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DROPKICK MURPHYS Live On Lansdowne Boston MA
(CD/DVD) Cooking Vinyl COOKCD518 (2010)

Dropkick Murphys

It's not difficult to see the attraction of the American/Irish Celtic Punk of Dropkick Murphys. Indeed the bass playing vocalist Ken Casey has described the band jocularly as 'The AC/DC of Celtic punk rock'. And on the evidence of this CD/DVD double pack his description is apt and it's easy to see how the band's Boston/Irish heritage translates effortlessly to fellow Irish descendants all around the globe.

This well produced and superbly filmed double set is the result of DM playing seven nights on the bounce. The band are understandably tight, the show explodes and the crowd goes wild, but unlike their distant 70's pogoing Punk cousins this is a different more well heeled generation with not safety pin in sight.

Listening to the CD alone the ghost of The Clash and The Pogues loom large, but the DVD offers a broader perspective including the lengthier introductions which explain some of the band's history and musical context. Dropkick Murphys cannot just be dismissed as the product of an overgrown punk residue. Their tempos may be supercharged and their vocals spat out with post punk venom, but the arrangements have been well thought through right down to the various string and pipe instruments that evoke the Celtic roots feel.

This is a band that stays two steps in front of being one dimensional purely by following their gut instinct. They explore everything from Thrash Metal to Rock and Roll as long as the audience is with them. On the one hand they give their crowd exactly what they expect from the anthemic choruses, the raised fists and hard hitting punk riffs. On the other hand they retain a warped sense of the traditional, incorporating everything from traditional Irish dancers, special guests like Liza Graves on the ‘Dirty Glass' to bulldozing through traditional songs such as ‘Fields of Athenry' and reconnecting the US civil war song ‘Johnny Comes Marching Home' to the Irish anti war song, ‘Johnny, I Hardly Knew Ya'.

Lead vocalist Al Barr's hits the crowd hard from the lip of the stage as he spits out his vocals relentlessly and trades verses effectively with Ken Casey on the rocking ‘Sunshine Highway'. In between the rapt out vocals there songs like ‘Time to Go' on which Celtic Punk meets rock and roll head on, as an accordion led intro works its way towards a Ramones style rock and roll finish.

The band effortlessly slips through the gears with a rousing version of ‘Flannigan's Ball' and ‘Bastard on Parade' which is predicated on some great mandolin and bouzoukie driven rhythms. They also manage to transform a manic bagpipe driven ‘God Willing' into another rock and roll style outing.

There's time for some hardcore rapping on ‘Citizen C.I.A.' and Casey's razor blade lead vocals on ‘Athenry', all beefed up by an unlikely combination of bagpipes, violin, cellos and a belated trad rock guitar solo! On the following bone crunching, triple time thrash of ‘Your Spirit's Alive' the band deliver the sort of focused power that Motorhead's Lemme would surely appreciate.

And on it goes, as the green shirted moss pit does its thing and a healthy portion of the women in the crowd accept the band's invitation to populate the stage for a chaotic conclusion on ‘Kiss Me, I'm Sh*tfaced'. But Dropkick Murphys are not a shambolic mélange but rather a band with a finely honed sense of musical history and their own Irish American heritage. Their brand of Celtic Punk by no means breaks new ground but rather updates musical traditions in a popular way.


Review by Pete Feenstra


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***** Out of this world | **** Pretty damn fine |
*** OK, approach with caution unless you are a fan |
** Instant bargain bin fodder | * Ugly. Just ugly

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