Dropkick Murphys are a band closely tied to their roots in Boston, proud products of a working-class neighborhood where kids suffered through Catholic school, grew up to be regulars in the local bar, and watched their friends do the exact same thing. Life isn't always easy, and it's in these moments of hardship that many of the tracks on The Meanest of Times find their muse. The record is a dark, passionate, and rousing collection of songs that fit in nicely with the Murphys' unfailing back catalog of gritty beer-soaked punk rock anthems. But even in its consistency with everything else the Beantown crew has ever released, The Meanest of Times stands tall as the band's tightest and most developed set of songs yet. With such ease, the Murphys combine eyes-wide observation, rough defiance, and emotion rubbed raw into heartfelt songs like the explosive opening duo of "Famous for Nothing" and "God Willing," where elegiac bagpipes coexist with searing guitars and delicate mandolins supplement aggressive drum rolls. Traditional songs also get model Murphy makeovers; "Spancil Hill" gets Boston-ized into the mournful "Fairmount Hill," while "Lannigan's Ball" takes a nice shot of punk rock adrenaline to turn it into the clamorous romp of "(F)lannigan's Ball," complete with guest vocals from the Pogues' Spider Stacy and the Dubliners' Ronnie Drew. Elsewhere -- in varying degrees of unrestrained energy and sore-throat shout-singing -- the crew relates tales of families broken and friends lost, the sad realities only proving further that above all else, it's being true to yourself and the ones you love that is most important. But it's not all just heartfelt sappiness; this is the Dropkick Murphys, so be assured the emotion is still packed into about 45 minutes of beer-sloshing riotous punk rock glory.
AllMusic Review by Corey Apar