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I've always been one for picking up on random bands at Reading festival. A couple of years ago I heard of a band playing on the main stage on Rock day who played a sort of Irish folk/punk mix. This had our attention but the addition of a set of bag pipes seemed to swing it. That band were the Dropkick Murphys and from then on I've been sold on the Boston band. They formed in 1996 and practiced in a Barber shops basement in Boston and since then have gone on to release 12 albums of various different methods, from studio to live. The Warriors Code is the latest of those studio albums, released in 2005.
The band are quite unique in their style and I can only think of Flogging Molly as a direct comparison to The Dropkick Murphys. If I were to try and describe the sound it would be like taking traditional Irish band The Dubliners and mixing them with Green Day or The Sex Pistols. While this may to some sound like sacrilege, my Dad certainly thinks it is on certain songs, the mixture works for the Murphys. Their tracks cover a mixture of their own work mixed in with some more traditional Irish tracks, with a little bit of pace added to them.
Over the last 10 years they have slowly gained a fan base in the States and over the last 3 or 4 years have started to break over here in Britain. Their reputation has also been enhanced with a support slot with the Pogues last December and Shane McGowan actually provided guest vocals on one of their earlier albums. Ok the style of music won't be to everyone's liking and those who believe tracks like "The Fields Of Athenry" should always stay in their original incarnations and styles certainly won't like the band.
The thing that really appealed to me about the Dropkick Murhpys was the fusion of the two different styles of music. Throughout the album you can hear that they keep to the Irish folk routes but mix it perfectly with their own blend of punk/rock. The guitars really lead all the tracks but the addition of the bag pipes really gives it that more traditional feel. The drums on each song really help to keep time and give the songs a form of direction. I'd say this format doesn't really work on every track the band do but 9 times out of 10 they do seem to pull it off.
In lead singer Al Barr they do have someone who is really suited to the punk/Irish style. On the slower tracks his vocals sound really good and then the faster ones seem to suit him even better. There is probably one track on the album that doesn't really work but other than that I couldn't fault Barr's vocals. Like all the bands albums this does feature a mixture between the bands own songs and a couple of covers of more traditional tracks. This is something that has served the band well over the years and I feel the covers are just as good, if not better than their own tracks and although different are normally as good as the originals.
It took me a little while to really get into The Warrior's Code but after about 10 listens there were definitely tracks that stood out more than others. Having been brought up listening to traditional Irish music at home I already knew "The Auld Triangle" and "Green Fields Of France", both of which are favourites of mine on this album. I would also say I quite liked "Captain Kelly's Kitchen", which is a rework of "Courtin In The Kitchen", a traditional Irish track I wasn't actually familiar with.
Of the bands own tracks I have to say that I'm split between "Sunshine Highway" and "Last letter Home" as being my favourite. "Sunshine Highway" has a nice up-tempo feel to it that can't help but make you feel good. It's also quite a lively track, which lead by the guitars can really get your foot tapping. "The Last Letter Home" on the other hand is a tribute to a soldier killed in Iraq. It's not quite as up-beat as "Sunshine Highway" as it tells the story of his last letter home. It's quite a touching song, done in a way that only the Murphys could really pull off. I'd say on the flip side there is only one track that doesn't really work on this album and that is "Wicked Sensitive Crew", the vocals are spoken throughout and when the pace picks up sound far too stretched. It just doesn't seem to fit in with the rest of the album.
Overall the 5th studio album release from Dropkick Murphys seems to see them improving still further on the earlier albums. The Warriors Code is certainly one of the best albums by the band that I own, on an even keel with Blackout. For the traditional fans of Irish music this may not be quite your cup of tea, but I'd at least recommend giving it a try. While my Dad wasn't too keen my Mum certainly thought their versions of the traditional tracks were different and that made them sound quite good. Fans of The Pogues and Green Day will certainly like Dropkick Murphys, a band I certainly cant recommend highly enough.
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Disc #1 Tracklisting
1 Your Spirits Alive
2 The Warriors Code
3 Captain Kelly's Kitchen
4 The Walking Dead
5 Sunshine Highway
6 Wicked Sensitive Crew
7 The Burden
8 Citizen CIA
9 The Green Fields of France
10 Take It and Run
11 I'm Shipping Up To Boston
12 The Auld Triangle
13 The Last Letter Home