Dropkick Murphys – The Meanest of Times
Release Date: September 18, 2007
Record Label: Born and Bred Records
Living legends in their hometown of Boston, heavily lauded by award-winning filmmaker Martin Scorsese, and some of the hardest-working musicians in the business, if Dropkick Murphys decided to cut down on their events calendar, most critics and fans wouldn't flinch. Instead, the band did as they've always done and kicked it up a notch. They've released six studio albums, a live album (recorded on St. Patrick's Day, no less), and a few EPs in the last 11 years without missing a bagpipe-laden beat. The Meanest of Times is the band's first album since (gasp!) 2005, and we get a healthy dose of the Murphys' finest Irish whiskey, although there are a few moments where it feels as though it might have aged just a bit too long.
Fittingly, the band launched “The State of Massachusetts” as their first single from The Meanest of Times. The track is a mandolin-tinged Celtic romp that tugs at your heartstrings as the traded vocal lines, specifically incorporating the trademark Murphys shouted chorus, offer a unique structure to the song. It's by no means a happy song, but it comes across as very real, something the band has always done well—bringing the music home to the listeners. The first half of the album is laced with sing-along punk rockers that spit a lot more fire than you'll realize upon first listen.
“Tomorrow's Industry” and “Vices and Virtues” prove eerily reminiscent of the aggressive yet cleaned-up punk tracks from Blackout, their fourth studio album, where “Surrender” seems to be a bit more full-bodied and wouldn't be out of place on their fifth, The Warrior's Code. That's not to say every song on The Meanest of Times can be pegged as at home on a previous Murphys album. “God Willing” is a hopeful, albeit somewhat chilling song that fuses the band's frenetic dual-guitar attack and Scruffy Wallace's bagpipes into what may prove to be one of the most entertaining songs in their entire discography.
So what else can we learn from The Meanest of Times besides that Dropkick Murphys are becoming more and more popular as their career charges on (the newest effort charted at #20 on the Billboard 200, by far their best position ever)? The album is well above-average but not nearly the best they've ever done. If you enjoyed The Warrior's Code, the new one shines similarly but delivers a heavier kick in the ass that just might catch you off-balance. Crank the volume and raise a glass to the Murphys, who show no signs of slowing down.