October 24, 2003

Lawrence Arms "The Greatest Story Ever Told"

Punk rock! Punk rock! Punk rock! Buck the system! Question everything! Stick it to the man!

Thank god The Lawrence Arms aren't about such things. Instead of being the bearers of the boring punk-rock cliches, The Lawrence Arms are...different. They're special. They're beyond that sort of thing, because there's more to life than playing that part for hours, and though the title of their new album may seem a bit cocky, it's not, really. The Greatest Story Ever Told is a wonderfully refreshing slab of rock music tinged with that whole 'punk' sound and mixed with a sensitive, emotional side that's quite refreshing and rewarding. Yes, my children, people might call this 'emo.'

Those people are idiots.

Now, don't get me wrong, The Lawrence Arms have that whole crunchy punk sound, and they're experts at it. They've been touring the country and winning the hearts of punk kids since the late 90s (aka the pre-emo hype years), so you'd expect them to sound good. It should be noted that The Lawrence Arms are very reminiscent of another great punk-rock trio, Jawbreaker. Indeed, the two lead singers, Brendan and Chris, sound like two halves of one Blake Schwarzenbach. Don't think they're mere copyists, though; their sound is clearly their own, and The Greatest Story Ever Told is evidence of that.

Though the cover art may fool you--they've dressed it up in a gimmicky, 1890s style packaging--the Lawrence Arms have made a very youthful record. Invigorating, to say the least. Packing a punch of driving, melodic songs in barely thirty minutes time, these guys don't waste any time getting their point across. Songs range from the hard and the fast and the raw to the slow and soft and lush, and it's to The Lawrence Arms' credit that they can cover such a wide range of sounds so seamlessly. From the rock punch of "The March of the Elephants" and "On With The Show" to the introspective confessional of "Fireflies" and "The Revisionist," The Greatest Story Ever Told is never less than a powerful punch to the soul of rock and roll, and it's never ever boring, cliche, or emo.

I know some of you out there turn your nose up whenever the terms 'pop-punk' or 'emo' creep into a record description, but I implore you to set aside your preconceived notions when it comes to The Lawrence Arms. They're a fine band who do not fit into those little prejudices and stereotypes you might have about them. They make very good, interesting and well-written pop songs that contain a lyrical bite in the ass that you'll appreciate. If you like well-written songs, that is. The Greatest Story Ever Told may be a boastful title, but it's certainly not much of a boast.

--Joseph Kyle

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