Sound — 7
The Lawrence Arms first broke out into the Chicago punk rock music scene back in 1999. The group's angst fueled, guitar driven adrenalized sound allowed The Lawrence Arms to sit comfortably amongst other emerging punk rock bands on the later 1990s. Unlike the majority of acts within the same musical genre who most commonly begin spreading their music in the form of vinyl singles and EPs, The Lawrence Arms decided to resourcefully use what connections they had to land a record label and immediately begin work on their debut studio album, which later was 1999's "A Guided Tour of Chicago."
The Lawrence Arms' debut set the foundation for how the band would record their later efforts. On their debut album, bass player Brendan Kelly takes over lead vocal duties on the majority of songs; however as The Lawrence Arms continued to advance musically, guitarist Chris McCaughan would later go on to share the main microphone with Kelly. Up until 2006, The Lawrence Arms released a total of five studio albums, making what appeared to be a conscious effort to continue issuing music. However, following the release of their fifth effort, the aptly titled "Oh! Calcutta!", The Lawrence Arms took a prolonged absence from the recording studio. While throughout the past eight years the punk rock group have continued to tour regularly, dedicated fans patiently waited to hear new material, with only the occasional EP finding its way to the surface.
The Lawrence Arms now have decided its time to return to the music scene, and appropriately have released their first new studio album in over eight years, "Metropole." This new effort largely showcases a revived rock group, while sticking close to the high action style previously included on their earlier efforts. The minute and twenty-two second riff racer "Chilean District" welcomes the listener, as a fast paced guitar riff, smashing percussion work and familiar vocals serve as a strong reminder to the days of "Ghost Stories." Some noticeable R.E.M.-esque vocal melodies add additional energy to the next track, "You Are Here," whereas "Beautiful Things" shows The Lawrence Arms falling into a bold Blink-182 attitude. The band briefly slows things down for "The YMCA Down the Street From the Clinic." The high energy vocals disappear, and are instead replaced with moderate toned singing and quiet guitar playing, with only sporadic moments of crunching distortion attributing any familiarness to the cut. We soon move back into familiar territory on "Never Fade Away," which captures the crushing talent of drummer Neil Hennessy. "October Blood" normally closes out the album (not considering the three bonus tracks which appear on the Deluxe Digipak), and leaves us with a fresh slab of traditional Lawrence Arms angst rock.
Lyrics — 7
The dueling vocalists which comprise two-thirds of The Lawrence Arms each have their own respective high and low moments throughout "Metropole." When the two are working with one another on creating memorable vocal harmonies, such as on "Acheron River," Kelly and McCaughan standout. Chris McCaughan in particular proves that he can easily stand out on his own, which is evident on songs like the opening track "Chilean District." Personally I found Brendan Kelly's vocal performance a bit too nasally, especially on the bonus track, "These Pigs Seem to Be Getting the Best of Me." Kelly is doing a formidable job at attempting to hit the same high notes as he did back over a decade ago, and does so with varying success during "Metropole." While his vocals aren't always stand out, it would be unfair to say that his performance is without any highlights, including the melody driven "Drunken Tweets."
Overall Impression — 7
On their first new studio album in over eight years, "Metropole," The Lawrence Arms deliver a new batch of occasionally exhilarating, sometimes underwhelming punk rock. There is the infrequent low moment included with this new release, and while the end product could have definitely used a visit to the cutting room floor, it is still a worthwhile album which any familiar Lawrence Arms fan should have no problem enjoying.