Dropkick Murphys ‘Signed & Sealed In Blood’ – album review

Dropkick Murphys ‘Signed A Sealed In Blood’ (Born And Bred)
CD/Vinyl & Ltd Edit Vinyl/DL
Released 7th January 2013

The welcome sound of The Dropkick Murphys enjoying themselves…

The eighth studio album from the Boston based outfit which rapidly follows on from 2011’s ‘Going Out In Style’ the concept album that told the tale of a fictional character; Cornelius Larkin complete with a full obituary written by Irish/American activist and author Michael Patrick MacDonald. The creation of such and the delivery across stages worldwide whilst both artistically and commercially successful took its toll – bassist and sole original member Ken Casey told Billboard magazine that ‘Signed and Sealed’ “has no such constraints…this is just the opposite of that, just us having fun making the most catchy sing-along kinda songs we can

‘The Boys Are Back’ opens the album, and does with gusto; all the traditional elements that make up a Dropkick Murphys song are here but cranked up to the max – the pipes, rabble rousing bar room chanting, call and response vocals from Ken Casey and Al Barr, all of which barely prepares you for the roustabout vigour of ‘Prisoner’s Song’ which errs in favour of a banjo driven jig building to a huge fist punching chorus. ‘Rose Tattoo’ has already been lifted as the lead single, and was also the inspiration for the band to invite its fans to have the album artwork inked upon themselves; all completed tattoos were to be submitted to the band with a selection appearing in the accompanying promo video…’Burn’ will have the security at venues across the globe cursing – a full pelt banjo enflamed, whiskey fuelled kayleigh; the mosh pits will embrace this one, and as I mentioned the demon liquor; ‘Jimmy Collins’ Wake’ laments the passing of a seasoned drinker – the track adopts a mellow tone, more folk based which permeates into the Murphys first Christmas song the twisted ‘The Seasons Upon Us’ a dark confessional tale as the author reveals the skeletons within his own family “My nephew’s a horrible, wise little twit / He once gave me a nice gift wrapped box full of shit”


‘The Battle Rages On’ is typical Dropkick Murphys; a full frontal attack – the perfect combination of punk rock and traditional Irish music; the key is getting the balance right, and it is this trick that the Murphys mastered at an early stage which goes some way to explaining why their back catalogue has shifted well in excess of 4 million units, that’s not to say they are closed to experimentation; the use of a piano throughout ‘Don’t Tear Us Apart’ is very welcome as the once again sing about friendship and camaraderie the simple chanted refrain of “don’t tear us apart…you won’t tear us apart.”

Many criticise the band and for being formulaic, the throwaway remark that their albums all sound the same, but don’t lose sight of the fact that as a band they are reflecting their heritage, and a cultural identity they are obviously proud of so for them to deliberately chose to ignore that would be churlish – the Murphys acknowledge their roots and make music that celebrates the fact, but at the same time draws upon their punk rock influences; sure, in the past they have covered well known Irish standards such as ‘The Fields of Athenry’, ‘The Wild Rover’ and ‘Finnegan’s Wake’ – their cover of ‘Athenry’ from the ‘Blackout’ album is just sublime, but they have always been adept at crafting their own songs utilizing elements from the music they love, the end result being songs that sound like tunes you would hear in any Irish bar in any city on the planet, songs that rally friends – this is music to be shared, music to be sung amongst family as you all raise a glass to celebrate the moment.
‘End of the Night’ the closing track on the album will clearly work perfectly in the live arena, the pace is slowed right down, the piano returns as you link arms with the person stood next to you – do you know them? It matters not, for at that point in time you will all be Murphys.

The Dropkick Murphys tour the UK in mid January then head over to Europe;

Jan 12 Dublin, Ireland @ Vicar Street
JAN 15 Manchester, UK @ HMV Ritz
Jan 16 Glasgow, UK @ Barrowland
Jan 17 Nottingham, UK @ Rock City
Jan 18 London, UK @ HMV Forum
Jan 19 London, UK @ HMV Forum

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Phil Newall is from The Wirral - he earns his living not writing about music nor playing music...though sorely wishes he could. He was fortunate enough to see many of the first generation punk bands when they played the U18's matinee shows at Eric's, Liverpool. As an attendee at Eric's he was exposed to punk rock, dub reggae, art rock, and all manner of weirdness; as a customer at Probe Records he was variously served and scowled at by Pete Wylie and Pete Burns - he has written for Record Collector, Whisperin & Hollerin, and Spiral Scratch and wanted to write a book detailing the Liverpool punk scene; however with 'Head-On' Julian Cope beat him to it...and frankly did a much better job.


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