Dropkick Murphys – Turn Up That Dial

  • Cole Faulkner posted
  • Reviews

Dropkick Murphys

Turn Up That Dial - Born & Bred Records

I can only imagine that it puts on a lot of pressure when you are the public spokespeople for an entire genre. While celtic punk has a diverse roster of distinct heros, no other celtic themed band has become such a permanent fixture in the public mind than Boston hometown heroes The Dropkick Murphys.

The Dropkick Murphys are at their best when they lean into their identity as purveyors of working class anthems (hence the timeless success of “I’m Shipping up to Boston”).  While they come from a legacy of punk rock that initially saw them down and dirty with quick tempos and fraying edges, they’ve settled atop a comfortable mid-tempo summit with each song welcoming listeners to belt along, chorus after chorus.  At this point, some of their songs could be dismissed as formulaic, but that would fail to acknowledge the immense heart and passion the band wields.  Their tenth full length, Turn Up That Dial, is the perfect example.  The Dropkick Murphys present absolutely nothing new, but at the same time, what is presented is perhaps one of the most refined and natural albums the band has released in nearly a decade.

In other words, Turn Up That Dial just feels right.  The title track opens with a combination of tin whistle, mandolin, accordion and upbeat tempo that frontman and co-vocalist Ken Casey builds into an instant classic.  The song realizes its anthemic potential within the first minute and will have listeners pledging allegiance to working class heroes by the track’s end.  “We took on the world with these songs in our ear / They told us to listen but you were all we could hear,” belts Casey against a feverish chorus of voices, confirming their resolve with the line, “You were our sound, you were angry, loud, and raw, They wrote the rules, but you were the law!”  The sentiment of doing the right thing in the face of adversity is echoed in the rip-roaring ode to living by one’s values in “Middle Finger.”  The band commits to keeping a “fist raised up full time against the world,” never as much contemplating turning the other cheek on those of moral corruption.  It’s an idyllic, overblown stance, but just the right sentiment to wake people from this age of sleepy social complacency.  

The Dropkick Murphys achieve a sense of continuity and flow that hasn’t been this present in their music since The Meanest Of Times.  Songs like “Queen of Suffolk” and “City By The Sea” are a masterful blend of acoustic, beezy, effortlessly singable choruses that place a spotlight on the accordion and tin whistle.  Paired with a lush but laid back tempo, each song brims with life for different reasons.  “Mick Jones Nicked My Pudding” lands on the lighter side of things, with a fun, singable change of pace in the form of a tongue in cheek ode to The Clash’s lead guitarist.  Meanwhile, “L-EE-B-O-Y” is a fun celebration of “the world’s best piper,” a fact that the band boisterously proclaims, “you can’t deny!”  

And what Dropkick Murphys album would be complete without an emotional, soft swaying endpiece – the type that garners an audience worth of mobile phones slowly swaying in the background at live shows.  “I know in my heart that we’ll meet again… I know deep inside, that this isn’t the end,” sings the band as they coat the album’s final moments in a warm blanket of appreciation.  It’s a particularly fitting piece considering the arm’s length distance we’ve all lived at for the past fourteen months thanks to the global pandemic, reminding us all of the sense of belonging and togetherness that waits at the end of that long tunnel.

It’s been a while since I’ve had this much fun with a Dropkick Murphys album.  Turn Up That Dial has an undeniable flow that feels akin to a group of friends hanging out and sharing a trip down memory lane.  The band doesn’t exactly take many risks here, but that’s hardly the point.  The aging fanbase will revel in how effortless each song feels and appreciate just how comfortable Casey and the gang come across over twenty-five years in.