Listen: Signed and Sealed in Blood
Dropkick Murphys (Born and Bred, 2013)
Notre Dame didn’t quite win the college football championship in January, but this new album from the Dropkick Murphys can console the Irish-American Catholic heart. The Murphys, who started in the 1990s as a punk band, regularly blend Irish pipe, accordion, mandolin, and banjo with the roar of high-volume and high-velocity electric guitar and drums.
The Dropkicks take their name from an old-time Boston fight trainer who ran a rehab farm for drunken boxers, and their last two albums have featured tributes to the Boston Red Sox (check “Jimmy Collins’ Wake” on Signed and Sealed in Blood). Their big breakthrough to the mainstream came when Martin Scorsese used their song “I’m Shipping Up to Boston” in his Irish-American gangster epic, The Departed.
This new album marks no great stylistic shift, and with these guys, that’s good news. There are heart-thumping, fist-pumping statements of optimism in the face of oppression and woe—“Prisoner’s Song” and “The Battle Rages On,” for starters. There are heart-tugging statements of loyalty—to friends (“The Boys Are Back”), to a woman (“Rose Tattoo”), and to a father (“My Hero”).
Underlying the whole Dropkick vision is an even deeper set of loyalties: to family, to place, and to the blue-collar working class. For instance, in 2010 the band distributed on the streets of Boston 10,000 free DVDs of their song “Tomorrow’s Industry” to support local hospital workers’ struggle to unionize.
Under those commitments lies the inherited foundation of Catholicism. When asked about that by an interviewer, drummer Matt Kelly said simply, “We try to be upstanding people and not be your typical ‘rock’ jerks [living] up to some image of coke, strippers, and infidelity. We’re family guys and that’s the No. 1 thing for us.” All told, the Dropkick Murphys qualify as a thoroughly guilt-free pleasure.
This article appeared in the March 2013 issue of U.S. Catholic (Vol. 78, No. 3, page 42).