Sound — 5
Over a decade ago, Dropkick Murphys struck gold like they never had before with the success of their 2005 single, "I'm Shipping Up to Boston," and from being included in the soundtrack to Scorsese's Oscar-winning film "The Departed," to becoming a staple song played during any and all Boston sporting events, has become just as much a contemporary anthem for Boston as it has the quintessential song for the Celtic punk outfit.
Using that success as a springboard, Dropkick Murphys left Hellcat Records to start releasing music under their own label, Born & Bred Records. Following up from the breakthrough success of 2005's "The Warrior's Code," 2007's "The Meanest of Times" pulled back on the Celtic folk characteristics for a more straightforward punk sound (save for the few adapted Irish traditional songs), but the band would dive right back into the Irish flair with their 2011 concept album, "Going Out in Style," and 2013's "Signed and Sealed in Blood."
In their ninth album, "11 Short Stories of Pain & Glory," Dropkick Murphys continue their Celtic punk sound with little changeups. Compared to its predecessor, the bagpipe melodies reign stronger this time around in songs like "First Class Loser" and "You'll Never Walk Alone," and their conventional instrumentation balances between their uptempo punk gear (heard in the romping "I Had a Hat" and the Rancid-esque "Kicked to the Curb") and a less frenetic alt rock gear in songs like "Sandlot," and the brothers-in-arms drinking number "Until the Next Time."
The most standout moments on here, however, are the couple of music motifs that sound cribbed. The thunderous stomp-stomp-clap intro of "Paying My Way" cuts a little too close to imitating the iconic intro of Queen's "We Will Rock You," and while that may be easier to forgive, the bagpipe melody in "Blood" is a dead ringer for copying Johnny Cash's "Ring of Fire." It's one thing to reimagine traditional Irish songs in their modern Celtic punk style, but to try co-opting a signature melody from a 20th-century music legend without giving credit is simply disrespectful.
Lyrics — 7
Inspired by the band's charity work with their own nonprofit organization, The Claddagh Fund, plenty of lyrics in "11 Short Stories of Pain & Glory" revolve around more severe subject matter. With a focus on the recent spike in opiate addiction in the U. S., songs span from addressing the hard-knock life of teenage addicts in "Rebels With A Cause" ("He was tortured, he was troubled / She was sick and she was lost / Searching for an answer, rebels with a cause"), the road to rehabilitation in "Paying My Way" ("My hopes are so much higher / Don't count me out, I'm a survivor"), and "You'll Never Walk Alone," which the band has spoken about being inspired by those who have lost loved ones to drug overdose. Most poignantly, however, is their tribute to the Boston Marathon bombing in "4-15-13," which solemnly commemorates the tragic attack in the band's hometown ("We stood in your footprints 'til the rain washed them away / The memories never fade, where they still always stay"). But with moments of goofy lyrics that are also included, like the begrudging ode to jerks in "First Class Loser" and the comical brawl depicted in "I Had A Hat," it kind of dilutes the primary lyrical tone of severity on the album.
Overall Impression — 6
Like most other bands several albums in, Dropkick Murphys continue to stick to the comfortable ground of their signature sound in "11 Short Stories of Pain & Glory." And though they spread out their Celtic punk/alt rock sound into different gears to make the album properly well-rounded, and as inspired as it may be lyrically, the moments of copying classic hits hang over the album like a dark cloud.