Celtic Punk Masters At It Again.
It's been four years since Dropkick Murphys treated us to new material, and through an extensive touring cycle post Signed and Sealed in Blood the anticipation had certainly begun to build as far as another album was concerned. It almost goes without saying that this is a band who have been phenomenally consistent on record throughout their career so the expectation was naturally high for 11 Short Stories of Pain & Glory. To put it simply, the Celtic Punk giants have once again locked in to that familiar sound and formula needed to produce another quality album.
The opening number gives us the Dropkick Murphys rendition of the old classic The Lonesome Boatman which immediately sets the tone for the rest of the record. It's one of those intro tracks which has that ability to literally shift your mood in an instant in a ridiculously rousing fashion. We're certain they'll be opening with this on the subsequent tour and potentially for many years to come as it's been designed in such a way for one reason and one reason only - to get you pumped the fuck up. From there the band kick in to their standard fare of Irish Folk led Punk triggering sing-along moments at the drop of a hat with Ken Casey and Al Barr bouncing off each other as well as they ever have. Lyrically Dropkick Murphys have always been masters of the Bruce Springsteen school of telling a narrative and that's continued well here. Tracks like First Class Loser and I Had A Hat shape characters and stories of people with attributes you can attach to people you know personally or know of with ease. It's this level of charm injected with Punk aggression which has allowed the Dropkick Murphys to remain such a force for so long.
The album does begin to dip slightly towards the latter stages, with each listen it almost feels like we need a reprise of The Lonesome Boatman plonked in the middle to pick up your energy levels again. One of the tracks towards the end of the album which will certainly be a Marmite moment on the album for a lot of people sees the band cover the famous anthem now used by both Liverpool and Celtic football clubs You'll Never Walk Alone. Given that this is being written by an Arsenal fan, there has been a little difficulty getting on board with this but one thing is for sure, this is the best version of it - but they do have better covers in their locker.
Overall then, whilst the Dropkick Murphys have not really looked to reinvent the wheel or their formula on this album, it slots in nicely as part of their ever consistent back catalogue. The album doesn't contain the gargantuan hits they're perhaps most famous for, Shipping Up To Boston, Rose Tattoo, The State Of Massachusetts and so on, but it does stand it's ground well. Long live The Dropkick Murphys!