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Dropkick Murphys 

Blackout (Hellcat)

They aren't soccer hooligans, they're hockey freaks. Most of their recorded bagpipes aren't the sweet-sounding Irish type, but the creaky Scottish torture device most familiar to us Yanks. And the Celtic lilt of the band's two singers is a put-on. So despite the clover-brandishing Irishness of the Dropkick Murphys, they're as American as pizza and chop suey. And Blackout, their fourth full-length studio album, is the work of a powerful punk-rock sextet whose cultural fixation threatens to turn it into a novelty act.

The album's clunkiest boilerplate, the broguey, Pogues-indebted duet "The Dirty Glass," not only contains no romance; it also requires you to stretch your imagination across the Atlantic in order to accept it for what it is. "Kiss Me I'm Shitfaced" is a close second, a stereotype set to music that, alone, could make you wonder why Woody Guthrie's hip daughter Nora donated unused lyrics for the band to gussy up on Blackout's title track. The answer is its hearty, populist-edged straight rockers -- clearly the first language of razor-throated co-frontmen Al Barr and Ken Casey -- such as "Buried Alive," a guitar-seared story-song about a deadly mining disaster. The Dropkick Murphys are more equipped than most bands to craft an album that rekindles the true spirit of working-class punk. Let's hope they don't instead go jigging into gimmicky oblivion, waving an ethnic flag.

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