The Lawrence Arms – ‘Metropole’
The Lawrence Arms – Chicago, Illinois, United States Of America.
Continuing with my personal purchases this year with, ‘Metropole’.
Summing up this album in a few words is impossible.
Formed in 1999 in the depths of Chicago out of existing Punk and Ska bands, The Lawrence Arms have become known for their raspy, fast up-beat Punk Rock songs and slower tempo Rock ballads that are characterised by good humour, honest commentary and explosive live shows. As expected, they are now Stalwarts of the Chicago scene, along with bands such as Rise Against and Alkaline Trio.
With 6 studio albums, 5 extended plays and a rather good B-side compilation (GET IT) under their belts, they are easily veterans. Their sound, as mentioned above, bridges slow and fast tempo tracks that often – quite notably – include shared and dual vocals that contrast each other, yet merge and meld to form a dual vocal attack… yes it is as dramatic as it sounds! Anyway enough of the boring prose I warned you about in my introductory article, here’s MF’s review of TLA’s latest – Metropole.
1. ‘Chilean District’ – ‘I was born and I died and just a moment went by‘ – The opening line of Metropole‘s first track following a crowds’ applause before the tempo kicks in. Dual vocals that were less prominent on their recent releases are well revived. Which, coupled with the driving rhythms and hook laden chorus make this a great opener; ‘Walking on eggshells, covered in flies, beating and breathing but not quite alive, resolved to do nothing but lay there and twitch…’ You get an impression of boredom, boredom of treading on the same old eggshells and paths until you are resolved to your fate, with no way out; ‘… the love I was promised, ain’t so ugly as this’. Is anything as good as it is promised or said to be? Track 1 is a classic sounding disaffected Punk anthem.
2. ‘You Are Here’ – ‘Metropole’, originally coming from the Greek Metropolis, means mother city. It’s Chris McCaughan’s turn on the vocals on track 2, and the song kicks off with a melodic and decently paced riff with Neil Hennessy’s drums setting a pace. This song caught my attention due to its softer vocals but up tempo pace. The urgency and emotion of the lyrics suit the fast yet soft on the ear riff, allowing the message to flow through.
Now as OTT as that description sounds, anyone has had their lifestyle characterized by general modern and or busy city life can relate to this; ‘I’m the chorus to your broken street, just footsteps fading to a dying beat’. Finding time for friends can also be an issue; ‘Outside my window the train is a friend just zipping by, I’ll catch you when I catch you man…’ TLA show the grasp of their own Metropole upon their lives, what of yours?
3. ‘Hickey Avenue’ – Another fast track where in the world of the Metropole, nothing ever changes. We all have the feeling you have during an endless, banal, trivial, repetitive routine that seems it will never end. Of course, we all have phases like this where we, ‘We talk a lot in crappy cars, and restaurants and shitty bars, we ain’t trying very hard but we got that fucking bark…’ This is the message of track 3 and some of the trios best critique of modern life.
At some point however, you have to get out; ‘So lets get rolling out of this shitty yellow light, cuz we been droning through this endless parade of identical days, nothing changes, it only rots away’. If thats not motivation I don’t know what is. The track is sung as if it had been said in one of the aforementioned ‘shitty bars’ with the contact between Chris McCaughan and Brendan Kelly strained as they recount and repeat the same old routines and finally exclaim, ‘And we’ve forgotten what this used to be like’.
4. ‘Seventeener’ – One of the singles along with ‘You Are Here’ and rightly so, as even more so than track 2 it has an automatic infectious nature to it; not to mention a brilliant video which will be posted below. Seventeener breaks the pace a bit and that is its only real criticism. I could go on and describe and give examples of each line of each verses but I wont. Some would say this is laziness. It isn’t. The song has Kelly singing of his age, and his realisation of racking year after year and not getting any younger… *Relate*
5. ‘Beautiful Things’ – Continuing with the more melodic, less driven sound, we have track 5. In youth, the youthful feel lost. McCaughan recounts his own period of misdirection and inward feeling of being lost where, despite this, the little things that made him smile weren’t forgotten and should not be for that matter. As much as Metropole contains a lot of sing-a-long choruses and verses that would go down a treat live, ‘Beautiful Things’ deserves this especially. ‘Dont kill all the beautiful things…’ advice we could all do well to heed.
6. ‘Acheron River’ – Greek mythology stated that the Acheron River would ferry the newly dead to the underworld. I must admit, I wasn’t sure of this song to begin with, however it’s a grower. On this track, Kelly gives us his view on life. He states that everybody dies, and are ferried down the Acheron. Why not stare it in the face and, ‘ride that fucker home’. Just because something ‘bad’ is coming, doesn’t mean you should back down. It’s a catchy, fast song yet doesn’t quite come up to the standard of the others. Its filler, but bloody good filler, and a filler that may grow on you.
7. ‘Metropole’ – Here we have the title track. The three piece slow everything down for track 7. Metropole deals with the issue of the mother city, Chicago. Their city. Stagnant and dead ended, McCaughan is not together, but apart, and his year is on “repeat”. As the acoustic guitar fades and the amps are plugged in, Kelly apologies to his mother for not calling or writing, he blinked twice and, ‘twenty years went by’. This is easily one of the better songs on the album. With it’s slower in pace and lyrics, the TLA’s are adept at maintaining your interest throughout. Sometimes time flies without our realising, and track 7 does a good job of reminding us.
8. ‘Drunk Tweets’ – Fuck everything. Those moods take us all. Kelly lets lose his fury through a barrage of raspy and old school sounding Punk Rock, unrelenting in his haze. ‘Fuck you I was born this way, Fuck you is my very favourite thing to say’ […] ‘ Six moves ahead but still fully consumed, I am what I am and I do what I do’. Another Greek reference in the next line, Kelly hears the Cerberean dogs slathering, as Cerberus guarded the underworld from the living and stopped the dead from escaping, his three heads seeing all. Kelly knows he’s going to hell, to the underworld. He may shout, ‘fuck you’ at any whom question him, but he knows he must reform; ‘…it’s all well and good to cry doom on the streets’, but it wont get you anywhere is the message here. However, as much he realises his wrongs, his rage at the world in the final line shows his regret, but with bitter acknowledgement of his own faults. Sometimes its hard to shake a habit; ‘Lord keep my soul… the hell away from me’.
9. ‘The YMCA Down The Street From the Clinic’ – I’ll keep this short; best song on the album by far. That is all.
10. ‘Never Fade Away’ – ‘Never Fade Away’ is, like so many others on this album, a contender for the top, up there with track 9 and one of my favourites. The melancholic and honest realism that makes up much of The Lawrence Arms’ lyrics on this album gives way to a song where the speed of the drums not only gets the message across in record speed, but the sheer catchy nature of this collection of coherent noise is automatically embedded in your head. Who doesn’t like a catchy Punk or not shit Pop-Punk song? Its always nice to here Chris McCaughan’s voice on the faster tracks as it adds to the versatile sound of the band. Positivity! This song could easily be about you (YES YOU!) or yourself when stood side by side with a best mate or a girlfriend/boyfriend. Dont’ be surprised if you’re at the front with your fist in the air when they play this.
11. ‘Paradise Shitty’ – Big city paradise, my arse! ‘Paradise Shitty’ explores the whims and rash decisions we make under the influence of judging a book by its cover. It’s another fast one, and its well written, illustrating that sometimes a full-on lifestyle in a town or city can be too much. Escape can be attractive, and this song shows it, through the clever song writing that characterises this band. ‘So take me down to that city, where the girls just look ok, it’s all I can take, I’ve stood too long in one place’.
12. ‘October Blood’ – ‘I was born and I died and just a moment went by’; the final track then of Metropole, and another banger that brings TLA’s critique to a close. Driven guitars with McCaughan taking vocals once more, we are listening to the truth in the words. TLA are in no way pretentious, just ordinary blokes contending with what we all will; age and the challenges we encounter on the way. Played out with a nice little piano outro in the background you are left to think it’s all over.
Up beat yet critical, real and well written. It’s been worth the 8 year wait – 9.5/10