« 11 Short Stories Of Pain And Glory » (2017) - Dropkick Murphys
Born in 1996, Dropkick Murphys comes from Massachusetts (USA) where its popularity grew up during the St Patrick's days in Boston, a town well-known among the Irish immigrants.
Mainly influenced by Irish traditional music like the famous Pogues, they made their own style through Celtic (folk-)rock, punk and punk-rock and have released nine studio albums. They also tour a lot abroad.
The album released in January 2017 is a perfect example of their know-how, particularly in writing some catchy songs and choruses, made for the stage and festivals.
However, it rather looks like a compilation of different styles and productions, some kind of « Come and hear what we're able to do… ».
So we got some Celtic tracks (a bit due to bagpipe and whistle playing from time to time), some punk ones (a lot), some rock from the Eighties (or even Sixties…), also some Celtic ones made in Pogues (sic), some slower tunes too.
Mastering is sometimes disappointing and the mix of the lead vocal can vary a lot from tune to tune, as if the tracks have been produced at different times…
On the other hand, lyrics are interesting with a solid writing.
The band has a lot of experience, we can hear that but what is its real style? I put them in Celtic rock but it could rather belong to some kind of Celtic punk-rock due to the voice, the nervous rhythmics and the numerous references to The Pogues even if they've left aside the Irish traditional.
Actually, this opus is a bit confusing even if its main colour is to propose a lot of tunes that surely can make the audience sing!
My selection :
- Kicked To The Curb (track 8) : great riff, nice bass; a big (punk-)rock one from the 80’s,
- 4-5-13 (track 10) : a very good whistle; the Pogues are not very far… ; verses and choruses merge very well; by the way the chorus is great with nice lyrics.
One can prefer the oldest productions like their main hit I'm Shipping Up To Boston :
« Live At The Fort » (2012) - Prydein
Prydein is an American Celtic rock band (State of Vermont) formed in 1999, continuing the work of a previous one called Whisky Before Breakfast.
After many evolutions in their line-up and four rather uneven albums, Prydein has created its own Celtic rock sound.
Just a small foreword : I am not a great fan of Celtic rock, by far… I often think and feel that those two styles get both damaged in this fusion! Some rock without the roll and some Celtic without thistle…
Prydein seems not to be an exception but I chose to review their work due to some gems that I've heard here and there.
I must be clear about the pipers who all play at a high level on Highland bagpipes. Without them, no Prydein at all…
The rhythmic section does a great job too as often the whistles.
But the lead vocal is weak most of the time, technically speaking and - what is worse for me - without emotions or soul.
By the way, the two last records display less and less vocals…
Live At The Fort has been recorded in strange conditions : one's got the impression to be in a pub rather than in a concert atmosphere…
Thanks to them, the bagpipes are outstanding almost on all the tracks; so are the whistles too and bass guitar is a good one.
But the lead vocal is still the same : except for one or two tunes, it remains the biggest weakness of the band. The arrangements are also minimalists, in the tradition of Celtic rock.
Besides that, two traditional Scottish tunes receive a very bad treatment : I totally agree with the idea of giving some modernity to oldies but there are no ideas and no skill here; and to make matters even worse, they've decided to change some notes (?) and part of the lyrics (?).
Therefore and despite of the bagpipes, this record is a bad showcase for the band; Celtic music and rock are just two names on the poster…
But what makes me wonder is that amid this desert, the album has at least two outstanding oasis : there is the way…
My selection :
- Farewell To Eirann (track 3) follows directly Star Of The County Down, the famous Irish standard that could have been great (with its creative whistle and a good lead vocal for once) but abruptly stopped; the tune starts with an outstanding bagpipe full of groove and an interesting bass that could have been a bit louder in the mix; great track that is just missing an another development of theme,
- Emi's Jig (track 5) : nice guitar in introduction, looking like a composition of Lennie Nihaus (Clint Eastwood's favourite composer) and followed by a great bagpipe; amazing jig with several themes; an interesting break with the previous guitar before the bagpipe's come back; a great musical moment in the set,
- Devil's In The Kitchen is the first track of this live record and also on the best studio album of the combo (Heads Up, released in 2010) : a rendition without surprise but a nice work between bagpipe and rhythmic section based on the traditional tune « The High Road To Linton ».
Celtic Rock - 2