'Signed and Sealed in Blood' by Dropkick Murphys a concert tutorialALBUM REVIEW: “Signed and Sealed in Blood” is that Dropkick Murphys experience as distilled and focused as it’s ever been presented.
By: Tony Bennett, for the News Tribune
You can sign something in blood, yeah, but how do you seal something in blood?
Isn’t it too viscous to work sufficiently as a reliable adhesive? You know what, forget it. This is a Dropkick Murphys album, and the point of their music is not to make you think too deeply about anything, but to inspire you to get wasted on Guinness, kick over a coffee table, pump your fist, yell in your friend’s face, and regret your actions in the morning.
“Signed and Sealed in Blood” is that Dropkick Murphys experience as distilled and focused as it’s ever been presented.
There are times on the album where this is a good thing, and times when it’s not so good. Let’s start with the latter.
“The Boys Are Back” starts simply with some acoustic guitar and feedback. As the stomping, clapping and chanting starts — “The boys are back / the boys are back / the boys are back, and they’re lookin’ for trouble” — you can feel the acoustic losing the battle to the electrics. While the song glides along a snappy punk rock beat in the verses, it unfortunately keeps dipping out of it to return to tell us that the boys are back over and over. What boys? Back from where? Aside from the fact that Thin Lizzy’s “boys are back” song is exactly 674 percent better than this one, the song is little more than an obvious concert opener, something meant to get revelers on their feet and chanting along to what amounts to little more than a nursery rhyme set to neck-vein popping rock music. (Have these guys been on “Yo Gabba Gabba” yet?)
The closing track has the same problem, although it’s not a full-tilt rock song. “End of the Night” (which follows the tracks “Out on the Town” and “Out of Our Heads,” forming a sort of trilogy about the main DM lyrical concern: getting blotto) clearly is written specifically to end a concert.
“It’s the end of the night, but we ain’t goin’ home!” sings a massive choir of voices, and the song breaks down at the end to feature the choir’s wordless da-da-da vocals. You can picture the swaying crowd at the gig, everyone with their arms around each other, like they’re listening to Billy Joel doing “Piano Man.” The album version surely functions as training for the full participation the band expects at its gigs; it’s just too obvious.
There’s good stuff on here, though — “Don’t Tear Us Apart” dials back the relentless sloganeering a bit, and it rides a propulsive piano figure in a rhythmically interesting way. “Out on the Town” rewrites Molly Hatchet’s “Flirtin’ with Disaster,” but it gets away from the band’s tendency to hammer you over the head with anthem after anthem by grooving a little. “The Prisoner’s Song” is centered around a folky banjo and accordion figure, and it features some good snare work.
The album commits a fatal, bizarro error, though, when it decides that what Dropkick Murphys fans really want out of their band’s latest platter is a Christmas song right smack-dab in the middle of the tracklist. Huh? Sleigh bells jingle, and a million overdubbed voices bark the hook: “The season’s upon us / it’s that time of year / brandy and egg nog / there’s plenty of cheer.”
Why they thought it was a good idea to make their fans want to hit the skip button on track six for 11 months out of the year, this reviewer can only imagine.
Maybe it’s the booze.
Tony Bennett reviews music for the News Tribune. He may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.