Celtic-inflected, proudly Bostonian punk band Dropkick Murphys received a sizeable bump in 2011: a guest vocal from Bruce Springsteen on “Peg O’ My Heart,” a track from the group’s seventh album, Going Out In Style. A solid album, Style was aided not only by Springsteen’s presence, but also a slicker sheen that the group has been gradually cultivating over its 16-year existence. Dropkick Murphys aren’t taking their eyes off the rafters on their new album, Signed And Sealed In Blood, but they are throwing a bone to their longtime fans: a punchier, punkier grit.
As with the Murphys catalog in general, there’s not the faintest trace of new influence or direction to Signed. It doesn’t need one. Frontman Al Barr and his raucous gang deploy the usual shots of anthemic punk and Irish-folk jig-and-jangle, with a chaser of traditional instrumentation. The band’s inescapable debt to The Pogues accrues additional interest on “Prisoner’s Song” and “Rose Tattoo,” but the homage feels more reverent than mere pastiche would. But the Murphys crank up the octane on “Burn,” a rollicking burst of banjo-driven hardcore, and “The Battle Rages On” is a howl-along riot that’s unswervingly catchy. Even when the wry, blasphemous “The Season’s Upon Us” leans a little too heavily on The Pogues’ “Fairytale Of New York,” it’s hard to fault the sentiment.
Dropkick Murphys have long made it their mission to tap into the raw emotion and rowdy spirit of the blue-collar streets of their hometown. Signed And Sealed In Blood gives that sound some teeth to match.