For fifteen years, Chicago melodic punk trio, The Lawrence Arms, have been delivering raw heart on sleeve anthems for drunk punks. However, it’s been five years since their last record! It’s been an even further eight since their last full length! So it wouldn’t be a surprise that they’ve been missed dearly, but patience has been rewarded.
In celebration of their latest, and sixth, full length album, ‘Metropole’ (which can be heard here!), we at Already Heard have set ourselves a task. A few of us have racked our brains, and so we present to you, what we feel, are the five best songs by The Lawrence Arms!
Beyond The Embarrasing style
The real tragedy of The Lawrence Arms’ career is that they didn’t discover their superpower until late. For so long they relied on the two quite distinctive voices at their disposal sharing the tracklist, but on ‘Oh! Calcutta!’ they consistently unleashed the superlative fun of their combined tones. Where just the one voice makes for a clearer sound, their dual gruff attack felt like a kick up the backside, like a strong measure of chaos had been added to the cocktail. ‘Beyond The Embarassing Style’ is the epitome of that rejuvenation. The softer edges of Chris McCaughan’s voice adds slight touches of emotion that rise from the rowdiness, clearest in that oddly beautiful middle eight. For me the high point of their career. (JBL)
The First Eviction Notice
Though few and far between, there are some songs that can be described without a doubt as perfect – this is one of them. ‘The First Eviction Notice’ is a flawless slice of punk rock, relatable and beautifully introspective, one which fails to lose its emotional weight even after countless listens. From the simple delivery of the opening lines “A temple corroded, eviction pending. Embrace me, cold nights, grey sky, streetlight” to the emotional crisis as Brendan Kelly shouts, “And it’s so depressing that I’m always second guessing” followed by the afterthought addition of “myself” (which still gives me shivers), this song is a lyrical masterpiece. The ideal introduction to The Lawrence Arms ethos, ‘The First Eviction Notice’ is hard-hitting and poignantly introspective while still managing to be relatable. I could probably listen to it and nothing else for the rest of my life and not get bored. (JS)
The YMCA Down the Street from the Clinic
Can you think of a bleaker title than ‘The YMCA Down the Street from the ‘Clinic’? Doing exactly what you’d expect it to, this track from the absolutely brilliant and eagerly awaited new album ‘Metropole’ recounts Kelly washing in the sink of the YMCA and realising the homeless man crying under the hand-dryer is similar yet still different from him. It’s bleak and painful to listen to, and yet the down tempo guitars and gentle delivery give this rock bottom moment an emotional crux that makes the song something more than just a depressing sob story. Lines such as “you can smell the rats dying as the ship starts to sink” and “goddam this fucking town it’s restless and I’m drowning” resonate from the first listen. The opening riff is beautiful, and I love the gruffer vocals featured on this song. This song has everything, it’s a break up song, a song about depression and drinking and manages to drop in the line “I text and tweet and look at nudes and beat off in the dark” without reducing the emotional impact. It even has whistling, something I normally hate it songs but adore here. ‘The YMCA Down the Street from the Clinic’ is undoubtedly one of my favourite songs The Lawrence Arms have released. (JS)
The Corpses of Our Motivations
The opening pound of the drums represents the miserable punk chugging down beer. This proceeds the hectic buzz this individual gets, and as the night draws on, the sadder his/her night becomes. The peak is reached as the melodic punk tempo descends into a sweet crescendo. It flashes images of memory; of woe, of sorrow, and of gratefulness. This song defines the emotional power of The Lawrence Arms. (AL)
There’s an oxymoronic sensibility to this B-side’s themes. A good natured, party-esque jam to dance and yell to with your nearest and dearest. Lying underneath it all though, is the undeniable truth that nothing last’s forever, but it ignored and tucked away by activity. The Lawrence Arms are simply great at this. They have the raw melodic punk energy to put you in a good mood, but hiding beneath it all is something deeper and foreboding. An oxymoronic outfit indeed, and a terrific one at that. (AL)
‘Metropole’ by The Lawrence Arms is available on the 28th January on Epitaph Records.
Words by Jay Sullivan, James Berclaz-Lewis and Aaron Lohan.