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Every Dropkick Murphys Album Ranked Worst to Best

The Dropkick Murphys are either one of your favorite bands or you can’t stand them. There’s not a lot of middle ground. The Boston natives’ use of traditional Irish folk instruments and questionably authentic Irish accents in punk music can be divisive. If you’re one of their doubters, you’ve probably never seen these Celtic-punks live. There’s something so charmingly and enthusiastically bizarre about crowds of Oi! punks in studded vests and utili-kilts singing along to traditional Irish ballads while they shove each other around a circle pit. Now is the time to grab your bagpipes if you’ve got ‘em and squeeze along as we count down the Dropkick Murphys’ studio albums from worst to best.

12. Okemah Rising (2023)

Even more surprising than the Murphys’ 2022 decision to release an acoustic album of Woodie Guthrie lyrics was their 2023 decision to release a SECOND acoustic album of Woodie Guthrie lyrics. This shouldn’t be that surprising, though. DKM have been covering traditional and folk songs since the beginning, just never to this extent. Their biggest hit, “I’m Shipping Up To Boston,” was written by Woodie Guthrie. Oh, you knew that already? Well too bad, because here comes the “Tulsa Version” to show you how much less exciting that song could have been. “Okemah Rising” is honestly not a bad use of your time, it’s just that they did so much better with “This Machine Still Kills Fascists,” Why would they release such a low-energy knockoff of the same concept less than a year later? At least they made sure to include a song about killing Hitler in this album too.

Play it again: “Gotta Get To Peekskill”
Skip it: “Hear The Curfew Blowin”

11. 11 Short Stories of Pain and Glory (2017)

It’s fitting that this album checked in at number 11. There’s nothing specifically bad about “11 Short Stories,” it just doesn’t stand out on this list in any meaningful way. Behind the scenes, the Dropkick Murphys have always devoted their time and money to philanthropy through their charity, the Claddagh Fund. This charitable side project heavily influenced this album, and it’s lyrically one of their more mature releases. But this is a band known for their fun, high-energy music. And there’s something profoundly un-”fun” about disabled veterans, kids with cancer, addiction recovery, and the Boston Marathon bombing. We get it, not all art exists to make people smile, but this album is a bummer of an outlier in a catalog full of loud, fun music.

Play it again: “I Had a Hat” (Maybe?)
Skip it: Honestly, you can skip this whole album. Your time is valuable, but donate some money to a charity.

10. Going Out in Style (2011)

You’ve been a band for fifteen years now, you’ve recorded six studio albums, you’ve gone independent and started your own label, what’s the next logical step? A concept album! Now in their teenage years, Dropkick Murphys are here with an entire album about an Irish immigrant moving to America. The bagpipes and accordion are pretty prominent on this one just in case you somehow forgot this was an Irish-themed band. “Going Out in Style” follows the fictional Cornelius Larkin through a stereotyped Irish-American life of drinking and union labor. It’s a good album to play on a road trip or in your favorite dive bar on St Patrick’s Day, but its choruses largely fail to be as memorable as the band’s early favorites. If this was the first Murphys album you ever heard, you’d probably like it. But this is an album ranking article, and there are nine better options to choose from below.

Play it again: “Going Out In Style”
Skip it: “Take ‘Em Down”

9. Turn Up That Dial (2021)

This was a needed relief from the bleakness of 2020. Dropkick Murphys knew that people weren’t interested in deep, contemplative music at this time. They wanted bands to take advantage of their free time and spend lockdown in the studio writing songs that were light and fun. No weird concept albums. No depressing think pieces about addiction or war. We wanted songs about somebody stealing pudding. Songs about how great it is to be from Suffolk County. Self-aware songs like the title track, which is literally about music being the cure for every shitty thing there is. The same band that refused to break St Patty’s Day tradition in 2020 (when they played a free live-streamed show to an audience of nobody) returned to tell us loudly and clearly that it was ok to be happy again. And also that it’s so awesome to have a bagpiper that he needs a dedicated song at every show. Lee-Boy, Lee-Boy, he’s our guy!

Play it again: “Turn Up That Dial”
Skip it: “I Wish You Were Here” (It’s a touching tribute to Barr’s father, but if you wanted some post-2020 joy, maybe come back to this one later.)

8. The Gang’s All Here (1999)

Dropkick Murphys’ sophomore album is the most purely “punk” they’ve ever been. There is practically zero bagpipe on this one, which would not typically be worth noting in a punk album review, but here we are. “The Gang’s All Here” features driving punk drumming which pushes the vocals swiftly along, encouraging them to wrap each song up and move on before they accidentally reach the three-minute mark. The only reason this album is so low on our list is the near absence of Irish influence that fans have come to expect from a band whose logo is a shamrock. Perhaps they were still worried about being pigeon-holed as a Celtic punk band? Later albums would wholeheartedly embrace this label, occasionally to a fault. One clear exception to this theme is their version of “Amazing Grace,” which has been transformed from the official funeral hymn of Irish cops into an earnest and respectable punk anthem.

Play it again: “The Gang’s All Here” (Don’t forget to turn it off after two minutes, or you’ll be cursed by a hidden track.)
Skip it: “Wheel Of Misfortune”

7. Signed and Sealed in Blood (2013)

It was wise to not call this album “Rose Tattoo,” which they clearly considered, given the cover art and its title derived from that song. “Rose Tattoo” is a proud tribute to an admittedly cliché expression of devotion, but it might have come across as insincere or sarcastic as an album title. Another fitting option would have been to name the album after the opening track “The Boys Are Back.” Not just because they seem to open every show with that song now, but as a reminder that the Murphys have returned to making music that balances their Irish influence with modern punk rock. After overdoing it a bit with the experimental “Going Out In Style,” it was time to write some songs that fans could chant along with. They even managed to sneak in a Christmas song, which implies the album’s January release may have been later than intended.

Play it again: “Rose Tattoo”
Skip it: “Jimmy Collins’ Wake”

6. This Machine Still Kills Fascists (2022)

This is the album that “Okemah Rising” wanted to be. When Al Barr was forced to take a break mid-tour to care for an ailing family member, the rest of the band scrambled to figure out what to do without his grimacing mug on stage. After being given access to unreleased lyrics from Woodie Guthrie’s writing, and with encouragement from the sidelined Barr, the remaining Murphys put together an acoustic album. “This Machine” still sounds distinctly like a Dropkick Murphys album, not just an out-of-place folk album played by a Celtic punk band. That’s not an easy task when you’re adding the accordion to folk music. It has the energy and sing-along gang vocals of any of their other releases; just unplugged, and missing Barr’s red-faced shouting. Woodie Guthrie would be proud to hear his words used by a band that so unapologetically plays folk music for punks.

Play it again: “All You Fonies”
Skip it: “Waters Are A’risin”

Honorable Mention: The Singles Collection, Volume 1 (2000)

This collection of demos, B-sides, and live recordings is worthy of interrupting our list, even if the Hard Times’ bylaws state that only studio albums get rankings. This album contains hidden gems, though. Go listen to “John Law” and try to explain why it didn’t make the cut for “Do or Die.” Take note of the multiple Clash covers. Enjoy “3rd Man In” with arguably better vocals than the band’s final version. This is a rare example of the album version being tamed down from its demos. But don’t worry, “Firestarter Karaoke” is here to show us that a demo is supposed to be a worse version of the final product. As a reminder that the Murphys have always been a cover band, go check out “Billy’s Bones,” which answers the question “what if The Pogues shouted all of their lyrics?”

Play it again: “Billy’s Bones”
Skip it: All of the live versions that were clearly included as filler.

5. The Meanest of Times (2007)

“The Meanest of Times” was the band’s last album from the early years when they were still signed to Hellcat Records. While their first few albums were produced by Rancid’s Lars Frederiksen, the producer credit on this album simply goes to “Dropkick Murphys.” Maybe Hellcat was holding them back from making “Going Out In Style”? Whatever the reason for their departure from the label, the Murphys made sure to leave on a high note. This is a fun, high-energy album. Its most popular song, “The State of Massachusetts,” is a textbook example of the Dropkick Murphys. It sounds like a party on the surface, but the lyrics tell the dark tale of a struggling addict having her kids taken away by the state. All while a banjo plucks along with a tune that is suspiciously similar to “I’m Shipping Up To Boston.”

Play it again: “The State Of Massachusetts”
Skip it: “Rude Awakenings”

4. Blackout (2003)

“Blackout” was when Dropkick Murphys really hit their stride as musicians. After a few years of research into how much bagpipe should be included in their music, they decided the correct answer was “whatever we feel like”. The title track “Gonna Be A Blackout Tonight” also foreshadowed the band’s fondness of Woodie Guthrie covers while telling the relatable and timeless tale of hiding from WWII bombers. The rest of the album shows how well a band can fuse Irish instruments into their music. Other than “As One,” in which the bagpipes are given center stage, and a cover of the popular “Fields of Athenry,” most of the piping is used as seasoning to complement the choruses. Overall, these are crowd-pleasing songs about a blue-collar life of friends, family, and beer. Fans of the tongue-in-cheek drinking anthem “Kiss Me I’m Shitfaced” might be surprised to learn that singer and bassist Ken Casey has been sober since before the Dropkick Murphys’ were founded.

Play it again: “Walk Away”
Skip it: “World Full of Hate”

3. Do or Die (1998)

This was the band’s first album, and their only studio release featuring original co-lead singer Mike McColgan, who left the band to fulfill his destiny as a Boston firefighter. “Do or Die” is much more street punk and Oi! influenced than you would expect from a band that employs an accordionist and a tin whistle. It’s a timeless collection of songs about drinking, fighting, and how awesome it is to be Irish in Boston. (“Barroom Hero” checks all three boxes). This album includes modern adaptations of both Irish and American folk songs – “Finnegan’s Wake” and “Skinhead on the MBTA,” respectively – as well as several instant classics from the Murphys. They chose to open their debut album with “Cadence to Arms,” which is an all-bagpipe cover of “Scotland the Brave,” because American listeners don’t really seem to care about the difference between Irish and Scottish culture.

Play it again: “Barroom Hero”
Skip it: “Far Away Coast” (Who thought that much tin whistle was a good idea?)

2. Sing Loud, Sing Proud! (2001)

The Dropkick Murphys could have made their name as simply an Irish-themed cover band and been successful. Instead, they perfected this niche of Irish-inspired punk music so well that you wouldn’t guess which songs are covers vs their original works on “Sing Loud.” “Good Rats” tells the tale of a rodent-infested brewery from the point of view of the rats as they party and drink themselves to death in a vat of beer. This plays like it was from an old Irish pub song, but is in reality a Murphys original, featuring the slurred guest vocals of the Pogues’ own Shane MacGowan. Who but the Murphys could write fake Irish music so convincingly that the founding father of Celtic punk joined them in a song? One of the more memorable songs on this album is the pro-union “Which Side Are You On?” a cover of a 1930s American folk song made famous by UK folk singer and punk muse Billy Bragg.

Play it again: “Which Side Are You On?”
Skip it: “The Torch”

1. The Warrior’s Code (2005)

The album that contained Dropkick Murphys’ biggest single, “I’m Shipping Up To Boston,” should clearly be at the top of this list. This hype-you-up anthem, with its four lines of repeating lyrics, went platinum. It was featured TWICE in “The Departed.” It has become a pop-culture cliché to include this song in any movie set in Boston, much to the dismay of the airport employees hearing it on loop as you film your shitty TikToks in Logan airport. The only song that’s really worth skipping is the Red Sox anthem “Tessie.” This entire album is high-energy punk rock, from the street punk “Citizen C.I.A” to the more melodic “Take It And Run.” It only slows down to catch its breath for a few minutes during “The Green Fields of France.” Even the traditional “The Auld Triangle” has been transformed from Irish folk to Boston punk in the hands of the Murphys.

Play it again: “I’m Shipping Up To Boston”
Skip it: “Tessie” (Note: Boston residents should switch the answers for “Play it again” and “Skip it” on this one.)