Dropkick Murphys - 11 Short Stories of Pain & Glory (Cover Artwork)
Staff Review

Dropkick Murphys

11 Short Stories of Pain & Glory (2017)

born & bred Records

There was a time when I was a pretty big Dropkick Murphys fan. I love Do or Die (1998) and really like their four other Hellcat LP's. Since then it's been much more hit or miss, but I've enjoyed bits and pieces of each album. There's no question that the group has evolved quite a lot over the last two decades. Dropkick Murphys started out as a street-punk band with occasional traditional Irish flourishes. Now they feel more like an electric Irish folk-rock band with the occasional punk outburst. Whether or not you enjoy 11 Short Stories of Pain & Glory will largely depend on how you feel about that change.

The new LP is very much in the same vein as Going Out In Style (2011) and Signed and Sealed In Blood (2013). It goes without saying that there are a couple of traditional type tunes. Opener The Lonesome Boatman is an amped up version of the 1969 song by Irish duo Finbar and Eddie Furey. It's mostly an instrumental with some lyricless vocal lines thrown in for good measure. For some reason, You'll Never Walk Alone has always been a favorite of street-punk and oi bands. The song originally appeared in the 1945 Rodgers and Hammerstein musical Carousel. DKM's version is solid but unspectacular. A punked up version of an old show tune is much easier to swallow than a new song that sounds like a show tune. That's what piano driven album closer Until the Next Time sounds like.

It should also come as no surprise that 11 Short Stories of Pain & Glory is dripping with nostalgia. Growing up the hard way has long been a favorite theme of the band. Rebels With a Cause, Sandlot and Paying My Way all fall into this category. Paying My Way should have been a classic DKM blue collar anthem, but it was torpedoed by too much piano and its We Will Rock You drumbeat. Blood seems like a song that was written for the sole purpose of firing up crowds at hockey games. Kicked to the Curb has a classic rock feel and is a decent track about getting dumped and being broke. I Had a Hat is solid and is the fastest and most aggressive thing on the record.

I know I'm being pretty hard on 11 Short Stories of Pain & Glory, but it's not all bad. There's a handful of good new Dropkick Murphys songs. Rebels With a Cause and Sandlot both reminisce without getting overly sappy. First Class Loser will probably remind you of the misanthrope in your life and have you singing along in no time. 4-15-13 might be the best track on the record. It's a powerful tribute to those lost in the Boston Marathon bombing. Overall, this album continues the negative trend of bassist/vocalist Ken Casey singing almost as much as lead singer Al Barr. Casey is the leader of the band and the main songwriter. He has a unique voice, but it's best used sparingly.

The fact of the matter is that the Dropkick Murphys no longer really belong to punk. They're bigger than that now. At best they're a gateway or entry level punk band. I keep judging them by punk standards and I keep being disappointed. Every record seems to have less songs that move me than the one before. 11 Short Stories of Pain & Glory is not even close to terrible, but the tracks are too mid-tempo and just too predictable. Ultimately, I am unable to take a step back and look at the band in the bigger rock and roll picture. I'm too close to their early material. I'll always compare everything to those first couple of records. By that standard, this falls flat.