(Born and Bred)
Upon hearing that Boston’s own punk rock heroes the Dropkick Murphys were releasing a concept album, many fans’ feelings (this writer’s included) were decidedly mixed.
For those not up on their musical nomenclature or for that matter the word nomenclature itself (hint: it has to do with the process of naming things), a concept album is a record that is connected throughout by a common theme, whether musically, lyrically or by the idea of an overarching story. For example, pop punkers Green Day executed their own idea of a concept album to perfection on 2004’s American Idiot, and recent Grammy winners Arcade Fire were able to spin their concept work The Suburbs into Best Album award gold.
When done correctly, the risks inherent with recording a concept album can pay off in spades. However, when the process doesn’t work…well…when was the last time that you listened to Chris Gaines?
Fortunately, after listening to the Murphys latest release the fact appears that the group has spent so many years fine tuning their own brand of Irish-inspired punk and hard rock that now any change to the formula appears only to add to the band’s immense charm.
According to press materials accompanying the record, Going Out in Style is meant as a tale tracing the life of fictional character Cornelius Larkin, who is “one of those guys who immigrated to America at 16, got drafted into the Korean War, married young, had lots of kids, worked hard, and lived a full life rife with different characters, ups and downs, and trials and tribulations.”
Based mostly on people and events from the band members’ own experiences, Larkin’s story unfolds from one raucous track to the next with even the record’s namesake number imagined as his party-starter of a wake, complete with guest vocals from NOFX’s Fat Mike , The Living End’s Chris Cheney and comedian Lenny Clarke.
Watch the video for the title track from the Dropkick Murphys new album “Going Out in Style” here:
Another special guest who appears on the album for the latter song “Peg O’ My Heart” is none other than Bruce Springsteen, whose blue collar roots and working-man persona mesh flawlessly with the fervently pro-union Murphys. Though coming in at a mere two minutes and 20 seconds, the Boss’ appearance makes the tune a highlight.
Still, apart from a few other high points (“Memorial Day,” “The Irish Rover”) most of the new release feels decidedly cookie-cutter. Many songs fail to leave lasting impressions, and even with a running time of just over 49 minutes the record seems over too quickly.
The fact is not that Going Out in Style is a bad album, far from it. The majority of the disc is actually pretty great. However, the fact is that the record isn’t really a concept album at all it’s a Murphys album, much like The Meanest of Times or The Warrior’s Code (still far and away my favorite DKM release).
While the boys are still capable of crafting solid sing-along moments, they might be better served in the future by truly stepping out of their comfort zone instead of just making a half-hearted attempt. After all, there’s no need to throw some loose-fitting storyline around a punk rock record. But then again, with noted author Michael Patrick MacDonald (All Souls, Easter Rising) working with the band on compiling the story behind the music I may one day grow to eat my words.
For information on the Dropkick Murphys and to see future tour dates please visit http://www.dropkickmurphys.com.