As always, the arrival of a Dropkick Murphys record is something that I look forward to. I have been way into this band for years, ever since I first heard “Boys on The Docks” (Listen/Download) in a record store way too many years ago.
As the years have gone by the band has progressed, steadily seeing greater success, up to and including their prominent placement in last year’s Oscar winner, The Departed. It seems like there’s no stopping this band.
Which brings us to The Meanest of Times.
The Meanest of Times clearly finds the Murphys at the top of their game, employing melodies that are tight, diverse and exploring the way we look at traditional Irish music. They are, by far, tighter and stronger than they’ve ever been.
There’s just one problem. I didn’t like the record a whole bunch.
Musically, it's perfect...
Dealing with the themes of growing up in a tough working class neighborhood, the songs are well written, if more often than not a little dark. There are some amazingly crafted songs, both maudlin and upbeat, like “Famous For Nothing” the explosive anthemic opener (Listen/Download), and “God Willing” (Listen/Download), a powerful song about not taking your loved ones for granted.
Another great tune is “(F)Lannigan’s Ball” (Listen/Download), a revision of the traditional Irish ballad “Lannigan’s Ball”, which features guest appearances from Ronnie Drew of The Dubliners and Spider Stacy of the Pogues. It’s another sign that the Murphys have mastered their craft, mixing traditional Celtic sounds with blue-collar street punk.
Here's my problem...
So what’s not to like?
At some point in the production of this album, it feels to me like the band, as they progressed as musicians, left behind some of that fun boisterous energy that made The Dropkick Murphys the most fun. The good old “shamrock and roll”. Also absent from this album is the random silliness; there’s no “Good Rats” (Listen/Download), no “Wicked Sensitive Crew” (Listen/Download), no “Tessie” (Listen/Download) or “Spicy McHaggis Jig” (Listen/Download), no… you get the idea.
They are a justifiably great band, who deserve all the success that they've attained, and they are constantly improving as musicians, but they seem to have forgotten what made them the most fun.
It’s all a matter of expectations, were it not a Dropkick Murphys record, I’d probably like it a ton more. I feel like a kid on Christmas morning that really wanted a bike, but got a puppy. Puppies are awesome, but it’s just not what I had my heart set on.
The Meanest of Times, is probably the best record I’ve heard that I wasn’t really in to. I just expected more out of the album, and it’s not quite what I wanted it to be.