Review by Angela Blasi
I got myself a sneak peek into Dropkick Murphy’s latest installment in a series of raw punk rock charged, Boston beer-drinking, “Irish Eyes Are Smiling”- type albums. A band that was introduced to me back in high school, I’ve always loved the use of traditional Irish culture and its brash and brawny fusion with Boston charm. Their seventh album to date, Going Out In Style features 13 tracks of everything you would ever expect from the band. Except, that seems to be my very problem with it.
Kicking off the disc and bearing the sole responsibility of carrying and setting the tone for the entire album is a track titled “Hang ‘Em High.” The song begins with a great drum beat on a floor tom, slowly gaining strength with the addition of choral style vocals, all chiming in unison with gusto “hang “em high!” Cue the bag pipes, gritty vocals, catchy hooks and riffs. Other tracks, such as “Memorial Day.” seem to offer a slight variation on the previous theme. As is so characteristic to Dropkick’s sound, traditional Celtic sounds are fused with clean yet edgy uptempo guitar riffs and lyrics, begging the listener through voice, drink and song to join the celebration. I feel like no matter what album I’ve ever listened to by this band, I always get the same few variations on the same themes. Be it a solo instrument intro that is gradually joined by other instruments only to drop the hook into this full-bodied energy that simply forces the taste of every St. Patrick’s Day you’ve ever taken the “Irish for a Day” thing too seriously back into your mouth or the 1-2-3-4 thirty-second note shred of a punk rock guitar, the call to arms of men and who can forget the teary-eyed mournful cry of the ballad. I feel like each album is simply a mathematical formula stated and restated in a few different ways. Two people can take the same equation and do completely different work, but still end up with the same result. It seems as though they refine the production and beef up the sound with every passing album. It’s like going through the filtration process to turn Popov into Grey Goose; either way you’re still drinking vodka.
Admittedly, I still like the band. Much like the culture itself, the band captures the spirit of storytelling as it is passed down from generation to generation. This is why they are able to keep making album after album in the same vein. Something about it always manages to strike at the core of humanity as the songs they compose are not intricate orchestral pieces, but simply the group being the only people they know how to be while having the courage to do it flawlessly without wavering or compromising their passion.
To be honest, half way through the album I lost interest. I got bored with each passing track, try as I might to labor through each one. Then again, one shouldn’t have to labor through an album. I crave change, growth and experimentation; adaptability in the face of an evolving music scene and punk rock’s ever uncertain niche in it. I mean, hey, if you’re going for one thing and one thing only, then you might as well be the best at it. That is, of course, unless you start talking to Flogging Molly fans. The band’s fifteen year history has seen changes in the lineup, yet I feel there has been little change to the music. And while many fans of bands everywhere often lament “I wish they sounded like they did on their first album,” I can promise you they do not. I want to know what was so different or great about Going Out in Style besides the fact that Bruce Springsteen lends his vocals on the song “Peg O’ My Heart.” Surely, fellas, in all this time you’ve had to have had some experiences and heard other sounds from new and different places and artists that might translate into inspiration on your latest endeavors.
I’m not saying the album is bad by any means. In fact, for what the band is known for doing, they do it extremely well. You can’t argue with the fact that their live shows are solid in-your-face sets; evenings of inclusion where the entire audience embodies the lighthearted, yet hard-working wisdom of the Irish culture in song either.
All in all, as a fan it left me wanting more and feeling a bit disappointed. I can say this album is not one that will be making its way into my personal collection any time soon.