The Lawrence Arms

Skeleton Coast

Written by: PP on 20/11/2020 00:55:21

Seven albums down and The Lawrence Arms are at the top of their fucking game here. "Skeleton Coast" is a straight-up Midwestern punk rock classic, and it comes out of the middle of nowhere being only their second full-length in fourteen years. Remember 2014's "Metropole"? It was a lot more subtle and discreet than in-your-face and unpredictable compared to 2006's "Oh! Calcutta!" that at times felt like a train wreck falling off a canyon bridge, rolling off the cliffs back and forth in the nicest way possible. A good album in its own right, it was a dramatic change stylistically for the band, opting for a more relaxed and mature expression that offered a different take than usual for the band.

Here? The Lawrence Arms engage on a perfect trip down the memory lane of their entire career that feels more like a greatest hits parade than it does a curtain call. I mean fuck - we're talking "Apathy And Exhaustion" level melancholic melodies that give Alkaline Trio a run for their money - see "Dead Man's Coat" or "Last, Last Words" for example - mixed with rollicking disasters-turned gems like "PTA", where Brendan Kelly sounds like he's rolling down the stairs while sprawling over the mic in the best "Oh! Calcutta!" manner. Or what about "How To Rot" - another barrel full of energy that's characterized by Kelly's brawly vocals.

And that's just the beginning. "Pigeons And Spies" is one of those songs that has all the ingredients of a punk rock classic right there in its infectiously catchy "Ohhh-ohh I'm tired, and you're tired too [...] and I'm dying, and you're dying too" bits. Similarly, "Ghostwriter", this time a Chris McCaughan song, carries itself with a melancholic beauty that'll stay with you for a lifetime. "Lose Control" is another classic-in-the-making: "Dear black hole, will you read this? [...] I'm rich, like a dead king, they say...my name, rings out, on those pathetic streets / a hollow sound, a dead wind, on the edge of town". It's calm and collected, echoing some more Alkaline Trio or "Apathy And Exhaustion"-era material for that matter.

But what makes "Skeleton Coast" such a brilliant album is its pacing. It's beautifully contrasting cacophonic, chaotic punk rock bar fights with the more introspective and melancholic, softer melodies. It's a precision-guided case of calm and relaxed vs. chaotic and out-the-gates running, a classic quiet/loud dynamic in play in beautiful fashion. The continuous contrast between Brendan Kelly's uncontrollable brawls and gravelly melodies against the smoother and well-produced hollers of Chris McCaughan is wonderful, as is the clever production by longtime producer Matt Allison whose work here oozes of intimate knowledge of what makes this band tick. The Kelly songs are full of urgency and immediacy, whereas the McCaughan ones are more longing and nostalgia-driven - while retaining a level of energy that perhaps was missing on "Metropole" to some extent.

Is "Skeleton Coast" the culmination of The Lawrence Arms career? It certainly feels like their best record to date - and like a potential album-of-the-year candidate.

9

Download: Pigeons And Spies, PTA, Ghostwriter, Lose Control, How To Rot, Belly Of The Whale, Under Paris
For the fans of: Alkaline Trio, The Falcon, Banner Pilot, None More Black, Off With Their Heads, Dillinger Four, The Holy Mess, The Flatliners
Listen: Facebook

Release date 17.07.2020
Epitaph

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