Monday, 23 January 2017

Album Review: 11 Short Stories Of Pain & Glory by Dropkick Murphys

Long running Boston Celtic punk band, Dropkick Murphys, recently released their ninth studio album. That's an amazing achievement for any band. Named 11 Short Stories Of Pain & Glory and released on the band's own Born & Bread Records label, it's the first Dropkick's album since 2013's Signed and Sealed In Blood. Yes, it's really been four years since Dropkick Murphys released an album. Fun fact: that's the longest time between new albums since the band released debut album, Do Or Die, back in 1998. As a big fan of the band, I always get so excited when the band release new material so I'm sure you can imagine that I was completely stoked to listen to 11 Short Stories Of Pain & Glory.

The album kicks off with a song named The Lonely Boatman. With a long introductory whistle opening up the song, it builds to that classic Dropkicks sound with some big gang vocal "Whoa-ohs" throughout the rest of the track. The Lonely Boatman serves as an introduction to the album. I also imagine this will now be the opening track at a Dropkick Murphys live show. Getting the album going properly is the track Rebel With A Cause. A really enjoyable feature of the Dropkick Murphys sounds has always been Al Barr and Ken Casey trading vocals during a song. This happens immediately here and really gives the song an up-tempo feel. Al's deeper vocal alongside Ken's more rough sound work wonderfully together. Rebel With A Cause is about a kid who appears to be down and out but has a lot of heart and is willing to fight for what they believe in. The next song Blood heavily features the talents of new Dropkick Murphys bagpiper Lee Forshner. It's a slow plodder of a song that also packs plenty of punch. It's a barroom drinking song that will get a whole crowd singing along and stomping their feet. Like a lot of Dropkick Murphys songs, it's about standing up for what you believe in and having the will to fight for it. Sandlot is the name of the fourth song on the album. Ken Casey takes lead vocals duties and sings about being young and not having much but realising you still had all the fun you could possibly have. Sandlot is immediately catchy and you'll be singing along before you know it. I found myself singing along whilst I was writing this review.

First Class Loser is about knowing that guy that everybody hates that you try your best to avoid. Ken and Al's dual vocals work brilliantly again, feeling likes a musical conversation between the two singers. We get to the chorus and, of course, the trademark Dropkick Murphys gang vocals come into play. Everyone in the band has a microphone, allowing a feeling of inclusiveness with the listener. Paying My Way starts out with a nice piano and drum combination. One of only two founding members left in the band, drummer Matt Kelly is one of the most underrated drummers from the world of punk rock in my opinion. It's a great track using just a simple beat behind Ken Casey's lyrics about making your way in the world by working hard and fighting for everything you have - and being proud to do so. I Hang My Hat is a fun song about Ken Casey losing his hat at a bar and kicking off. I hope it's a true story. This is a true Dropkick Murphys party song. It's fast paced with plenty of opportunity for singing, dancing and drinking. It's quite silly but not all songs need to be a super serious attempt to change the world - sometimes they can just be silly. Up next is the song Kicked To The Curb. Al takes lead vocals duties on this song and it feels like more of a traditional sixties rock 'n' roll tune given the Murphys treatment. The Dropkick Muprhys have developed such a wide range of sounds during their long musical career and do it all so well. Kicked To The Curb is a track about getting dumped by your girl and feeling like you've lost everything - including your dog!

The ninth song on 11 Short Stories Of Pain & Glory is a cover version of You'll Never Walk Alone. Made famous in the UK by Gerry and the Pacemakers and becoming the anthem for Liverpool FC, it's a song any football fan in the UK will have heard a lot. When I first heard the Dropkick Murphys version I wasn't so sure on it but after a few listens I loved it. According to Ken Casey, it was recorded in response to having to go to thirty wakes in two years due to opiate overdoses. The lyrics summed up exactly how he was feeling after one of the wakes - sad but knowing there is hope at the end of the line. The penultimate song on the album is titled 4-15-13. For those who don't know that is the date of the Boston Marathon Bombing. As I'm sure you can imagine, this is a sad and yet poignant song with the overriding message of we're all just people. No matter what our differences are, deep down every single one of us is the same. The band have done a magnificent job of honouring and remember those who sadly lost their lives that day. Finally we have Until The Next Time. Much like on the albums Blackout and Signed & Seeled In Blood, 11 Short Stories finishes with a song that could easily become the closer at a Murphys live show. Like Kiss Me I'm Shitfaced or End Of The Night, Until The Next Time Serves as a goodbye of sorts. It's a fun pop tune that can't help but bring a smile to my face. I can't wait to hear it live.

11 Short Stories is yet another fantastic album by the Dropkick Murphys. Over the years the band's sound has evolved a lot but they've always managed to make it sound like a Dropkick Murphys album. I have to admit that on my first listen of the album I was longing for some faster tunes like in the old days but I can't actually pick a bad song among on the eleven on this album.

Stream and download 11 Short Stories of Pain & Glory here:

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