Monday, October 1

Irish Punks Band Together for The Meanest Times

Artist: Dropkick Murphys

Album: The Meanest Times

Comments: Longevity is not a word that people used when talking about punk bands. A genre based on living fast and dying hard, thousands of punk bands implode into themselves every year. The ones that don’t break apart under their own intensity often hang around far too long, becoming sad shadows of their past selves. This fact only makes Dropkick Murphys’ The Meanest Times more impressive; it may not re-invent the wheel, but it maintains level of consistency that the Murphys have been able to maintain since 1998. Rather than a return to form, The Meanest Times is a re-commitment to their craft.

Meanest Times finds the Murphys once again balancing their punk anthems with Irish sensibility, although this album leans much more on the Celtic side of the line than past efforts The Warrior’s Code and Blackout. The one two punch of “Famous for Nothing” and “God Willing” both feature prominent bagpiping that will stir up the red-haired drunk inside everyone. Both songs are pure fist-in-the-air anthems, one about being famous for nothing and one about the dearly departed, which set the scene nicely for the shit-kicking thump of “State of Massachusetts,” a modern reworking of the Irish protest song.

If those three songs tire you out, you had best buckle up. The album rolls at a breakneck pace, going at light speed for nine songs before finally slowing down on “Fairmount Hill.” What the song lacks in speed, it makes up for in weight. Mandolin cries along side guitar as the band unfolds a tale of nostalgia and the tyranny of both time and distance. Things cool off again on “Rude Awakenings” which is about rude awakenings. The song is one of the best on the album, delivered with the force and sincerity of a dockworker signing at a bar after hours.

Fans of the band will know what to expect from this album, and the band delivers on all fronts. The dual vocal attack that is trademark to the Murphys is all over the album, as is the “Pouges-meets-Sex Pistols” punk sound that is their trademark. Still, some might be turned off by the frantic pace of the album, which does give songs a tendency to run together. The album also features one pretty lame song, the poorly managed “Johnny, I Hadley Knew Ya,” which takes the tune of “When The Saints go Marching In” and turns it into a faux-funeral march. The song marks the only time on the record when the Murphys’ Irish pride sounds manufactured instead of sincere. There are also some pretty lame quasi-political songs on the album, with the biggest offender being the unfortunate “Shattered.”

As the album draws to a close with the piano ballad “Forever,” one can’t help but appreciate how consistent the Dropkick Murphys have been since their inception in 1995. For a band to maintain such a high level of quality music for over ten years is a hell of a feat for anyone, let alone a band operating the volatile world of punk rock. With The Meanest Times, an album about family, friendship, history and the passing of time, the Dropkick Murphys show that they will always produce, come whatever.

Rating: 7 out of 10

Key Tracks: Forever, God Willing, Famous for Nothing, Loyal to No One

Worth The Money: Yes, but barely.

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