The punk world is abuzz: Boston’s infamous hardcore Celts the Dropkick Murphys’ latest album Blackout (the second since letting their numbers swell to oh, seven) is the deciding factor: does it manage to successfully blend old school punk rock anger with their leaning trend towards… folk?
“It certainly has,” reassures frontman Al Barr. “It went unbelievably well. A lot of people thought we’d be too busy putting out fires inside the band with that many people, but this album was really collaborative. The same core of people did the majority of writing and I’ve been starting to get more involved so maybe someone would just have a piece or two to add to something, but it proved beneficial in the end. We’re all contributing to some extent.”
Quite possibly the band’s most (ugh, hate to say it…) mature effort, Blackout is a truly successful amalgamation of said folk and punk found on 2001’s Sing Loud, Sing Proud.
“Some people think this album is more folk, some say it’s more punk,” grunts Barr. “I don’t agree either way. With a few listens, I think you begin to realize that it’s not so cut and dried. With Sing Loud, each song had a definite vibe. We’ve managed to blend ideas with Blackout more. When you tour with people constantly over three years, you finally start to understand how you all work. That comes out in the music. It sits better.”
Of course, some of Barr’s work was made a touch easier thanks to the Guthrie family who gave this collection of Celtic punks a shot at writing music for some of folk troubadour Woody Guthrie’s unpublished works, as they previously did with Wilco and Billy Bragg. The lyrics were all there, so it was simply a matter of tossing down a riff or two, right?
“No way! It was actually quite daunting, not one of those things where you go, ‘Sure! No problem! I’ll have that done right away.'” What happened is that Guthrie’s daughter got ahold of us because his grandson is a Dropkicks fan, so they asked if we could write some music to accompany his lyrics,” Barr says. “How do you say no to joining the ranks of Billy Bragg and Wilco?”
Yes, it must almost be as difficult as signing on to the Warped Tour yet again. A featured act on this installment of the regular punk rock traveling show, the Dropkicks defend the swelling backlash against its apparent “non-punkness.”
“I don’t understand the problem,” Barr says. “You can judge everything on one aspect, but you only get out what you put in. It’s easy to write something off for whatever reason, but who cares? It’s all opinion anyways. Punk? It’s not like it was 20 years ago. It was never supposed to be big, but it is what it is so let’s move forward from there and get over it already! The days of watching Wattie from the Exploited pull a tab of acid out of his vomit so he didn’t lose it… that’s fuckin’ punk, but it’s not gonna happen. Those people that bitch… just shut up and don’t come.”