Thursday, March 16, 2006

Record Review: Lawrence Arms - Oh! Calcutta

The Lawrence Arm never did have a definitive sound. Their music always traversed between gritty Midwestern punk -- inspired by the likes of Fifteen, Pegboy and Leatherface -- and slick, melodic pop punk -- informed by bands like Jawbreaker, Jets To Brazil and the Alkaline Trio. That was until Oh! Calcutta!.

Where their former LPs were disparate, Oh! Calcutta! boasts a cohesive sound across the entire record. No longer do Chris McCaughan and Brendan Kelly rotate on vocals on each song. Rather the record is littered with tag-team vocals and irresistibly infectious gang melodies. On Are You There Margaret? It’s Me God McCaughan and Kelly simultaneously bellow “Aeroplane, aeroplane / Don’t leave without me / Cause I’m out here all by myself / and I got no place to sleep” and in the process craft one of catchiest punk rock songs of the last 10 years.

Oh! Calcutta! also exhibits an aggression that has only existed sporadically on past Arms records. The bass is far more prominent in the mix and Brendan Kelly takes the vocals reins for the majority of the record. His scratchy, unpolished vocals give the record a hostile and antagonistic element, something that complements the biting sarcasm and incisive vitriol contained in their lyrics.

This is probably something that is largely overlooked in the Lawrence Arm’s music. Their predilection for ‘boorish’ music belies their wit and literary inclinations. Naysayers would probably pay no heed to the Arms because their brand of pop punk and emo is deemed a musical faux pas. But witticisms like "I say fuck the man / no matter who that man may be" abound on the record.

‘Oh! Calcutta!’ is one of the most distinctive and catchiest records of the last decade. It represents a band finally fulfilling its potential of constructing a flawlessly catchy punk rock record.

Five thumbs up.

Make Up Your Own Mind:
The Devil's Takin' Names
Beyond The Embarassing Style


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