Boston's Dropkick Murphys have a rock 'em, sock 'em reputation befitting a band that once released an album provocatively called ''Do or Die." Their street-tough, working-class punk roots have defined them since they began a decade ago. Yet they also have a sensitive side that makes their new album perhaps their most affecting.
The new disc, ''The Warrior's Code," is out today. The title track, about Lowell boxing champion ''Irish" Micky Ward, is a manic tune sung with crashing velocity by Al Barr and should fit snugly into the Dropkicks' catalog.
But the band's compassion is apparent elsewhere. The opening ''Your Spirit's Alive" is about deceased friend Greg Riley while also paying tribute to hockey scouts Mark Bavis and Ace Bailey (formerly of the Boston Bruins), who both died on United Airlines Flight 175 on Sept. 11, 2001. The album's climax, ''Last Letter Home," focuses on American soldier (and Dropkicks fan) Sergeant Andrew Farrar Jr., who died on Jan. 28 in Iraq. In his final letter home, he suggested that he'd like the Dropkicks' version of ''The Fields of Athenry" played at his funeral if anything should happen. The band performed it in person.
The Dropkicks seem well aware of the dichotomy between their rough image and the humanity on view now. ''Wicked Sensitive Crew" even addresses it head-on, albeit with a sense of humor: ''In Pittsburgh they called us closed-minded, but we know that's simply not true / Yeah, we're touchy, feely, sensitive guys." They may joke about tenderness, but it runs through other tracks such as ''Take It and Run" (about a welfare mother named Maureen) and a poignant cover of Eric Bogle's ''The Green Fields of France (No Man's Land)" concerning an Irish youth who died in World War I.
Of course, there's also plenty of high-octane mayhem and hard-hitting politics that should keep traditional Dropkicks fans happy. The bagpipes-spiced ''Sunshine Highway" deals with playing cards and smoking cigars until dawn, while ''Citizen C.I.A." rips that organization for its politics and for playing ''the hand of God." Nothing touchy or feely there.