“11 Short Stories” continues Celt punk tradition of kicking ass

“11 Short Stories” continues Celt punk tradition of kicking ass

Dropkick Murphys’ new album partially inspired by charity work

My first experience with Dropkick Murphys was a cassette copy of the “Give Em’ The Boot” compilation from Hellcat, which also included tracks by Rancid, Voodoo Glow Skulls, Choking Victim, Swingin’ Utters, and a whole lot of other ska and punk. I listened to “Barroom Heroes” dutifully before going out as a teenage alt-punk as part of my getting-ready-to-party playlist.

It’s been four years since Dropkick’s last album, “Signed and Sealed in Blood,” and I had some apprehensions about the album – I’d heard a few friends describe it as “toned-down” compared to the previous records. This is Dropkick Murphys. The musical experience I am looking for is a beer-soaked fistfight; I am not looking for “toned down.”

It’s true that “11 Short Stories of Pain and Glory” is a little more melodic than previous albums, and the lyrical content has a little more depth, but that doesn’t “tone down” Dropkick, so let’s put that to bed now.

One thing is true though: This is a short album. Eleven songs, weighing in at 38 minutes.

Things start with “The Lonesome Boatman.” There’s sort of a wordless soccer hooligan style chanting, and a rock-and-roll flute solo. It feels like the instrumental number you play to warm up the crowd before your concert.

“Rebels With a Cause” has an upbeat, simple guitar melody, which matches the hopeful “we believe in you, punk kids” message being delivered rapid fire style in Al Barr’s rough-edged voice.

“Blood” is an anthemic, bagpipe-heavy crowd chant that’d fit right in taunting a rival crew out in front of a crowded bar; it’s got an us-versus-them vibe that’s heavy on the threat of violence.

“First Class Loser” made me giggle a few times. It’s a song about that one friend no one really wanted around. The first laugh hit when it was declared that “He’s wicked unemployed.” That, right there, is Boston as hell. I can hear my Irish-Catholic stepfather’s voice saying it in my head.

“I had a Hat” is my favorite song off the album, hands down. You see, Casey goes to the bar for a wake in a new hat, and hangs it up. Some jerk steals it. Casey’s a reasonable man, he just wants to get his hat back, and chaos ensues because he doesn’t. I think I may have been in a bar for this experience.
The album finishes with “Until The Next Time,” a piano-heavy bar closing song that has the swaying feel of people singing along, arm in arm with whomever is next to them, before staggering or being carried out the door.

Overall, “11 Short Stories” isn’t the barfight soundtrack previous Dropkick Murphys records have been, but it’s good, especially the lyrics, and seriously, I will never touch another man’s hat.

They’re on European tour right now, with no dates for Albuquerque posted on the website yet.

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Bradley T. Schuman is a pop culture geek and music nerd with far too many records and opinions. Reach him at music@freeabq.com.
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Dennis Domrzalski is managing editor of ABQ Free Press. Reach him at dennis@freeabq.com.