Dropkick Murphys – This Machine Still Kills Fascists (2022)
It’s been nearly two decades since Nora Guthrie contacted Dropkick Murphys with an idea. She thought her father and the Murphys were very similar, and that he would enjoy what they do. Woody Guthrie has written thousands of songs, and after browsing his extensive archive, the Murphy’s took some of his lyrics which would then go on to become songs such as Blackout, and one of their biggest commercial successes, Shipping up to Boston.
The guys have always wanted to go back and look and gather even more ideas, and now the band has taken on a project in which they have done just that. This Machine Still Kills Fascists takes Guthrie lyrics in a strip down back to the roots acoustic style album, which is unlike something the guys have ever done before.
The album opens with the lead single, Two 6’s Upside Down. Naturally, one of the first things that’s going to go through your mind once you hear this song is the Johnny Cash influence. The music nerd me is really happy that the Murphys went with this kind of a direction because during the golden age of folk and country, and especially with Woody, other melodies would heavily influence their own music, and in some cases they would just completely take another melody themselves for one of their own songs. It’s not just the lyrics from Woody that are frozen in time, which could have been written by him today with how relevant it is to the current political and social climate, but intentionally or not, it feels like a nice little nod to the way things were back then musically, and how artists would do their instrumentation and arrangements. And again, on that lyrical side, it’s just a great little storytelling folk song, which is one of the many things Guthrie always excelled in.
Talking Jukebox opens with a surf rock riff, while the song features this ‘if these walls could talk’ scenario but with a Jukebox. You have this inanimate object just sitting there all day and night, people watching, and you would think to yourself, boy if this musical marvel here could talk, I wonder what it would say about everything that goes on in this bar. In actuality, it does just that through the music that gets played.
en Times More has got to be one of the most unique tracks that the Murphy’s have ever done. You have to love the gritty strip down vibe and the simplistic yet creative way where the primary instrumentation itself is foot stomping. Literally. There’s no percussion on this track, just a harmonica and the sounds of stomping feet on a wooden floor. This one would certainly be interesting to see in a live setting, and I imagine the crowd could play along with the stomping itself, or some handclaps.
The fourth track opens with a tin whistle, and now we’re starting to get back to some more familiarity from the guys. Never Get Drunk No More is a duet featuring singer-songwriter Nikki Lane and Ken. it’s a tale as old as time with a guy swearing off the booze once and for all, to a woman that’s heard this story time and time again. It’s a great ballot in one of my personal favorite tracks on the album.
All the songs on the album are just fantastic. There are just so many highlights from ‘Waters Are A’risin,’ ‘Cadillac, Cadillac’ to the closing track, ‘Dig A Hole” which features Woody himself. It’s such a unique project, and it’s great to see that after all these years it finally gets to see the light of day. It certainly was worth the wait.
While Celtic instrumentation is few and far in between, the Murphy spirit is still there and punk rock is without question ever so present. James Fearnley of The Pogues once told me how acts such as The Dubliners, and Clancy Brothers had such a massive influence on their music, the true roots of Celtic Punk and the innovation lies with them. And I believe something similar could be said about Woody Guthrie and punk rock. After all, he was the first Punk.
Every Dropkick Murphys album has its own charm. From the early days of Do or Die, to Blackout, to The Meanest of Times, the band has experimented many times like The Pogues, so they’ve always been more than just a Celtic Punk band, but they have also stayed true to their style and sound. Where the guys have really hit a home run with this record, is it genuinely makes you feel like you’re listing to an authentic and brand-new Woody Guthrie album that the boys just happened to be covering. But, you could also believe that this is just another typical Murphys album minus the Celtic instrumentation.
It doesn’t feel like some one-off filler album. This Machine Still Kills Fascists feels like it belongs in the Dropkick Murphys discography as it would Woodys. Dropkick Murphy’s have brought new life to Woody Guthrie’s lyrics, which shows still to this day, Woodys words still kills fascists, and the Dropkick Murphys still kicks ass.