Sound: When a veteran band gets a raw deal and realizes it doesn't own the masters to its biggest hits, you've got to think outside the box. Unwritten Law did exactly that when it came to putting together its latest CD The Hit List. The band re-recorded everything from C.P.K. to Celebration Song, and in Unwritten Law's own words from it's website, the California natives delayed this album a couple of times already 'cos we just wanted to get it right.
The best-of CD includes a fresh approach to 17 classics as well as 2 new singles. With 15 years-plus of material to select from, Unwritten Law did not skimp on giving fans a true greatest hits package. While the material is your basic set of rock tracks, it is to the band's credit that they took the energy to revamp close to 20 songs for the fans.
Despite its purpose of being a greatest hits collection, the CD's best song is actually the new single Shoulda Known Better. Starting off with a beautiful Spanish-style guitar line, the track then wastes no time in fusing into a rap-rock hybrid. It has so many different styles within it that it really shows the kind of musical growth Unwritten Law has gone through over the years. It's quite a departure from the majority of tracks on The Hit List, but at the same time shouldn't alienate diehard fans of the older sound.
There is more of a pop-punk sound to most of the other tracks, but the band does inject everything from more of a reggae rhythm to harder rock at times. Harmonic is one of the best re-recordings on the CD, with its gradual buildup from a slow tempo to a vibrant punk song. The guitar work in the laid-back intro is very subtle, but the band wisely still incorporates it in every tempo change the song takes.
Unwritten Law can't necessarily be described as amazing or groundbreaking, but the band has a nice batch of melodic, catchy songs. While Unwritten Law's songs won't appeal to those who don't care for a more pop-punk feel to their music, fans should still be pleased with The Hit List, particularly considering the new recordings add something new for the devotees who own every album by the band. // 8
Lyrics: Lyrically, Unwritten Law tends to write songs that are straightforward and don't delve into any fancy language, which isn't necessarily needed in rock. There isn't a lot that you won't have heard in some way or shape from any average rock band, but the lyrics are not bad by any means.
In the new single Shoulda Known Better, the rapped portion definitely lends itself to the lyrical content. There's a storyline and characters, making it all the more an interesting listen. Vocalist Scott Russo raps, It all started out in a tan Dodge van; Two Hundred bucks that we stole from her dad; Out the back of his meth lab. The descriptive lyrics give the song more of a unique identity and makes Shoulda Known Better one of the best songs on the CD because of it.
In a track like Celebration Song, the lyrics are a bit disappointing, particularly after you listen to the more descript words of Shoulda Known Better. Russo sings, By my side let's go for a long ride; In my car I'll drive you to my star; Out in space won't matter where we are. The lyrics just leave a bit more to be desired and almost have a cheesy aspect. // 7
Overall Impression: A lot of hard work went into making this greatest hits album, and that's a testament to Unwritten Law's dedication. Not a lot of bands would take the effort to re-record close to 20 songs for the sake of the fans, and that is absolutely to be commended.
While The Hit List does not include the best pop-punk songs you'll ever hear, you're bound to find at least a few gems in the 19-song collection. The fact that the best track is one of Unwritten Law's newest offerings should signal a promising future for a band that has nearly 2 decades already under its belt. // 8