Sound: There's something about the Dropkick Murphys that simply make you want to head straight to your local bar, throw your arms around your buddies, sing as loudly (perhaps off-key) as possible, and maybe get into a brawl or two while you're at it. The Massachusetts natives are back with another batch in tunes just in time for St. Patty's day, once again combining the best of the Celtic and punk worlds. This time around, however, the Dropkick Murphys have taken a stab at a concept album on Going Out In Style, which revolves around the fictional character Cornelius Larkin, who eventually passes to the other side and reflects upon his life. One might not necessarily view the idea of a concept album as something fitting for the Dropkick Murphy's free-spirited style, but the band has enough emotional range not hesitating to venture into sentimental territory that the 13-track Going Out In Style does draw you in from start to finish.
Does taking on a concept album alter the band's sound dramatically? No, but there is enough diversity to the song arrangements that Going Out In Style never gets mired in just merely a Celtic punk vibe. Kicking it all off is the anthem Hang Em High, which is fueled by patriotic drums, bagpipes, and a chorus that is made for a sing-along. The energy continues with tracks like the fiery Going Out In Style, but there are moments when the Dropkick Murphys do allow sentimentality into the picture. Cruel, 1953, and the reflective war-themed Broken Hymns all take the album in a much-needed solemn direction.
It's hard not to do a double take when looking at the credits on the album, if only for one particular guest that shows up: Bruce Springsteen. The Boss himself is a guest vocalist on the track Peg O My Heart. One of the most fascinating aspects to this addition is how you almost don't notice that it's Springsteen because the audio mix is so heavily in favor of the huge wall of instrumentation rather than the vocals. Other guests include Fat Mike, Chris Cheney, and Lenny Clark on Going Out In Style, a song that is easily the most memorable and infectious on the record. The Celtic influence is usually ever-present, but a track like Memorial Day allows the banjo to overtake the bagpipes to a point where it almost feels more like a Mumford and Sons approach. The vast majority do stay true to the Dropkick Murphys' past catalog, however, with most of the tracks being undeniably likable. // 9
Lyrics: The decision to make the record a concept album has worked in the band's favor in terms of lyrical content. Each track tells a fairly descript story into the life of Cornelius Larkin, whether it's the love of his life in Peg O My Heart or the battles he fought Hang Em High. There are some amazingly fantastic lines and the title track is a perfect example of the to-hell-with-it-all attitude that the band captures so brilliantly: You can take my urn to Fenway spread my ashes all about; Or you can bring me down to Wolly Beach; And dump the sucker out; Burn me to a rotten crisp and toast me for a while; I could really give a shit - I'm going out in style. // 10
Overall Impression: If you're not fond of Celtic punk or Celtic folk music in general that would be the main caveat to embracing Going Out In Style. But if you've enjoyed the Dropkick Murphys' approach to their familial roots, the new record will be one that you'll find extremely satisfying. Yes, there are some impressive guest musicians on the record, but they honestly fall to the wayside when it comes down to it. It's the heart that is injected into every song that will instantly connect with the listener, and this is a band that has the musical chops (bagpipes, banjo, or otherwise) to back it all up. // 9