April 30, 2021

Turn Up That Dial! It’s More Dropkick Murphys


Today saw the release of the new album from the celt punk band, The Dropkick Murphys. Formed in Boston in the wake of the celt punk explosion following the first Pogues albums, the Dropkick Murphys have a bit of The Clash in them but still follow time honored celt punk traditions. Unlike other celt punk bands, such as Black 47, the Dropkick Murphys have a heavy dollop of working-class Boston infused in their otherwise cookie cutter celt punk. This is what has always something special about the Dropkick Murphys, that special something have set them apart from their contemporaries. Their most famous song “I’m Shipping Up to Boston”, about a sailor who loses his leg climbing the rigging of a wooden ship, is an allegory of the desire to find what you’ve lost by going home to Boston. Everyone of their albums has some homage to their hometown, including the new one, Turn Up That Dial.

There is an old saw amongst Irish music fans that says that there are only 5 (or 10 or 12) Irish songs; Everything else is just a variation on the theme. This is also true of the Dropkick Murphys. Their albums are nearly interchangeable, and this is the case for the new one. That’s not to say they put out any bad or boring albums. Quite the contrary. Dropkick Murphy albums are universally good. There are some songs that stand out, like the aforementioned “I’m Shipping Up to Boston”, but most of their albums are pretty similar.

Turn Up That Dial doesn’t mess with that formula. It contains their signature sound of Mick Jones* guitar licks along with Celtic instruments such as mandolins, tin whistles, pipes, and accordions. The sing along choruses are there in spades too. The song “Middle Finger” is a prime example of what a Dropkick Murphy song is all about. The song starts slow, with an accordion and tin whistle intro that could have come right out of a Pogues’ song. Next, the blast of punk guitar and gravelly voice of lead singer Ken Casey kick the song into high gear. Thematically, it’s about not being about to keep out of trouble and includes a catchy sing long chorus “I could never keep/I could never keep/I could never keep my life from burning to the ground/You think I’ve learned my lesson/I’m a man who’s been around./But I could never keep that middle finger down”. This is a chorus destined to cause concert goers to shout until they lose their voices.

The rest of the album is very much like “Middle Finger”. Celtic and punk music combined with working-class themes. The initial single off the album “The Queen of Suffolk County”, which refers to the county in Massachusetts where Boston is found, adds that little bit o’ Boston to the mix. It’s a reminder to the Dropkick Murphy fan base of where they come from and not to get too uppity. Turn Up That Dial also seeks to remind the audience of their Celtic and punk roots just in case anyone didn’t get the clue. “Smash Shit Up” combines both traditions admirably. Starting with a pretty awesome accordion solo that would have been at home in any mainline Irish band. The ethos, however, is pure punk with another of earworm worthy sing along choruses “I wanna be a rebel/I can’t get enough/I wanna be a rebel/I wanna smash shit up.” It’s hard to see a song called “Smash Shit Up” as anything but a punk song.

The Dropkick Murphys have this amazing ability to generate great celt punk music time after time. It’s hard to point at any of their albums and think that they just fell short. So, what if it all sounds the same? That just means you don’t have to worry about sifting through album after album to find a good one. Turn Up That Dial is a worthy Dropkick Murphys effort that will satisfy fans. I, for one, can’t wait to see them in concert and scream about not being able to keep my middle finger down while waving said finger in the air. You know that’s how it’s going to go down. Everyone flipping the bird at the world while singing about how it gets us in trouble. It is just that touch of rebellion, of flipping off the world, that makes the Dropkick Murphys so much fun. For just a little while anyway we get to tell the world that we are sick of being put down and that it can go f*** itself.

Maybe that’s all the Dropkick Murphys are, a bunch of middle age guys flipping off the world. I’m so glad they can do just that and take the rest of us along. So, raise a pint and a middle finger to the new Dropkick Murphys album. It might be standard Dropkick Murphys material but that’s just we need right now.

* I didn’t think I needed to mention who Mick Jones was but just in case, he was the lead guitar for The Clash.