Whereas Going Out In Style was a broad ambitious concept, Signed And Sealed In Blood, the band's second album with Hutt producing, sees them returning to their energetic blue collar roots, playing Irish-inspired Boston punk rock, loaded with choruses and bouncing from frenetic pacing to swaying rhythm - the perfect mix of songs to sing along to whether you're perched on a bar stool or planted in a pit.
The album opens with the raucous Boston Irish anthem "The Boys Are Back," and its a track loaded with everything the band has made its name doing (Listen/Download). There are chanted choruses, a booming sound and their trademark pipes. This is one of those songs destined to do as well in sports stadiums as in circle pits, loaded with that fun blue collar punk ideal that the band has perfected in the years they've been together, going all the way back to "The Boys On The Docks," when the band grabbed hold of their status as the Boston Irish punk rock solution.
"Prisoner's Song" adopts the more traditional Irish sound mixed with gruff vocals the band displayed on their biggest hit to date, "I'm Shipping Up to Boston," which was featured prominently in the 2006 Academy Award winning film The Departed. It just continues to elevate the album (Listen/Download).
This more traditional Irish theme will play out again and again on the album. "Rose Tattoo" (Listen/Download) is written more for pub singalongs than stadium shows (featuring banjo from Winston Marshall of Mumford & Sons), as is "Jimmy Collins' Wake," a tribute to a Boston baseball legend from the turn of the 20th century (Listen/Download) that embraces two of the band's loves - Irish-styled drinking songs and Boston sports.
"Burn" is revved up rolling punk rock with a liberal dose of Irish whisky in the form of pipes and banjo carrying the melody, but the energy is pure punk rock circle pit madness (Listen/Download).
"The Season's Upon Us" is a Christmas song that sounds both inspired by and a rival to the Pogues classic "Fairytale of New York," embracing the members of a modern dysfunctional family and destined to be on next year's punk holiday mix in my household (Listen/Download).
"Don't Tear Us Apart" marks a bit of a departure from the band's more trademark sounds, a piano-fueled song that's thick and lush, with elements of '80s alt-rock. The lushness and intricacy of this track, while displaying more features that make it more of a composition than a song, get lost in the rest of the tracks, having traded in musical proficiency for the punchiness and energy that we all turn to the Dropkick Murphys for. It's not a bad track, but I think it's a bit of unnecessary filler (Listen/Download).
It's quickly pushed aside by the punchy twang of "My Hero," another ambitious track that's complexly instrumental, but loaded with the energy and pub-meets-stadium blue collar street sound that I want from the Murphys. And while the chorus lacks some of the singalong quality of the other tracks, the energetic twanginess carries it (Listen/Download).
"Out on The Town" marks another distinct combination for the band, mixing rock and roll swagger with a pub singalong (Listen/Download). This one is destined to be a jukebox favorite on par with another Irish favorite - Thin Lizzy's "The Boys Are Back In Town."
"Out Of Our Heads" heralds the bang bringing it all home with pure Irish punk swagger, in the vein of the album's opener, with a jig-fueled instrumental, piles of energy and tons of opportunities for fist pumping http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B00AN91C1E/ref=as_li_qf_sp_asin_il_tl?ie=UTF8&tag=abopunmus-20&linkCode=as2&camp=1789&creative=9325&creativeASIN=B00AN91C1E, that rolls into "End Of The Night," another piano-powered anthem to closing time that marks the end of a night that's gone on a bit too long but never turned bad (Listen/Download). It's a tribute to a bar at closing night, and with it's chorus of "It's the end of the night, but we ain't going home," it's about beginnings as much as ends, and the possibility of memorable new adventures to regale everyone with the next night (provided they can be remembered).
Signed And Sealed In Blood is both new and old. Ever present is the sound the band has trademarked and will always be loved for, along with their blue collar ideals and punk rock energy mixed with Irish influences. There is smart songwriting and witty lyrics that celebrate the Irish gift of turning a phrase. There are also signs that the band continues to progress and elevate itself - but they almost never mark a departure from their roots. The Murphys know where they come from, and they're not forgetting that, even as they get bigger and bigger. You can take the punk out of the pub, but you'll never get the pub out of the punk.
Released January 8, 2012
With the release of Signed And Sealed In Blood, the band is preparing for their annual St' Patrick's Day tour, this year including a slot headlining at Boston Garden, now known as TD Garden, on March 15. Tour dates are listed here.