Dropkick Murphys

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Dropkick Murphys


With the dissimilation of European populations around the globe in the second half of the 1800s and into the first half of the 1900s due to displacement brought about by the advent of easier immigration to the colonial powers’ colonies – principally America and to a lesser extent Australia

 With the dissimilation of European populations around the globe in the second half of the 1800s and into the first half of the 1900s due to displacement brought about by the advent of easier immigration to the colonial powers’ colonies – principally America and to a lesser extent Australia, Africa, Asia and so on – a new cultural paradigm was brought about. No longer in ‘the old country’ both westerns and eastern European cultures thrived in their new surrounds, making sure to take advantage of the new opportunities they faced, while not completely surrendering their cultural identity. This idea of ethnic identity became a crucial element to many of those cultures; passed along as it was from generation to generation through various social means – festivals, holidays, traditions, songs, attitudes, films, religion and so forth. It also goes some way to explaining the baffling popularity of Nick Giannopolous. In 2010, the proud tradition of celebrating one’s heritage and the life it brings through song continually battles the more vapid aspects of the pop spectrum. In other words, thank fuck for the Dropkick Murphys.

With the second half of the twentieth century and up ‘til the present mirroring that immigration population dispersal – but this time coming primarily from Africa, the Middle East and Asia – the idea of cultural identity is more prevalent than ever. (damningly enough, countries that are now identified as multi-cultural have essentially had this happen before; the only difference is that the cultures now aren’t primarily white European.) But it was the influx of the Irish into the eastern seaboard of America that informs the Dropkick Murphys’ music, one that prides itself on reflecting Boston’s proud Irish heritage. That Celtic aspect of their music, fused as it is to a punk-rock ethos – both musically and lyrically – has seen the band become one of the leading lights of rock music; basically, as they’ve gotten older and through spending most of their time tour, they’ve even outstripped a simple ‘punk’ tag and moved into a more general ‘rock band of the people’ stratosphere. Hell, across the band’s twelve-plus years and six albums together they’ve gone from underground Celtic-punk pioneers to having Martin Scorsese, the Boston Red Sox and even our own AFL all use their tunes. Their career arc is, essentially, the opposite of Neve Campbell’s.

It’s a strange place to be, sure, but for singer Al Barr – currently puffing away on a cigar in his garage at home in Boston, enjoying a rare break in touring and being able to spend time with his family – he’s content with being able to simply enjoy being at home. “Yeah, it’s cool,” he laughs gruffly – his low, gravelly voice rumbling, “I can remember everybody’s names and see them everyday. It’s great,” he grins, “eve though it’s a different animal in itself… It’s more mundane and tedious than touring at times, but it’s also exciting and fun in its own way. Plus, hopefully you are going to be travelling around the world again soon.”

Which is exactly what will be taking place as the Dropkick Murphys return to Australia to play the No Sleep Til festival this month, alongside Megadeth, Descendents, NOFX and a raft of the world’s punk and metal luminaries. It’s a lineup that even Barr is keen on. “Yeah, it’s definitely a strong lineup – c’mon, it’s Megadeth and Descendents,” he chuckles, “and we’re very excited to be part of it, for sure.”

The reason the band are holed up at home in Boston for the time being, however, is that they’re writing and recording the follow up record to 2007’s The Meanest Of Times. And really, they’re overdue to be doing do, as Barr points out, the band have usually had only two years between records in their history. “Yeah it is,” he acknowledges, “it’s three years, it’s usually two… but it’s going well,” he laughs. “I’ve got high hopes for it; I think it’s going to be a good record.”

What the band must be facing is the idea of living up to their ever-growing reputation and how they can push themselves into ever growing territories. If there’s a knock on punk-rock to be made, it’s that bands who don’t evolve become stale very quickly. Unless they’re The Ramones – the Michael Cera of punk bands, in that they always played the one role – of course. But when it comes to a Dropkick Murphys record, it’s always seemingly a selection of tunes of what the band have evolved into liking. “I can never see what a record’s going to be before we put the whole piece of music together,” Barr laughs of the idea of what shape the new album may take. ‘It’s hard to have an effect on it as an overall ‘idea’ when it’s not complete… [but] We’re not changing our style; we’re still writing about what we know or what’s important to us. We’re just coming to the challenge of ‘how do we tell stories differently?’ ‘How do we make it interesting?’”

But the most interesting aspect to the Dropkick Murphys career is to see how the band themselves have matured; as men, musicians and as an entity. As punk bands grow older, often there is a loosening of youth’s brazen passion and anger, and it’s understandably so as priroties and attitudes change with age, knowledge and situations. It’s the great bands who are able to supplement that original fire with a new appreciation of the fullness of life. It’s all well and good to be full of piss and vinegar and a general rage at ‘the man’, but you need to know where to direct your energy. There are few good old punk bands – which is why Dropkick Murphys ever-more general appeal makes them so unique. They’re a band beloved by many, a band of the people, and they wouldn’t have it any other way.

“It’s definitely funny, and it’s definitely crazy,” concedes Barr. “Someone a while ago, a good friend of the bands goes ‘You guys aren’t a punk band anymore, I don’t mean that as a put down; you’ve become more than that.’ And yeah, you’re not young forever; not angry forever,” Barr nods. “I still get angry; it’s about different things that all change… having kids and all those things change you. The way you felt at life is completely different when you’re older.

“I think,” he muses, “at some point we had to become more than a punk band. We could relate to not just the people that listened to us,” he says of that fanbase that spread through the band simply being, well, so relatable. “We get a lot of feedback from fans that have been fans since they were young; now they’re 25, 26 and they’re still a fan,” he happily points out. “How many bands these days do you listen to, who were bands you listened to when you were young? There’s probably only a handful.”

Sure – it’s the ones that inspire passion that you’ll come back to, time and time again. And it’s one of the most striking elements of the Dropkick Murphys – their fans are incredibly possessive of the band.

“I love it,” Barr admits. “I mean, we’re a passionate band. The band has always been rooted in acknowledging where we come from; I mean that is very important to us, that’s where our band’s music comes from. That’s why we are able to get that response from people. We’re almost together I think – the band and the people not on the stage. And I love that aspect.”

Indeed, it’s one of the finest of the inclusive Celtic traditions – one that a band such as Dropkick Murphys keep alive in the face of an increasingly, passionless, beige, culturally-hegemonious avalanche of bullshit.

DROPKICK MURPHYS play the NO SLEEP TIL festival at the Melbourne Showgrounds on Friday December 17, along with Megadeth, Descendents, NOFX, Gwar, Parkway Drive, Atreyu, Alkaline Trio, A Day To Remember, Katatonia and a million other bands. All info and tickets through nosleeptil.com.au; tickets from ticketek.com.au, 132 849, moshtix.com.au and 1300 438 849. DROPKICK MURPHYS’ new live album, Live On Lansdowne, Boston MA is out now through Dew Process. Their new album will likely be out around St Patrick’s Day 2011.