Anthems for Will Hunting
For over twenty years the Dropkick Murphys have revolutionized the Celtic punk genre, which follows off of the traditional Irish folk songs to which the Murphys’ ancestors drank with homeland pride. Bands like the Dropkick Murphys, Flogging Molly and The Mahones have taken these Irish aspects of folk music and used them to create a hardcore punk scene that has a strong following, especially within New England.
The Dropkick Murphys began with an “in-your-face” attitude of harsh vocals and lo-fi punk that gained a strong following from fans of the genre. The band’s shows were rowdy and drunkenly aggressive. Do not let the bagpipes fool you, these guys were not to be reckoned with. As the years have passed for Dropkick Murphys, though, the band have matured into a softer version of their former selves. The previous Murphys that resembled the love-child of Rancid and The Pogues were replaced with a celtic, AC/DC arena-style rock band. The same goes for their newest release — from Born and Bred Records — 11 Short Stories of Pain & Glory.
This album follows the success of the band’s 2013 album, Signed and Sealed in Blood. The previous album marked a turning point in the Murphys sound towards pub-style anthems that were sure to be blared at Boston Bruins games. 11 Short Stories of Pain & Glory certainly expands on this idea.
The lyrics in 11 Short Stories of Pain & Glory follow a strict repeated formula, frequently touching upon the struggles of the Irish-Bostonian middle class, with blaring, repetitive choruses that one could raise a pint to. However, there are glimmers of some very heartfelt writing, even if the lyrics may be simple.
“4-15-13” is an ode to all those who lost their lives due to the Boston Marathon, which took place on the song’s title date. The song follows the Steve Miller Band’s “The Joker” in its listing of attributes such as, “I’m a walker, I’m a talker, I’m a crash city rocker / I’m a stunner, I’m a runner, I’m a freak / but we’re all just people tryin’ to make our way.” These lyrics are generic at times, a theme of the whole album; but this song redeems itself with its instrumental section. It features a plethora of Irish-style instrumentals and is the best produced song on the album. It gets its job done in honoring the victims and survivors too, to whom the band grew close in the aftermath of the Boston Marathon Bombings.
With the exception of “I Had a Hat,” the hard-hitting punk sound of the Murphys is covered with highly produced polish. The vocals have a more relaxed tone, compared to the harshness of albums past, which does not match up with the lyrics, which promote bar-violence and paint a story of the hardcore reality of the blue-collar Irish population in New England
The album closes with “Until Next Time,” which is the nightcap that closes off the album. It almost sounds Muppet-esque in its cheery and uplifting tone. The lyrics re-affirm that this is only a farewell, not a goodbye for the Murphys as their career continues. It is a sappy, but an overall fine closer t0 the album.
A handful of these songs repeat the same themes and basic ideas. This is ultimately the largest problem with the album. Songs like “Rebels With a Cause,” “Sandlot,” “First Class Loser” and “Paying My Way” touch on the tension within the Boston community. These songs all point to troubled youth who work hard while hating on the privileged, Harvard-type kids. The repetitive, uninspired lyrics can lead to eye-rolling. “First Class Loser,” for example, has lyrics that include, “he’s a first class loser! he’s not my type of guy / he’s a first class loser, he makes me wanna cry!”
To the Boston natives who have seen Good Will Hunting one too many times, this album will paint a familiar, yet dull, picture of bar fights and troubled youth. For those who are not in this demographic, the album will appear repetitive and simple. Although there are a few enjoyable songs, such as “4-15-13,” “Sandlot” and “I Had A Hat,” the album is not breaking any barriers within the genre; but that is probably how the Murphys like it. They have a formula that they have mastered. These songs will surely be sung by thousands inside their annual House of Blues Boston shows.