Dropkick Murphys: Blackout

Jason MacNeil

Dropkick Murphys


Label: Hellcat
US Release Date: 2003-06-10
UK Release Date: 2003-06-09

The Dropkick Murphys cite several Irish, Celtic, and punk rock groups as their influences, but this album is dedicated to three deceased musicians and friends -- Brian Pollihan, Kenny Walls, and Joe Strummer. And the same lust for life Strummer had for a half-century fuels much of the fire on this latest album. Although the hard and gritty Celtic punk can be heard from start to finish, the group also has been assisted by some of the original punks. Nora Guthrie, daughter of Woody, brought unused lyrics to the band's attention. Regardless of this odd collaboration, the Dropkick Murphys still kick some kilts, er, ass around on this album.

Opening with "Walk Away", lead singers Ken Casey and Al Barr work their way through this bruising three-chord track that unfortunately isn't as polished as the likes of Blink-182 or Sum 41. The guitars here are unrelenting but drummer Matt Kelly puts the finishing touches with some great work. "Worker's Song", which has certain themes that date back to Guthrie's pro-union, pro-working man stance. "For our skills are not needed / They streamline the job", the band sings in unison as Scruffy Wallace blows his pipes. It sounds from the onset that the group is maturing lyrically, not using the simple, humorous banter of some previous efforts. Guitarists Marc Orrell and James Lynch lead some very fine solos in the middle before the song heads into a deep Celtic conclusion.

"The Outcast" is a tad more on the quirky side mainly because the arrangement sounds a bit more like rockabilly than punk. The ascending and descending bass line, while deep in the music, takes a bit longer for the listener to get into, if at all. It comes off as the album's outcast, mainly because there are three very good ideas going on at the same time, but no one great idea. As a result, it's above average, but not great. The traditional Pogues-ish "Black Velvet Band" sounds like Rum, Sodomy and the Lash, particularly with its slow building start. Moving into a totally hell-raising, thrash-your-room-or-roommate, this tune never loses its momentum. You can envision the beers overflowing from glasses as the throng sway, arms over shoulders, singing the concluding lines. "Gonna Be a Blackout Tonight", which is the Guthrie penned track, is a bit moodier and darker. A straightforward punk track, the Dropkick Murphys give the song its due, but isn't as powerful as it could be.

"World Full of Hate" is probably the highlight of the record, a melodic acoustic tune that evolves into a fine song simply because of the change of pace that is offered. The sparse track, featuring primarily vocal and acoustic guitar, resembles Green Day's tune, "Time of Your Life". Marc Orrell's accordion complements the vocals and acoustic guitar nicely. "Buried Alive" returns to the lovable mayhem though, with more of the no-nonsense Celtic punk that is instantly toe tapping. "The Dirty Glass" only adds to the luster, courtesy of vocals by lass Stephanie Dougherty. Being the late Kristy MacColl to Barr's Shane McGowan, this track could be the modern day "Fairytale of New York". "Bastards on Parade" is another softer, acoustic tune that has a sound in the vein of Gordon Gano and Violent Femmes. But it moves back into the band's bread and butter, a punk-cum-Celtic twist they turn to time after time.

What makes the album work is the band realizing that no song should be filler on a record. While there might be one or two that raises an eyebrow, songs such as "This Is Your Life" are just as urgent as the first track. Maybe it was the death of some idols and pals that put a dose of reality into the record, but it's an improvement on Do or Die. The bonus DVD includes favorites like "Rocky Road to Dublin" and "Boys on the Docks" plus trailer footage of a forthcoming live DVD. But for now, this will have to do. And it certainly does!





PM Picks Playlist 1: Rett Madison, Folk Devils + More

The first PopMatters Picks Playlist column features searing Americana from Rett Madison, synthpop from Everything and Everybody, the stunning electropop of Jodie Nicholson, the return of post-punk's Folk Devils, and the glammy pop of Baby FuzZ.


David Lazar's 'Celeste Holm  Syndrome' Appreciates Hollywood's Unsung Character Actors

David Lazar's Celeste Holm Syndrome documents how character actor work is about scene-defining, not scene-stealing.


David Lord Salutes Collaborators With "Cloud Ear" (premiere)

David Lord teams with Jeff Parker (Tortoise) and Chad Taylor (Chicago Underground) for a new collection of sweeping, frequently meditative compositions. The results are jazz for a still-distant future that's still rooted in tradition.


Laraaji Takes a "Quiet Journey" (premiere +interview)

Afro Transcendentalist Laraaji prepares his second album of 2020, the meditative Moon Piano, recorded inside a Brooklyn church. The record is an example of what the artist refers to as "pulling music from the sky".


Blues' Johnny Ray Daniels Sings About "Somewhere to Lay My Head" (premiere)

Johnny Ray Daniels' "Somewhere to Lay My Head" is from new compilation that's a companion to a book detailing the work of artist/musician/folklorist Freeman Vines. Vines chronicles racism and injustice via his work.


The Band of Heathens Find That Life Keeps Getting 'Stranger'

The tracks on the Band of Heathens' Stranger are mostly fun, even when on serious topics, because what other choice is there? We all may have different ideas on how to deal with problems, but we are all in this together.


Landowner's 'Consultant' Is OCD-Post-Punk With Obsessive Precision

Landowner's Consultant has all the energy of a punk-rock record but none of the distorted power chords.


NYFF: 'American Utopia' Sets a Glorious Tone for Our Difficult Times

Spike Lee's crisp concert film of David Byrne's Broadway show, American Utopia, embraces the hopes and anxieties of the present moment.


South Africa's Phelimuncasi Thrill with Their Gqom Beats on '2013-2019'

A new Phelimuncasi anthology from Nyege Nyege Tapes introduces listeners to gqom and the dancefloors of Durban, South Africa.


Wolf Parade's 'Apologies to the Queen Mary' Turns 15

Wolf Parade's debut, Apologies to the Queen Mary, is an indie rock classic. It's a testament to how creative, vital, and exciting the indie rock scene felt in the 2000s.


What 'O Brother, Where Art Thou?' Gets Right (and Wrong) About America

Telling the tale of the cyclops through the lens of high and low culture, in O'Brother, Where Art Thou? the Coens hammer home a fatalistic criticism about the ways that commerce, violence, and cosmetic Christianity prevail in American society .


Literary Scholar Andrew H. Miller On Solitude As a Common Bond

Andrew H. Miller's On Not Being Someone Else considers how contemplating other possibilities for one's life is a way of creating meaning in the life one leads.


Fransancisco's "This Woman's Work" Cover Is Inspired By Heartache (premiere)

Indie-folk brothers Fransancisco dedicate their take on Kate Bush's "This Woman's Work" to all mothers who have lost a child.


Rodd Rathjen Discusses 'Buoyancy', His Film About Modern Slavery

Rodd Rathjen's directorial feature debut, Buoyancy, seeks to give a voice to the voiceless men and boys who are victims of slavery in Southeast Asia.


Hear the New, Classic Pop of the Parson Red Heads' "Turn Around" (premiere)

The Parson Red Heads' "Turn Around" is a pop tune, but pop as heard through ears more attuned to AM radio's glory days rather than streaming playlists and studio trickery.


Blitzen Trapper on the Afterlife, Schizophrenia, Civil Unrest and Our Place in the Cosmos

Influenced by the Tibetan Book of the Dead, Blitzen Trapper's new album Holy Smokes, Future Jokes plumbs the comedic horror of the human condition.

Love in the Time of Coronavirus

Fire in the Time of Coronavirus

If we venture out our front door we might inhale both a deadly virus and pinpoint flakes of ash. If we turn back in fear we may no longer have a door behind us.


Sufjan Stevens' 'The Ascension' Is Mostly Captivating

Even though Sufjan Stevens' The Ascension is sometimes too formulaic or trivial to linger, it's still a very good, enjoyable effort.

Jordan Blum

Collapse Expand Reviews

Collapse Expand Features

PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.