Dropkick Murphys - The Meanest of Times (Cover Artwork)
Staff Review

Dropkick Murphys

The Meanest of Times (2007)

Born and Bred / EastWest

If Dropkick Murphys are anything, they are reliable. Dropkick Murphys served an integral role in cultivating the musical experiences for the scores of people who got involved in punk rock during the mid-`90s. Over the last few years, the Murphys have all but dropped out of the rotation of records that make it through my stereo, but it's nice to have them back.

The Meanest of Times is the sixth studio album from the Boston seven-piece. It's also the band's first on their new label, Born and Bred Records. The best way to describe it is simply as a Dropkick Murphys album: street-wise punk rock with a healthy dose of Celtic influence and more than enough opportunities to swing a pint in the air. Lyrically, Al Barr and Ken Casey still focus on the themes that have traditionally been important to the band: family, friends and community -- themes that are reassuring to hear addressed in the modern musical climate.

I don't want to give the impression that it's safe to say every Dropkick Murphys album sounds the same, but it's no secret that much like Pennywise and the Bouncing Souls, the band has an immediately identifiable sound. However, on The Meanest of Times they continue to tweak that sound and allow it to develop. The band still finds time to throw in traditional songs. This time around they do their own take on "Johnny, I Hardly Knew Ya," "(F)lannigan's Ball" and "Fairmount Hill." These songs stand out noticeably, largely because of the arrangements, which often include more bagpipe. The band does a good job at representing the spirit of these songs, something they've become known for doing well.

The front end of The Meanest of Times comes across better than the later half. This is partially due to the strength of the songs which occupy it such as "Famous for Nothing" and "The State of Massachusetts" and partially because the songs are placed in a seemingly arbitrary order, leaving peaks and valleys throughout.

The Meanest of Times isn't the band's best or most exciting work, but it does show Dropkick Murphys playing their brand of punk rock with more proficiency than they ever have. Despite whatever role they play in the scene today, their music is bound to continue to be attractive to punk rock purists and people who got into the music when the band was getting started. That said, the band's latest effort is unlikely to find itself in regular rotation at my house, though I'd jump at the chance to see the songs from it played live.