Dropkick Murphys have always been a band that speaks to the heart of nostalgia while marching angrily down streets of antiquity and injustice. In 11 Short Stories of Pain & Glory, their ninth LP, they still have that same sheen of rebellion and traditionalism that characterizes the now grown angsty teenagers who loved them in their heyday.
It’s an album of hope and desolation. Bagpipes and banjos. Historic romanticism and progressive vision. Desolate alleyways, baseball stadiums, and thousands upon thousands of waving flags. Their Bostonian brand of Celtic Punk Nationalism has always felt a little gimmicky against the landscape of anarchistic abandon painted by the rest of the punk scene. In that sense, nothing has changed. But their sweaty endurance lends an air of honesty to their signature sea shanty mottoes laid gruffly over the barroom brotherhood of fists and whiskey.
Their sound is unadulterated — unflinchingly violent in the teary face of PC pacifism, and empathically humanist in the midst of militaristic indifference. Their romanticism of state and identity now feels more age appropriate than anarcho-cowardly. Their sense of rebellion is rooted in reason, rather than hormones. 11 Short Stories… explores and transcends intergenerational animosities at a time when it couldn’t be more important.
Their music has always been the theme song of an unlikely hero leading an indefinable charge, and at this point they don’t need to posture to be the head of the riot. They’ve earned their place there. It’s almost like a street gang of drunken Billy Braggs. Just, you know, not quite as poetic, as heard on “Blood:” [LISTEN]
Dropkick may be older and a little wiser now, but the revolution in the soul of their music is still very much alive — and they’re doing something about it. They wrote a mature, profound song about the Boston Marathon bombing (“4-15-13”). They work tirelessly with nonprofit organizations to combat opiate addiction in their hometown. They’ve paid their way already, but they just keep paying.
Are they the Townes Van Zandt of Celtic folk punk? Certainly not. Lyrical geniuses? Not a chance. But they do make good, unexpectedly honest music — songs that speak to universal experience, to struggles of love and money and reckless Saturday nights spent in the lost parts of town. There is triumph in that. And Dropkick has always been about triumph, when it comes down to it; about the one thing we can all raise our glasses to, i.e. “I Had a Hat:” [LISTEN]
Dropkick wears their hat loud, wears it proud. And it appears they fully intend on doing so when (if?) they go out. And they’re holding onto it tight as they teeter at the edge of drunken oblivion, long after any of us thought they would.