The Lawrence Arms, Oh! Calcutta!

The Lawrence Arms, Oh! Calcutta!

I can’t get over this CD. Oh! Calcutta! is the latest creation from Brendan, Chris, and Neil of The Lawrence Arms. You might remember them from such underground punk acts as The Broadways and Slapstick, but this time they have certainly outdone their past ensembles in terms of sonic density and emotional intensity. This album exceeds all prior attempts by The Lawrence Arms in viciousness, combining contempt for the modern world with outcast irony and agony to create a new cult classic replete with impressive one-liners and aggressive musical cohesion.

With Oh! Calcutta!, The Lawrence Arms’ improved recording prowess smooths out some of the rough edges that had limited the power of their message in the past. Neil Hennessy’s drums and Brendan Kelly’s bass pound out a complex rhythmic attack with aggressive force, accentuating Chris McCaughan’s fiery, harsh guitar playing. Meanwhile, lyrics about hollow debauchery and scorn penetrate as Brendan and Chris alternate between shrill screaming and low-pitched howling, once again exhibiting the dynamism of one of punk’s foremost duos.

Indeed, the album as a whole represents a kind of uncontrollable dialectic. It is a clash between the complementary disasters of self-abuse and depression at the cost of society. Songs such as “Cut It Up” and “Like a Record Player” highlight the torment that these artists feel at the hands of their own indulgence, while other songs, including “Recovering the Opposable Thumb,” beckon others to escape societal control via the same decadence. In the pits of despair and decadence of a kind of wasted world brought out in the album lie a couple of lyrical gems that make this perhaps the crew’s best project so far. The group has always killed with great one-liners, but with classics like, “I’m lonely like a lazy weekend,” and “Our history creeps fast through the gutters,” Oh! Calcutta! includes lyrics that anybody can really sink their teeth into, giving the album the meat it needs to maintain credibility throughout the punk rock world. Even though this album does not strike me as deep enough to transcend the dark desires of the wasting world, I think that its attempt to circumscribe its excitement and freedom could someday earn it true cult classic status.

(Fat Wreck Chords -- P.O. Box 193690, San Francisco, CA. 94119; http://www.fatwreck.com/; The Lawrence Arms -- http://www.thelawrencearms.net/)
BUY ME: Amazon

Review by . Review posted Wednesday, June 28th, 2006. Filed under Reviews.

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