Dropkick Murphys – 11 Short Stories of Pain & Glory (Album Review)

Dropkick Murphys 11 Short Stories of Pain & Glory

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Dropkick Murphys line up:

Al Barr – lead vocals
Tim Brennan – guitars
Ken Casey – lead vocals, bass guitar
Jeff DaRosa – banjo, vocals
Matt Kelly – drums, percussion, vocals
James Lynch – guitars

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Rousing, and ten other adjectives similar to rousing. Welcome to another pearler from Boston’s finest.

The Bostonian trad-punk stalwarts have mellowed out a touch with their 9th studio effort, but don’t worry; it’s not in a drastically shabby way like that guy from Alexisonfire. Recorded in El Paso, Texas to escape the business that ever-encroaching family lives and adulthood the band members juggle these days, 11 Short Stories… is a seminal foray in to non-Bostonian production for the boys. Mercifully, their first away game has failed to environmentally ingratiate American country twang to Al, Tim, Ken, Jeff, Matt, James, or bagpiper Lee in any capacity. However, edgier parts of The Murphy’s trad-infused punk-rockery are reigned in throughout their latest effort. Pockets of previously expected mouthiness and shouting have been not unwelcomely replaced with engaging lyricism, clean production, and easier tempos. The dozen-ish results are thoughtful, nostalgic, and ultimately uplifting. When regularly hitting their idiosyncratic stride on the new album, The Murphys’ anthemic tunes still reverberate right down in the guts; instigating a beautiful feeling of unique, impassioned rebellion most will agree Irish punk does in a most rousing, singular fashion.

Here’s a track-by-track run down;

Opener ‘The Lonesome Boatman’ is no more than a lyricless sea shanty that gradually overlays many prolonged ‘Woah-ohs’ with rumbling timpani drums and glacial tin whistling, before gradually trudging in to traditional rock and roll instruments. It’s a unique amble in to the album, but effective enough in setting a more dulcet tone.

Punchier than drunk Russians outside a hardware store, ‘Rebels With a Cause’ is impossible to not raise beer to. Having started their own charity fund in 2009, many of 11 Short Stories… eleven short stories are inspired by The Murphy’s regular and wondrous work with impoverished kids, recovering addicts, and unavoidably troubled war veterans. ‘Rebels…’ lyrically draws heavily from these aforementioned facts. It’s definitely a high point on the record.

‘Blood’ and ‘Sandlot’ follow like parading war cries. The former is grandiose, while Sandlot’s tales of youthful reckless abandon sounds far folksier, and more akin to a decade-old Against Me! Tune. Both are ripper songs that’ll ease the mania at live shows between raucous older tracks, without smothering high spirits in the process.

‘First Class Loser’ is a diss track for wankers everywhere, like a less crass Trad equivalent of Denis Leary’s ‘Asshole’. It precedes the meandering and less memorable ‘Paying My Way’. In ball-tearing contrast, ‘I Had a Hat’ sprints out the blocks with a simple story about a bloke whose had his hat nicked by some bastard, and is substantially akin to the classic ‘Captain Kelly’s Kitchen’ from The Warriors Code. It’s classic, face-paced Murphys at their finest, and easily an album highlight.

‘Kicked To The Curb’ is a goofy pop punk about heartbreak. It could be a Less Than Jake B-side, but that’s not such a bad thing. A peculiar choice of cover track follows in the form of Roger and Hammerstein’s ‘You’ll Never Walk Alone’. It’s a fun enough drunken, swaying anthem with a lovely sentiment, but far from the most exciting track on 11 Short Stories… ‘4-15-13’ follows as a sombre eulogy for lives lost in the Boston marathon bombing, and is a fine tribute indeed. Acoustic guitar and emotive use of classic Irish instruments tug at the heart strings, and the boys express their heartbreak with warm surety.

Album closer ‘Until The Next Time’ utilises the tried and true method of stating a fond and regrettable farewell through song, as though listeners have been at a private gig in a small bar for the album’s tenure. It’s a fine closer on a calmer approach from a bunch of proud Bostonians that seem incapable of making bad releases. Good show, lads.

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11 Short Stories of Pain & Glory track list:

1.The Lonesome Boatman
2. Rebels with a Cause
3. Blood
4. Sandlot
5. First Class Loser
6. Paying My Way
7. I Had a Hat
8. Kicked to the Curb
9. You’ll Never Walk Alone
10. 4-15-13
11. Until the Next Time

Review by Todd Gingell

 

 

 

 

 

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