Release Date: Jan 28, 2014
Record label: Epitaph
Genre(s): Pop/Rock, Alternative/Indie Rock, Alternative Pop/Rock, Punk Revival, Punk-Pop
The return of the Lawrence Arms couldn't be better timed. The Chicago band hit the studio just as dozens of the groups they've influenced are uploading their latest melodic punk masterpieces to Bandcamp. But on Metropole, their first full-length in eight years, the Lawrence Arms sound like a band with nothing to prove.Not that the group are resting on their laurels; rather, the trio have settled into their mid-30s with grace, penning songs that take a wistful approach to their younger years without pining for the past.
The eight-year hiatus preceding the Lawrence Arms' sixth record, Metropole, seems to have been a time of personal growth for members Neil Hennessy, Brendan Kelly, and Chris McCaughan. The Chicago-based trio have always had a knack for clever, melodically minded songwriting, but as they regroup for this 2014 release, there is a newfound world-weariness not present on their earlier records. The pop-punk genre of which they are veterans is often unkind to aging bands who refuse to let go of the scene's youthful trappings, but the Arms have managed to craft a thoughtful, reflective record full of somber notes and a refined kind of fury earned by experience.
It’s been just about eight years since we last hear a full-length record from the Lawrence Arms. They did put out the Buttsweat and Tears EP to mark their 10th anniversary in 2009, but other than that the band has been branching out. Chris McCaughan recorded solo material under the Sundowner moniker, while Brendan Kelly made a record with his other band the Wandering Birds.
For the first half of The Lawrence Arms’ career, the band proved itself to be a punk-rock workhorse. After releasing five full-lengths and a compilation, as well as touring relentlessly over the course of seven years, the fact that its members would occasionally turn up in other projects was a testament to their drive. This type of energy can only be sustained for so long, though, and following 2006’s Oh! Calcutta!, the trio pumped the brakes.
The best punk rock matures with age; the best punk-rock bands accept growing up and resist the fight against it, using it to their advantage. The Lawrence Arms are doing just that on their sixth album. While the Chicago pop-punk band have always jumped back and forth between screamed, emotional punk (think the Menzingers, except, you know, before the Menzingers existed) and a more subdued, melodic sound, here the latter shines all over the former, even when a song combines both of the band's personalities, as on the excellent "Hickey Avenue." But a song like the amazing album highlight "Beautiful Things" carries so much in its restraint, and showcases the true power of what the Lawrence Arms have created.