Review Summary: If you were an Irish leprechaun in search of gold, look no further.
From Lucky Charms cereal to Irish Spring soap, the almost mystical allure of Ireland has a seemingly limitless appeal for Americans. Likely since so many of us are descendants of the Irish, we subconsciously look to appropriate relics of this culture that is so distant, yet so close at the same time. The Irish do not get a dignified day to themselves, let alone an entire month. We don't get parades - we get a parody. An unpaid holiday where we have to go to work, then everybody gets drunk and starts fights. Why isn't St. Patrick in the same league as Lincoln or Dr. King? Trace the lineage of the Irish settlers in my home state of Arkansas and you'll find men and women who drank hard, fought hard, and worked hard, and what did they get for it? As my Irish great-great-grandfather might have said, "shi
te, lad!" That's what they got. Yet we're still here, quietly plowing the fields and not so quietly plowing our wives, but we're faithful, and we have values, and those are traits Americans tend to be short on, like an empty crayon box lacks crayons.
Enter The Dropkick Murphys. I've only visited the old country once, and it was before I'd been exposed to the Dropkick Murphys. Well, after finally checking out the Dropkick Murphys, I think it's a missed opportunity on Ireland's part to not have these lads blasting regularly in every pub, supermarket, and doctor's office. Forget Flogging Molly, forget U2. This is Irish. From the opening chords of the opening song, which is the title track of Turn Up That Dial
, I am immediately reminded of the freshness of Ireland and overcome with Irish pride. A lot of rock bands write tributes to their viking brethren, but we forget about the green vikings of Ireland. The Dropkick Murphys are like Irish political activists in music form, carbombing your ears with catchy riffs, soaring choruses, and raspy, working-class vocals that evoke factories and Boondock Saints
The Murphys are different from other rock groups because they use bagpipes and other crazy things to convey the feel of Ireland. The only other rock group this big that uses bagpipes is AC/DC, and they are not Irish. There is a reason a certain film director often uses the Dropkick Murphys to convey a sense of authenticity when filming scenes dealing with famous Irish places like Boston and the Boston Irish mafia houses found in cities.
While many would say it is not right for me to say a non-Irish band is truly Irish, I put forth this argument. If America is so obsessed with Irish culture already, why can't an American rock band be the flagship group of Ireland? The Irish are as American as any American, because so much of the culture of America was lifted from us already. If America is a melting pot as we are often told in school, why can't the Dropkick Murphys be just as popular as artists like Beyonce or Ariana Grande? There is the same universality there, manifesting in grooves that might initially seem simplistic but are actually primal and tribal, pulsating.
The final song on the album, "I Wish You Were Here," sums it up well. It's a poignant number, surprisingly deep for a group as rowdy as the Dropkick Murphys. The song is simply a love letter to Ireland. It's about being homesick and constantly reminded of it. It's about seeing one's culture and heritage reduced to mere leprechauns and potatoes. Well, you'll find neither here. Joyce once said he always wrote about Dublin, because if he could get to the heart of Dublin, he could get to the heart of all cities of the world. And while the Dropkick Murphys might not have mentioned Dublin on Turn Up That Dial
, they got to the heart just the same. By extension, all metropolitan areas have a little piece of the Dropkick Murphys. While the band is decidedly Irish in its musical influences, the lyrical subjects and the hooks which deliver them are timeless, which leads me to believe there really isn't much difference between us, whether we're black, white, Chinese, and yes - even green. It's no coincidence that Shrek is Irish. The poignant melancholy could only be communicated via an Irish character. The ubiquitous outsider and the monster we avoid but can't help but disturb at the same time, embarking on a heroic quest and making it back home just in time for a pint. That's what the Dropkick Murphys sound like.