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[8th January 2013]
[Born and Bred Records]

01. The Boys Are Back
02. Prisoner Song
03. Rose Tattoo
04. Burn
05. Jimmy Collins’ Wake
06. The Season’s Upon Us
07. The Battle Rages On
08. Don’t Tear Us Apart
09. My Hero
10. Out On The Town
11. Our Of Our Heads
12. End Of The Line

“The boys are back, and they’re looking for trouble!” is the gleeful chant that opens the new album, Signed and Sealed in Blood, by Boston punk rockers Dropkick Murphys (DKM). And back they are, following up 2011’s excellent Going Out in Style (which was a brilliant foray into a more rock and roll direction), with a return to a more another album that showcases a return to the more folk-infused punk rock style that DKM became famous for.

The album starts with a riotous fist-raising anthem reminiscent of Thin Lizzy’s The Boys Are Back In Town’, appropriately titled “The Boys Are Back.” Its message is quite clear: the Dropkick Murphys are back, with a new album and they are coming for you. Two songs from this album were released in advance. “Rose Tattoo” which was given a video in November, and “The Season’s Upon Us” which is a Christmas-themed song, and has been given its own video.

Signed and Sealed in Blood goes between more upbeat feel-good tracks such as “My Hero” “Out of Our Heads” and “Prisoner’s Song”, and slower, more emotional tunes like the aforementioned “Rose Tattoo” “The Season’s Upon Us” and “Jimmy Collins’ Wake.” DKM can do both styles beautifully, and here is no exception. “The Season’s Upon Us” despite clearly being a tongue-in-cheek poke at the holiday season and family gatherings for Christmas dinner, manages to provoke a sincere emotional response from the listener. Album closer, “End of the Night,” is undoubtedly going to be the set closer for many tours to come, and is one fantastic bar anthem with such a heart-felt cry to not wanting to go home. On the opposite end of the spectrum, the song “My Hero” is a fist-pumping tribute to the writer’s father, and, while its opening is slightly reminiscent of the band`s biggest hit, “Shipping Up To Boston”, the song “Prisoner’s Song” is a lark, a fun rocker about prisoners dreaming of one day being free.

Musically, DKM is far more complex than most bands given the “punk” tag. They use many instruments, from bagpipes to flutes to mandolin to a bouzouki (whatever that is) in addition to the standard guitar/drums/bass setup. They don’t ever let one particular element dominate a song, however, and this is what has elevated DKM albums to elite status time and time again. They can switch back and forth between a mandolin driven melody to a hard rocking guitar riff as easily as blinking, and it feels completely natural. A fantastic example on the new album would be “Prisoner’s Song” which opens with mandolin, but moves to a crunching guitar pattern for the chorus. If one element ever takes the majority of a song, as is shown with the folkier elements on “Rose Tattoo” it is done in a way that isn’t tiresome which is a huge relief. A song like “Burn” has both at once, using driving guitar chords with flute and bouzouki parts laid over top.

Lyrically, DKM haven’t changed much over the years. They’re still glorifying Boston sports teams, the working class man, and having a damn good time. It’s a formula that’s worked thus far, so why fix what isn’t broken? They do stray a bit with the Christmas song “The Season’s Upon Us”, which is a highly amusing view into a dysfunctional family Christmas gathering. The song has a typical DKM sounding chorus, sing-along with mentions of drinking and the holiday cheer.

It’s the end of the review, but we ain’t going home. At least, not without another great release from the now-legendary Boston punks. The Dropkick Murphys have once again hit gold with Signed and Sealed in Blood. There is only one song on here that might qualify as filler, and given the quality of the rest of the songs around it, that one song doesn’t matter a whole lot. This is a very good album, held together by veteran songwriting talents and great musicianship.


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