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Lawrence Arms | Apathy and Exhaustion | review | punk | Lollipop

The Lawrence Arms

Apathy and Exhaustion (Fat)
by Morgan Coe

Am I the only person still confused about this whole "pop-punk" thing? When did it become okay for a band to write a song called "Abracadaver" that had nothing to do with corpses? Why does "Boatless Booze Cruise Part 1" have boats but no booze, and no fucking sequel? Call me old fashioned, but when I put on a song called "Porno and Snuff Films," I want to hear something dirtier than a chorus of "do you like my party tricks?" Fucking irony: I can almost see The Lawrence Arms making the little "quote" signs with their fingers.

So what's the big deal? "I'll Take What's In The Box, Monty" isn't about "Let's Make a Deal" and "3am QVC Shopping Spree Hangover" isn't about the Home Shopping Network, but they're still both good, uptempo, pop-punk songs with nice production and catchy bits. Can you blame a band for loving the wacky song names? In a word, yes. Once you strip away the weird painted cover, the goofy titles, the scruffy rub-on lettering, the "if we forgot ya, fuck ya" thank-you list, and the liquor store photos, you're left with a very safe record. "Porno and Snuff Films" and "The First Eviction Notice" sound like a bummed-out Blink-182, while "Abracadaver" is practically a cover of Jawbreaker's monumental "Kiss The Bottle." The band has two singers, the bass player with the gravelly voice and the guitarist with the vocal processor, but they share one emotional register: Wistful. Is it unreasonable of me to expect that there should be one song that doesn't boil down to a vague, inarticulate sense of self-pity?*

All that said, this isn't a bad record, just a disappointing one. If you like big production and straightforward hooks, and if you can stomach lyrics like "encryption ensconces this cryptic cliché," or "as I move to the movement, I'm self-aggrandizing" you'll probably dig it. The 'Arms have obviously figured out how to make the music they want to make; once they crawl out of their own heads and figure out why they should bother they'll be a band to reckon with. Until then, when I want to hear tragically romantic music by alcoholics with messy hair I'll reach for something with a little more substance, say Hickey or Against Me.
(PO Box 193690 San Francisco, CA 94119)

*okay, there is one: "Navigating the Windward Passage." But that's one out of eleven, dammit!

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