More “Fighting” than “Irish”
Ward Pettibone | Friday, March 4, 2011
If you’re not ready for a brawl by the end of “Going Out In Style,” there’s not much anyone can do for you. Dropkick Murphys’ seventh studio album, released just in time for St. Patrick’s Day, is chock-full of what the Murphys are known for: drunken vocals, driving Celtic melodies, and bagpipes – lots and lots of bagpipes. Listening to this album is like being steamrolled by a shamrock.
The Murphys follow their formula, but it is a formula that works: the album is bold, brash, and fun. The band have said it is a concept album, following the story of a character named Cornelius Larkin, but it is not an easy story to follow, what with all the slurring and shouting.
“Hang ‘Em High” is a strong opening and one of the best tracks, setting the tone for an album that is upbeat and mare than a little tipsy, but not afraid to be reflective and sentimental. “Broken Hymns” is, not surprisingly, one of the quieter songs – at points it could even be called “beautiful” – but none of that stops lead singer Al Barr from belting lines like “No prayer, no promise, no hand of God could save their souls that April day / Tell their wives that they fought bravely as they lay them in their graves” with all the inebriated boastfulness he’s got.
That’s not to say it’s all drunken screaming (though there is no lack of that). Subtlety is not the Murphys’ forte, but there are moments that recall Ireland’s verdant hills more than its pubs (the first thirty seconds of “Deeds Not Words,” for example). After about seven tracks, though, the mile-a-minute drums and frenetic electric guitars start feeling repetitive. The relative calm of “1953” is a welcome sound, though it certainly won’t put listeners to sleep.
“Peg O’ My Heart” has a cameo by Bruce Springsteen, of all people. But his unexpected arrival is far from jarring – in fact, his familiar rough voice fits right in and lends the song some variety. The album ends weakly with the unremarkable “Irish Rover,” which by this point is just more of the same. Of course, by now, most St. Patrick’s Day listeners wouldn’t even notice.
The Murphys are not doing anything new with “Going Out In Style”. Little has changed since “The Warrior’s Code” (which included “I’m Shipping Up to Boston”), aside from a new mandolinist and Tim Brennan taking up the guitar. Many of the songs begin to blend into each other even if all you’ve had to drink today is mineral water.
Still, “Going Out In Style” is a fine album. The Murphys are in top shape instrumentally, and they race through the thirteen tracks with only a few pauses for reflection (the drinking joke makes itself). The band wanted to give fans a good time, and in that regard, they succeeded.
If there is one album you should buy between now and March 17th, this is it.