Sound — 7
Slowly but surely, the Dropkick Murphys have crept up the charts and into our mind over the years. While their first album in 1998 didn't even chart, their second album peaked at #188, their fourth at #83, their sixth at #20, and their most recent, "Going Out In Style", at an astounding #6. In my opinion, the Dropkick Murphys' fusion of Celtic and punk is unmatched in the musical world today, mixing guitars, mandolins, bagpipes, accordions, tin whistles, and more, each with a central role at one point or the other. This, their eighth studio album entitled "Signed And Sealed In Blood" continues this fusion. Rich in sing-alongs, storytelling, and upbeat, happy feelings nearly everywhere, I think this is the Dropkick Murphys' best album to date. While "Going Out In Style" was a concept album, this is just a collection of twelve songs all connected by their similar, infectious choruses, Celtic riffs, and punk drumbeats. According to bassist Ken Casey, "('Going Out In Style') gave me a couple migraines along the way, getting through that because everything was so connected. This time we cut loose." 01. "The Boys Are Back" - This upbeat opener is the perfect start for the Dropkick Murphys' 8th studio album. The song starts with a sing-along chorus that transitions well into the verses, pre-chorus, and back again. In fact, these transitions, the best on the album, keep you on a high for the whole song until its fiery end. The chorus for this song is, in my opinion, the catchiest on the album, driven with the bagpipes, accordion, and Irish cheer that have brought the Dropkick Murphys into fame. 02. "Prisoner's Song" - I am not by any stretch of the imagination an expert on Irish/Celtic music. But, the riff to "Shipping Up To Boston" didn't seem original, more a standard Celtic riff that had been used thousands of times. I think that questionable conclusion is backed up here, as the main hand-clapping accordion riff is an exact copy of that from "Shipping Up To Boston". A loud electric guitar is more central to the sound on this song than on any of the others. Again, while not exactly the same, this song will draw the most comparisons with "Shipping Up To Boston". 03. "Rose Tattoo" - The beginning of this song, the single released prior to the album's release, is a progression/semi-riff where accordion and mandolin take the lead role, being the first time where I got a medieval feeling I will explain later. The same progression is repeated for the verses, but the part works so well, it almost seems unique during the verses. The chorus lyrics are fairly repetitive, repeating, "In a rose tattoo, in a rose tattoo, I got your name written here in a rose tattoo." However, unlike "Don't Tear Us Apart", this simplicity works; I could sing this repeatedly without being bored. Overall, not the catchiest song, but it becomes musically one of the most interesting. 04. "Burn" - While the whole album is strongly influenced by punk, this one, along with "My Hero", is the closest to punk and the furthest from Celtic on the album. Even with an overbearing mandolin riff at some points and important contributions from the twin whistle at others, the song loses the Celtic feel of the other songs. That being said, the traditional punk drum beat and electric guitar chords will please punk fans who want a break from the sing-alongs, although I'm not one of them. 05. "Jimmy Collins' Wake" - This song's mandolin-driven groove creates an image in my head of a pub during medieval times. Someone starts by telling the story of Jimmy Collins and the other drinkers join in. While the lyrics of the song don't reflect this upon a direct interpretation, this is the image in my head. The song is light in tone, but just as upbeat as the rest of them. Whereas most of the others, one may want to start jumping and singing the chorus, this is more of a sit-down sing-along, not necessarily a negative attribute. 06. "The Season's Upon Us" - This Christmas based tune starts out with acoustic guitar strumming and bagpipes. Soon, the guitar fades out and is replaced by a tin whistle during the chorus. The chorus has the standard sing-along spirit, but the verses are more to just listen to and joke around with. The vocals during the verses and the overall ease of the song remind me of Adam Sandler's "Chanukah Song" for some odd reason. 07. "The Battle Rages On" - this relatively fast song tells the story of an army's fight against an evil king, feeling medieval but in a different way than "Jimmy Collins' Wake". This song is very simply structured, making an easy rock sing-along, the chorus taking up 85% of the 2:17, or so it seems. 08. "Don't Tear Us Apart" - This song is the first to start out with piano. The chorus is just like the others in that it is a sing-along. For some reason, this chorus is much less infectious than that of the other tracks on the album. The chorus is just "don't tear us apart" repeated over and over. Also, the verses lyrics feel very cheesy. In terms of musicianship, it isn't awful, there's just nothing important. Also, I think the piano's tone doesn't mesh well with the chorus, providing two contrasting ideas throughout the song. 09. "My Hero" - The beginning and main riff of this song are some of the only guitar heavy parts of the album. In fact, the homogeneous punk feel doesn't have any prominent mandolin or whistle or bagpipes. Upon a few more listens, the chorus feels more like a sing-along, albeit a hard one, and the guitar riff likewise sounds better each time. 10. "Out On The Town" - There is just something screaming at me here. The whole song except for the bridge strongly resembles a popular song I've heard before. I think it's some sort enough holiday song or little kids song, I just can't put my finger on it. The bridge is the most guitar intensive part of the album with a riff that is catchy enough that it should be the hook of the song instead of the bridge. What follows is the first solo of the album. Short and heavy with double stops, the solo adds an important element to the song without being too flashy. 11. "Out Of Our Heads" - The banjo and accordion main riff is the first in a while on the album that warrants hand clapping. While this riff plays, the drummer plays alike on the rims of the drums, spinning my head on the first listen, a fun experience since this is the only time this happens on this album. I don't quite know why, but this along with "The Boys Are Back" are the two songs I would most like to sing along to at a live show. In conclusion, this is a great fusion of Celtic and punk sensitivities, just a little step above the other songs in this category. 12. "End Of The Night" - In this one, the piano takes the center stage behind the normal barrage of chorus crowd harmonies. This song about leaving a pub after staying excessively long is the closest to somber this album gets. This song stretches to 5:18 not because of an atypical song structure, it relies mostly on a sing-along chorus like the others, but because it is probably the slowest song on the album. There is a tasteful ending where it sounds like all of the drunks are singing the chorus, their quantity of voices being slowly depleted as they leave the pub, I guess a fitful ending to the album.
Lyrics — 9
Vocally, this album contains chorus crowd harmonies on every song, obviously adding to the sing-along vibe. The spirit of many of the songs reminds makes me think of an old Disney type musical where the men at the pub all pile their mugs high and start clinking them while all singing some popular tune. The vocals as well as the lyrics are suited well to each song except "Don't Tear Us Apart". Lyrically, the Murphys combine jokes, all different kinds of storytelling, and just plain fun into one album and on occasion, one song. There are examples below.
Overall Impression — 9
Overall, one word can sum up this album; fun. It is musically pleasing, while not trying too hard. It is relatively easy to listen to and I can play it in front of any friend easily, unlike certain genres that take hard listening to understand truly. As a side note, for some reason, if I ever saw this band live, I think that a festival setting would be best. Another thing I should note is that, while the album is fun, I didn't feel encouraged at all to pick up my guitar and learn the songs. While guitars abound at certain points, they are not central to the sound of this album and the parts themselves aren't intricate by any stretch of the imagination. As for favorites, they are "The Boys Are Back", "Jimmy Collins' Wake", and "Out Of Our Heads". The worst song on the album is "Don't Tear Us Apart". I would definitely buy the album again if it was stolen from me, though I don't think that the second purchase will be necessary for "Signed And Sealed In Blood" to surpass its predecessors in sales.