Review Summary: Lars & his bastards are back for more 'punk rockin' fun', and if you enjoyed their debut album, then it's likely you'll enjoy this one.
First off, this is a good album that you can listen to and enjoy, as pure simple fun. But by no means should it be counted as a classic. Infact, considering the quality of some songs on his debut album; the likes of ‘Dead American’, ‘To Have and to Have Not’, ‘Wine and Roses’ and also ‘Skunx’, you could be forgiven for being slightly disappointed with this sophomore album.
This isn’t to say though, that there are no classic Lars songs on this CD, “Skins Punx & Drunx”
is a rousing cry for unity, showing how Lars will befriend anyone regardless of their nation and irrespective of their walk of life. The group chorus vocals are excellent, and for a song lasting just over a minute, the chorus’ make the song more wholesome. “1%”
is another brilliant track, a story of broken childhood and violence, and again it is complimented by the shouts of the chorus which bring a fantastic sound to the song. “Mainlining Murder”
is another blockbuster track, which has a different feel to it, maintaining the aggression from Lars. This is shown in the lyrics (“well don’t hold my hand / or I’ll punch your face”), a story of a lover jilted who wants the ultimate revenge over their partner (“I’ll roll your pieces in the shower curtain”). Psycho anyone? The song also takes on a strange electronic edge in the chorus, which is surprisingly reminiscent of ‘The Killers’, but these only last for the chorus’, but are an interesting change.
“Little Rude Girl”
is a touching song about a girl who Lars didn’t ask the name of, and regrets it, although it originally was a Rancid B-Side, under the alias ‘Do You Wanna Dance with Me?’. “Maggots”
has a melodic side to it, which underlies the nasty lyrics, and infact makes the song catchy, and again, a strength of Lars’ records (and indeed Rancid’s) are the infectious chorus’ that infiltrate many of their songs. Mentioning Rancid, now is an apt time to discuss the track “My Life to Live”
which features Lars’ compatriot, Tim Armstrong. This song has the plus side of a good bouncy melodious tune, and also another vocalist who Lars can share with, although, as we will see later, the song is let down through its lyrics. The other guest vocalist is Rob Aston, one of the Transplants vocalists, and he ‘sings’ (I use the term loosely here) on the track “Switchblade”
. This is another track that has a very catchy, rhythmic chorus that will have you bobbing your head in no time, and maybe even singing along to the (dubious) lyrics.
, “For You”
are similar songs, in that they are not filler, but are just average tracks that you probably will like if you like the CD generally, but are not likely to classify any of them as standout, just a solid collection of tracks. All have interesting harmonies, the first two are slightly less heavy tracks, but the latter has the heavier element that, in my opinion, Lars’ best song has – ‘Dead American’, from his self titled debut. “The Kids are Quiet on Sharmon Palms”
is another average track, but the group sung, stop-go chorus is a positive, even if it is a little simple.
There are a few extremely short songs on the disc, the best of them is “Fight”
which spends its time wisely, a rollicking number, which is catchy in parts. The other two, “Blind Ambition”
and “Gods of War”
are less good, neither having the makings of a great song, just pieces of expression, exuding anger.
The final song on the album, the title track – “The Viking”
is spoken mostly, although sung in parts, and it is intimate, it feels as if Lars is giving a piece of himself for you to listen to. Whilst the track doesn't have any great hooks like some of the others do, there are a couple of new instruments introduced; the violin and the keyboard, which make for an interesting effect. This keeps it different from the rest of the album, and whilst it fits in as the last track, when listening on shuffle it will seem out of place.
The album though, has one major problem; it is stunted by its lyrics. Almost every song alludes to violence of some kind, “I don’t go anywhere without my weapons” (Switchblade), “from the maggots of my wounds / you look so lovely” (Maggots) among others. It’s all very well when describing his background, but sometimes he just seems to be saying “look at me! I’m a tough guy!”. This is reminiscent of some of the Transplants aggressive lyrical styling too, and I personally don’t mind them, they make for interesting songs, that you can listen to for fun, and casual listening, but I’ll be surprised if this record makes it onto any top 10 (top 50 for that matter) lists for lyricism.
Furthermore, the lyrics are boasting sexuality, especially the song ‘My Life to Live’ in which Tim Armstrong and Lars go over their previous ‘loves’. This is definitely the duo’s least respectable moment; this song is a definite lowlight in their song writing careers, and we know what they are capable of. The reason this song isn’t a bad one is because of the music, and the way it is sung, despite the foolish lyrics. Lars also seems to be egotistical than previously in this album. It’s almost as if he knew that himself, as he says in the last song, “My name is Lars / I’m from Campbell California / you might know that by now”. I certainly did.
Despite these criticisms, this is a fun record, and with songs like:
Skins Punx & Drunx
you can be sure of finding something here you may like, if you are a fan of Rancid, the Transplants, or just like some good old punk rock.
An interesting afterthought I had would be if Lars had just released one CD with a mixture of the songs from the self titled release and this one, because they both contain some 5 star moments, but the overall releases suffer because of some of the mediocrity on them.