Review Summary: An overlooked punk record featuring future Lawrence Arms members
It doesn’t happen often, but every once in a while I stumble upon a gem of a record that just resonates so strongly with how I feel in life at the moment. One of those albums you know even from a first listen is special, almost as if it were custom-made. And at this particular time for me it’s The Broadways' only studio album, Broken Star. At first glance Broken Star may seem like your archetypal punk LP, and while some may see it that way, I see it as an intelligent, albeit cynical at times record that stands out to me as one of the finest in the genre.
Broken Star is punk rock heaven; it’s brimming with melody but concurrently raw and gritty. It’s pessimistic in nature but not completely absent of hope. Musically it’s a force, ranging from short songs to longer, drawn out numbers, consisting of quick riffs and fast drumming. So instrumentally it’s your standard punk affair but the songwriting and structures are so good it works. Those acquainted with The Lawrence Arms will hear the familiar but younger vocals of Brendan Kelly and Chris McCaughan, who along with Dan Hanaway provide the vocal duties, and well at that. Having three very distinct sounding vocalists brings some needed variety to an otherwise uniform sound.
Lyrically the album explores socially-conscious themes: unjust politics (Jonathan Kozol Was Right…
), police brutality (Police Song
), alcohol (Kitchen Floor
), general discontent/depression (Upton
), the faults of capitalism (We’ll Have A Party
), global consumerism (15 Minutes
), girl troubles (Red Line
), trying to find your place in life (Ben Moves to California
) and searching for inspiration and meaning (Restless
). Sung with a healthy dose of youthful angst, these songs are at times witty, often earnest and sometimes sarcastic, but always passionate and chock-full of energy.
Amidst all the cynicism about the world we live in lies some hope in the finale The Nautical Mile
. With lines like “you've got one thousand people on your side, take it in stride and when there's nothing left to patch the hole we'll swim together” and “Life is bigger, so much bigger than all this”, it is an uplifting, motivational triumph against everything wrong with this world. On top of being an awesome punk record, it’s a comfort to me knowing there are people that felt exactly the same as me. And when songs strike that personal chord, they become more than just songs, but your own songs. Highly recommended if you're a fan of political punk rock, and pretty much mandatory if you're a Larry Arms fan.