An early contender for 2013's finest Christmas song arrives halfway through the new Dropkick Murphys album in "The Season's Upon Us." It's a rowdy Celtic-punk number in which singer Ken Casey runs down the charms of his extended family, member by miserable member: "My nephew's a horrible, wise little twit," he barks, "He once gave me a nice gift-wrapped box full of" — well, you can imagine the rest.
As in its obvious predecessor, "Fairytale of New York" by the Pogues, affection accompanies spite in "The Season's Upon Us"; but warmth is all you hear by the time the song's brandy-soaked chorus hits. And so it goes throughout "Signed and Sealed in Blood," which demonstrates that for this long-running Boston band, loving and fighting aren't opposites but rather complementary manifestations of the only thing that matters: passion.
In "The Boys Are Back" they exit Interstate 93 "looking for trouble," yet pause to buy roses from "a bum at the light"; in "Burn" they resolve to "kiss the finest girl" before going down in a blaze tonight. With cranked guitars and breakneck tempos, the music gallops forcefully but shimmers with beauty too, as in the bagpipes-enriched "Out of Our Heads" and "Rose Tattoo," which features banjo from Winston Marshall of Mumford & Sons. "We're gonna cause a riot / We're gonna rip it up," they joyfully threaten in "Out of Our Heads," and it's wiser to join them than to resist.