This is kind of a hard review to write. Short take on the music: it’s brilliant. If you like Irish folk or punk, you’ll like “The Meanest of Times”. However, I just can’t get past the awful recording quality, and by awful, I mean truly, utterly terrible.
As though the music industry didn’t have enough problems to deal with, such as the string of lawsuits against its customers, the major labels have been busy with something called the “[loudness war](http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Loudness_war”. The thinking is that the louder music is played, the better most people will think it sounds. In an effort to make their CDs sounds better than their competitors’, the companies are recording music as loudly as possible. There’s nothing inherently bad about turning up the volume, but they try to squeeze out a few extra decibels by smoothing out the sound so that even the quietest sounds can blow out your speakers.
“The Meanest of Times” is a sad example of this. You’d think that a bunch of angry Irish punks would rattle your fillings, right? Nah. The music is painstakingly compressed until you can tell that someone’s playing the drums, but can’t quite make out the kick or snare.
Track 8, “(F)lannigan’s Ball”, starts with an aggressive bass line. After the first two notes, you know it’s going to be noisy. Too bad the drums kick in then, and the total sound of the bass line and the drums would have been too loud because the sound engineer already had the volume up all the way, so the compressor kicks in to mute both of them. Instead of THUM–THUM–THUM, we get THUM–THUM–splut.
So, there you have it. The music is wonderful, but the sound quality is horrible. “The Meanest of Times” could have been the soundtrack to a riot, but it’s been successfully tamed for the “Matlock” crowd. If your grandpa ever asks what punk music is, give this to him.
We already suspected that Warner Music Group hates their customers, and this just proves it. Go see Dropkick Murphys live if you can and buy lots of their stuff, but don’t bother with this album.