The Dropkick Murphys' "Blackout" stokes out

Dropkick Murphys, in their mere seven years of existence, are that accelerated music model, one where almost every group "matures," attacking a new train of their particular style. And to truly know how good a band is, is to measure them by that change.

For a group together for such a short amount of time, on only its fourth studio album, it's shocking that Blackout is DKM's outfit change -- where the rowdy Celtic punk of their young tradition is tailored to fit more with classic rock'n'roll and even more with Irish folk traditions here.

Blackout is obviously dressed from the same wardrobe that clothed Do Or Die, Sing Loud, Sing Proud and The Gang's All Here, and after seven years DKM should probably still be belting out that level of Irish raucousness, at least for another four or five years yet.

Hell, there are local bands in every town who probably never managed to get their shit together even in seven years time, yet, here are the Murphys maturing to loftier musical goals and the merit of that ambition is well within their reach as Blackout emerges large, proud, accomplished and energetically passionate.

For their overwhelming successes in the punk world, the embracing Celtic traditions (so wildly displayed on such past renditions of "Amazing Grace," "Finnegan's Wake" and "The Rocky Road To Dublin") and heartfelt odes to the working class remain convincingly intact and genuine.

Here, the celebratory anthem "Worker's Song," the great drunken Irish sing-along "Black Velvet Band" and, arguably, one of DKM's best ever, the epic and remarkably structured "Fields Of Athenry," are adapted from their traditional Irish folk structures, sped up and rocked out in touching, torching and embracing DKM style.

In other spots, "Gonna Be A Blackout Tonight," the rocking shout-along title track, finds the Murphys constructing a hard-rock anthem around previously unpublished lyrics from folk legend Woody Guthrie, "World Full Of Hate" is an acoustic gem, "The Dirty Glass" is a funny battle of jilted lovers, "Bastards On Parade" embraces "all you losers, you bastards and cheats" as brothers and the uplifting "Buried Alive" is another of the group's apt renderings of the oppression of the working man.

The Dropkick Murphys have gotten successful in these past seven years (as evident on the bonus DVD featuring two live concert videos of "Boys On The Docks" and "The Rocky Road To Dublin,") and in turn they've gotten ambitious. Yet, where many lesser bands have found themselves and their music fallen to lower, far less-passionate degrees and even lower inspirational effects, the exact opposite is true of the Murphys.

The punk is tamer on Blackout but by no means diluted. The energy, however, is still wildly maxed-out, the Irish spirit lives on as strongly as it ever has with this band and, above else, Dropkick Murphys have kept together their cred, remembering and still living with the infectious spirit and lion's heart that have gotten them to this point in their young but absolutely remarkable career.

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