Four years have passed since the Dropkick Murphys’ previous album, The Meanest of Times, was released—time which was spent opening pubs, touring, and apparently recording a concept album about the blessings and perils of being Irish-American. Going Out in Style is a fictionalization of the band members’ lives (as well as those of its family members), an exploration of the journey from Ireland to Boston, and the people they meet and become along the way.
Appropriately, the album is littered with pennywhistles, pipes, and copious bagpipes to take the Dropkick Murphys’ already legendary Celtic pride to the next level. By and large, the instrumentation is pretty formulaic punk rock, making songs like “The Hardest Mile” and “Cruel” fairly dull for Murphys fans or anyone who’s listened to Flogging Molly a few times.
That’s not to say there’s no variation; Going Out in Style‘s title track manages to play with punk time signatures in a fairly interesting way, and the band certainly seems enthusiastic enough about subject matter that’s nearer and dearer to their hearts than ever before. “Broken Hymns” on its own is actually quite powerful, and a nice showcase for drummer Matt Kelly.
If the album drags, it can be usually be attributed to the consistently trite lyrics (“No mercy, no quarter/They’ll pay for their sins”) and overuse of punk rock cliches to the very end (the final track, “The Irish Rover,” ends with standard “band whooping and laughing together” audio).
There’s also the matter of featured artists. Bringing NOFX’s Fat Mike to lend some support makes sense and adds a bit of flavor for followers of the punk scene, but things get weird in a hurry when you notice that Boston loudmouth Lenny Clarke also makes an appearance. Plus, Bruce Springsteen comes in to sing a few lines of “Peg O’ My Heart”—and by “a few,” I mean “two.” And when he tries on an Irish accent to see how it fits, the Jersey flavor and rapidly progressing throaty growl combine to create an effect that is…certainly unique.
Going Out in Style is a strange offering. As a concept album, it works up to a point, though there’s never a sense of any strong narrative arc; the life of its protagonist, Cornelius Larkin, is a metaphorical hodgepodge of anecdotes, histories, and tall tales from the band’s Irish roots (with the exception of singer Al Barr, who is curiously Scottish). These stories tell the sorry saga of what it means to be Irish and American—a great subject for an album, but unfortunately, Flogging Molly already did it with more flair and originality on Within A Mile Of Home.
The Dropkick Murphys haven’t changed anything about their sound, instrumentation, or outlook in the long gap between projects, and the disappointment is palpable. Style is about family and unity; “We don’t like to convolute things,” Barr says, and it’s fair to say in that Style retains the band’s straightforward, energetic style, the Dropkick Murphys have done some solid work. Unfortunately, it’s one of the only solid things about this album.