The disc bows with tributes to the fallen: written for and dedicated to the band's friend Greg 'Chickenman' Riley, ""Your Spirit's Alive"" also remembers Boston Bruin great Ace Bailey and hockey standout Mark Bavis who perished on United Airlines flight 175 on Sept. 11, 2001. ""Last Letter Home,"" salutes American serviceman and Dropkick Murphys fan Sgt. Andrew Farrar, who died on his 31st birthday January 28th, 2005. Shortly before his death in a letter he sent home, Farrar requested the Dropkick Murphys' version of ""Fields of Athenry"" be played at his funeral should anything happen to him while he was in Iraq. In addition to blending excerpts from that very letter into ""Last Letter Home,"" the band was present at Farrar's funeral and played ""The Fields Of Athenry"" on the pipes as the casket entered the church.
The Warrior's Code also marks the second time the Dropkick Murphys have set a previously unused Woody Guthrie lyric to music. Approached three years ago by Guthrie's daughter, Nora (whose son is a Dropkicks fan), with the prospect of putting some of her legendary father's unpublished lyrics to music, the band produced the hard-charging ""Gonna Be a Blackout Tonight,"" from which the title of 2003's Blackout was taken. The Warrior's Code features ""I'm Shipping Up to Boston"" written around a whimsical lyric about a sailor who lost his wooden leg in Boston. ""When Nora gave us the green light to go through the archives and take we wanted,"" says vocalist/bassist and founding member Ken Casey, ""we looked through thousands of his songs. Obviously, there were a lot of deep songs about World War II and labor stuff, but randomly in the middle of all these serious lyrics was this silly song, which seemed kind of cool. When other people do Woody's stuff, you normally don't see that light-hearted side of his work.""
As perfect a coda as any is the band's revival of the early 1900s Boston Red Sox fan song ""Tessie,"" featuring backing vocals from Red Sox players Bronson Arroyo, Lenny DiNardo & Johnny Damon. Approached by the new regime in the Red Sox's front office last summer to come up with an anthem to help spur the team to victory, the band issued the song as a single just months before the team was crowned world champs for the first time in 86 years and were given some of the credit for 'breaking the curse'. ""The thought of the old Red Sox owners that I grew up with ever having a punk band involved with the team was an impossibility,"" says Casey. ""So to get a call from the new owners was like hitting the lottery. To be able work with the team in any capacity was a tremendous honor but as a lifelong, diehard fan to be involved the year they actually won the World Series was indescribable.""
The musical depth on this album shows just how far the Dropkick Murphys have come. Rooted in the sounds of The Clash, The Pogues, AC/DC, Swingin' Utters and Stiff Little Fingers, The Murphys formed in 1996, first playing together in the basement of a friend's Quincy barbershop. With old timey songs by the likes of The Clancy Brothers ingrained in them and a mutual love of punk rock the band members quickly drew the parallel between the new and the old:
""The brand of punk rock that I was accustomed to was very sing-along and anthemic, some of these old traditional songs were anthemic but not in a wild electric guitar way,"" says Casey. ""But it was the same effect, big choruses coupled with topics that people wanted to sing about. The two went hand in hand. The Pogues had done it before us, but they weren't punk rock, they were a traditional band with a punk rock attitude. We have traditional influences but we always want to be a punk rock band first and foremost, you know, leaving your ears bleeding.""
Starting with humble but enthusiastic means, self-releasing early recordings and touring to support them, the band's hard work yielded a phone call from Rancid's Tim Armstrong, who was eager to sign the Murphys to his Epitaph imprint Hellcat. The resulting Do or Die lit the musical fuse that would soon explode inside the punk community. Chronicling Dropkick Murphys innovative fusion of blistering rock & roll, melodic folk, and a deep loyalty to the working class, Do or Die rendered sales in excess of 200,000 largely due to word of mouth in the underground. The album forged a path in punk rock that turned a whole new generation of kids onto Celtic & traditional folk. ""Before Do or Die came out, you couldn't find a teenage punk rock kid into bagpipe music to save your life,"" says Casey, ""and then after the record came out and we toured for a couple of years, all of a sudden, there was this army of kids saying ""Hey, I play bagpipes,"" or, ""Hey, I play mandolin, can I be in your band?""
Inspired by the overwhelming success of their Hellcat debut, which became a must-have record for any self-respecting punk fan, the Murphys pointed their collective middle finger sky high at mainstream nay-sayers and ploughed ahead with the following year's The Gang's All Here. Introducing the vocal exchanges of Al Barr and Ken Casey that would go on to signify the group's late model sound, the Murphys' second long player also represented their maturation as songwriters. A rigorous tour schedule followed, helping to expand the outfit's already sizable worldwide fan base.
2001's ambitious Sing Loud Sing Proud incorporated more instrumentation than previous efforts, with the band growing into a septet. While the band had featured such instrumentation from the start (their debut single, ""Barroom Hero"" included bagpipes) they were finally able to recreate that fuller, studio sound on tour. Defining the Murphys' position as leaders of a new sub-genre, the disc's hometown anthems and whiskey soaked melodies earned the group even wider acclaim.
Dropkick Murphys' incendiary live performances were the subject of their next release, 2002's Live On St. Patrick's Day From Boston, MA. It was an exhibition of the group's infamous, annual homecoming gigs, where these events find ale-swilling hooligans standing alongside mohawked punk-rockers and grey-haired grandmothers. The concerts have become so popular that 2005 saw the Murphys move an unprecedented 12,000 tickets for six shows, shattering the venue sales record they had set themselves in 2004 and that was originally held by the legendary Ramones.
Blackout was released in 2003 to the band's ever broadening fan-base and was their most accessible work to date. Whilst keeping the old school fans happy with ""last call"" bar room anthems like ""Kiss Me I'm Shitfaced"" the band also finally received the widespread radio play they deserved with the single ""Walk Away,"" a song about broken marriages and broken dreams.
On the Road with the Dropkick Murphys, a DVD released in 2004, chronicled this period and captured first hand the band's widening success and rabid, worldwide following as well as detailing how much the band enjoys traveling, playing practical jokes on each other and hanging out with their friends around the world.
Continuously surprising industry pundits by outdrawing high profile mainstream acts as headliners on major tours around the globe, Dropkick Murphys landed high profile slots on the festival circuit and became staples at some of the premiere festival dates around the world; the US Warped tour, Reading & Leeds and Glastonbury in the UK, Fuji Rock in Japan, Roskilde in Denmark, Southside, Hurricane & Full-force in Germany, Lowlands in Holland, Pukkelpop in Belgium, Livid in Australia, Ilossiarock in Finland....the list goes on and on....and on. They also found time to achieve some personal goals like performing at the Sex Pistols' infamous Silver Jubilee gig in London, in front of a capacity crowd at a Celtics football game in Scotland, a sold out Boston Bruins hockey game, on the steps of the Statehouse in Boston at the Governor's request, at Senator Jack Hart's televised St Patrick's Day breakfast, two appearances on the Conan O'Brien Show and on the Jimmy Kimmel show just to name a few.
From the Quincy Barbershop to Fenway Park the year the Red Sox won the World Series to six sold out shows in a club they used to be barred from to The Warrior's Code, the goal has always remained the same. Says Casey: ""We always wanted to be that band that didn't forget where it came from and we keep it in the forefront of our minds that we're all in it together, audience and band members, as one, no one better than the other. That's the M.O. of a lot of punk bands, but I think sometimes it gets lost the minute a band has any kind of success. We never want to let it go to our heads. We know how lucky we are to be doing this. It's because of the people that listen to the band's music we have this opportunity to see the world. I don't care if we're playing to 10 people or 10,000 people, those kids that are up front singing our songs are the reason we're doing this.""
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