Review: The Lawrence Arms- Metropole (Epitaph, 2014)

Posted: March 12, 2014 in Reviews

Metropole will take a while to hit you, but when it does, it will be a straight-up sucker punch. Yes, this is a grower, rather unlike the instantly likeable Oh, Calcutta, now released a whole eight years ago. We have had an EP and a live DVD since then, but with Metropole, The Lawrence Arms are properly back. It feels different to before, but it is still distinctively them. The Lawrence Arms have never been a band to just breeze their way through an album, and so it proves with Metropole. This is an album which is lyrically poignant and textually rich, and thematically distinct, in much the same way as The Greatest Story Ever Told is.

Minus all that jazz, this has arguably some of The Lawrence Arms’ best songs to date. It might not quite match Greatest Story in the sum of its parts, or Oh, Calcutta for just straight-up punk rock hits, but Metropole showcases The Lawrence Arms at their most catchy, coherent and slick. Whereas on previous releases, the band’s LPs have noticeably juxtaposed Brendan Kelly’s songs, with his rough and raw vocals, with the more aesthetically pleasing vocals of Chris McCaughan, this time, the vocals are combined to a greater effect; it all feels a lot more together. It arguably leads to a slicker final piece, evidenced best in “Beautiful Things”, which has a hell of a chorus, and single “Seventeener (17th and 37th). Some of the songs on Metropole are the textbook definition of melodic punk rock. But The Larry Arms have never been afraid to try something different. “The YMCA Down the Street From the Clinic” is a slow-paced, jangly jig, while title track “Metropole” tricks us with an almost-Sundowner-like acoustic  opening minute, before bursting into life.

And the theme of the album? Well, it’s about ageing, mortality and nostalgia; the 20 years that have passed since Brendan Kelly first started a band with Slapstick, as a 17-year old. It’s about that bastard known as time: “The traffic light blinked a million times/ I blinked twice and twenty years went by”. Lyrically, Metropole is Brendan’s one long “I’m getting oooooooold, guys”. This is obviously best found in “Seventeener (17th and 37th), where Kelly claims “I never wanted to die old/ But it’s too late now/ My Heart has grown so cold”. But the theme is embedded throughout, from self-explanatory “Never Fade Away”, to the excellent “The YMCA Down the Street From the Clinic”, which is a Bukowski short story set to music, to the beautifully written “Paradise Shitty”. All of which culminates in “October Blood”, a bold statement from The Lawrence Arms, one which acts as a perfect summation of everything that has come before, and one which makes you to hear it all again immediately:  “I was born and I died/ And Just a moment went by”.


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