Dropkick Murphys, ‘Signed and Sealed in Blood’ – Album Review
The last time Dropkick Murphys made an album, the scrappy Boston-bred Irish punks crawled out of the pub and into headier, heavier territory. The seven-member band got super-ambitious on 2011’s ‘Going Out in Style,’ a concept record about the life and death of a working-class Irish-American. The narrative was strong, the music was stronger and Bruce Springsteen even showed up for a song.
The band’s eighth album, ‘Signed and Sealed in Blood,’ drops the narrative aspirations but retains the expansive musical set pieces that made ‘Going Out in Style’ one of Dropkick Murphys’ best albums. Even without a single unifying theme running through the LP, ‘Signed and Sealed in Blood’’s 12 songs sound like a dozen different chapters to the same story. And they’re almost as grand as those found on ‘Going Out in Style.’
Dropkick Murphys didn’t need Martin Scorsese to give their songs a cinematic edge, but ever since the director included the band’s marching ‘I’m Shipping Up to Boston’ as a centerpiece in ‘The Departed,’ their basement punk – played on bagpipes, whistles, banjos and accordions, as well as traditional rock instruments – has taken on extra resonance. So ‘Signed and Sealed in Blood’’s shout-along opening cut, ‘The Boys Are Back,’ isn’t just a welcome-home party. It’s a declaration of purpose.
And the festivities continue with the incendiary ‘Burn,’ the teary-eyed boozer ‘Jimmy Collins’ Wake’ and the group sprint ‘The Battle Rages On,’ all of which would sound right at home at a particularly raucous morning parade as they would at a drunken night at the bar. And the whole family is invited.
As on ‘Going Out in Style,’ ‘Signed and Sealed in Blood’’s best songs find deliverance in reflection, whether it’s in ‘Rose Tattoo’’s body ink or the family-dysfunction Christmas of ‘The Season’s Upon Us.’ (“My sisters are whack jobs, I wish I had none,” they sing. “Their husbands are losers and so are their sons.”) The album doesn’t always pack the emotional weight of the last one, but the songs – played loud, fast and hard and with a blue-collar sense of pride – find their own significance, somewhere between the first and final pints.