is definitely upper crust, and the band as a unit shines like never before. I’m not gonna break them down member by member, but will only say that each member plays his part to the fullest – it’s taken to a whole new sphere. I think the best way to give you a sense of what I think about the record is to do a song-by-song breakdown.
Walk Away – lead single from the album. Nice, ringing guitar intro and dual vocals by Al and Ken, this one is one of the cuts that has a more melodic feel than much of what we’re used to from the Murphys. To me, it is ‘Forever’ sped up and a bit more rockin’. Very nice tune, with deadly serious subject matter – deadbeat dad’s who leave their family behind.
Worker’s Song – right back into familiar Dropkick territory. Bagpipe fuelled anthem that has the big group choruses like fans are used to. Subject matter is, of course, the downtrodden worker’s life. Very ‘Heroes of Our Past’-ish.
The Outcast – Not a big fan of this one. More straight-up rock n roll. Good background vocals/melody in the chorus. Not bad, but just one of the weaker cuts in my opinion.
Black Velvet Band – Irish traditional song. If you’ve heard the tune, then you know what to expect – it’s given the Murphy’s party treatment like ‘Finnegan’s Wake’ and belts along nicely.
Gonna Be Blackout Tonight – Woody Guthrie’s lyrics put to the Dropkick’s background. It might well be the heaviest thing on the record. Harkens back to Ken’s hardcore roots. Not one of my favorites, but still – it’s angry and fast.
World Full of Hate – Folksy and almost old-school country-ish ballad. Again, somewhat ‘Forever’-ish.
Buried Alive – GREAT tune. It’s quick and catchy, and it’s rock-n-folk, pounding along with pipe accompaniment and a great, anthemic feel, and a nice, folksy backbone to it.
Dirty Glass – remake of classic from Face-to-Face split. Read my review of that to hear what I think of the tune (great.) That being said, I prefer the version on the split to this. I like Kay Hanley’s vocals better. Still a great tune, though.
Fields of Athenry – one of my favorite Irish tunes of all-time. The Murphys pound home not only the emotion felt in this song, but also the burning anger beneath. Very well done, boys. Now let’s hear ‘Holy Ground’ sometime.
Bastard’s on Parade – Very folksy with a great mandolin-driven melody and superb drumming by Tough Sticks. “Fairytale of New York” as done by the Dropkicks, with a McGowan-style toast to the downtrodden, complete with Broadway reference. Good stuff, kids.
As One – Best pipes on the album. You open like that and I’m a fan for life. This one probably gets my vote for best tune of the record – it’s just the best of what the Dropkick’s do in one song – damn fine rock-n-roll, catchy and anthemic, big-time crowd chorus and propelled along by the instruments of war. THIS is why I love this band.
This Is Your Life – Another rocker. Big-time group singalongs.
Time to Go – Nice rave-up tribute to the hometown Bruins. Very catchy and very BIG. DIG that accordion, giving it a sea-shanty feel for those cold Boston nights! I guarantee this one rocks over speakers at Bruins games. I will never sing along, as I am most definitely not a Bruins fan – Go Blackhawks!!!! Not as good as the Bears ‘Super Bowl Shuffle’ – “My name’s Scruffy and I like to dance, running the ball’s like making romance……” Kidding, Ken….kidding.
Kiss Me, I’m Shitfaced – Nice, rowdy, drunken closer. Very Macc Ladd-ish. First hand tale by a braggart ladies man who turns out to be anything but. Hilarious lyrics and chorus makes this a great closer.
As a whole, to me, it’s better than Sing Loud, Sing Proud. Yeah, you heard it a-holes! BETTER. It’s a bit early, and it might take a few more listens, but I’m nearly ready to proclaim this the best album of Dropkick Murphys Version II’s career. It’s more melodic, but still hard. I like how the guitar sounds throughout as well – nice, clean and ringing. Everything about them I love is taken up a notch. Here’s to seeing them get as big as they want, and, if you think they’re long odds, well…..put all your money on ‘em, because I know they’ll always come through down the stretch.