Boston rockers, Dropkick Murphys, age like fine wine. No matter how much they’ve deviated from their earlier material, they’ve always done so with charm, passion and a great sense of storytelling. 11 Short Stories of Pain & Glory reminds me a lot of another band I keep in this same category as ‘one who rarely does wrong’ — Jimmy Eat World. They absolutely owned it on Integrity Blues last year and the same could be said for another band in this grouping, The Menzingers, who are perched to steal hearts once more next month. These bands are very different in style but the point I’m trying to make is no matter how they vary their sound, their music is filled with so much heart and soul, it more than compensates for directional shifts.
This album follows suit and is all about anthemic cries. It’s not as brash, angry, Celtic/oi!/punk as what came before but what it lacks in grit, it makes up for in sentimentality. And not the gimmicky kind. Dropkick Murphys touch on a lot of what’s inspired them, not just as musicians, but as people. Their cover of “You’ll Never Walk Alone” is a rousing rendition, sure to warm the souls of Liverpool fans in England, and this coming from a Borussia Dortmund supporter. What’s even more interesting is they’ve partnered with German club, St. Pauli, as part of a charity initiative, which fits right in with who they are apart from music-makers. Sports fans and advocates of charity drives. “4-15-13” is another soulful gem on the record that I don’t mind sacrificing aggression for. It talks about the Boston marathon victims, without getting political on either side. All it’s about is that innocent lives — everyday folk — were lost; and the world needs less of these acts. Plain and simple.
The twin theme of pain and glory shines at every possible point on the record. From singer Al Barr losing his brother-in-law to an overdose to the tracks mentioned above, and even to the tongue-in cheek songs like “Kicked To The Curb,” “First Class Loser” and the closer, “Until The Next Time.” These songs are as catchy as they are averagely written but there’s just something about how Dropkick Murphys pull them off, that you can’t help but smile and bob your head. Candid yet, not to sound too cliched, fun.
“Paving My Way” is another earnest jam but a bit more frenetic — rumbling and chugging on and on right after an opening stomp a la Queen’s “We Will Rock You.” It jumps out at you in the same way that “Sandlot” does — all radio-friendly alt. jams made for the mainstream; but with the signature of a band that painted “Shipping Up To Boston” as a rallying cry for the impoverished. Infectious, sell-out, tempered down? Who gives a fuck? They’ve paid their dues and don’t owe anyone, anything. This is best exemplified on “Blood” — a song about sacrifice, burning and toiling. The bagpipes start off like Johnny Cash’s “Ring of Fire” and erupts into a bold shout-along with all the band’s trademark elements at work. And that’s what these songs are about: the heart-pumping, hardcore adrenaline and overall rush you felt when the band was at their angsty best, all whittled down to mature, older dudes who know the times we live in call for a smarter channeling of said anger. 11 Short Stories of Pain & Glory is all about our conviction, belief, the redemption we seek… and ultimately, triumph of the human spirit. Not a bad way to dropkick off the year.