Review Summary: The seeds that would sprout The Lawrence Arms and an all around great under appreciated punk album
The Broadways were a short lived punk band formed in 1996 by ex Slapstick members Brendan Kelly and Dan Hanaway, with future The Lawrence Arms band mate Chris mcCaugah and drummer Rob DePaolo finalizing the lineup. They released one full length album and one compilation before calling it quits with half of the band going on to form The Lawrence Arms. Broken Star is the only studio album the band managed to craft while they were around, and it's a tale of the trials and tribulations of a bunch of miscreants in Chicago set to fast paced melodic punk music. Broken Star
consists of 15 relatively short bursts of guitar chords and pissed off lyrics with general disdain for verse-chorus-verse song structure and pretty much everything else status quo. Broken Star
is a truly great punk rock album that while never achieving mainstream success has a well deserved and very loyal following.
What sets The Broadways apart from the rest of the punk scene is their three headed attack of Brendan Kelly, Dan Hanaway, and Chris McCaughan. Having three singer/songwriters keeps the album fresh and interesting through it's 43 minute course. That's not to say there is a ton of variety in the singing styles though, as all three guys have really harsh voices. The vocals are rough, rough even by punk standards. The off key vocals that start the opening track "15 Minutes" set the tone for the whole record. Chris McCaughan's vocals in particular are far from what they would become in later work with The Lawrence Arms. He is far from the crooner he would become on later records, but it only adds to Broken Star's
charm, it doesn't want to sound too refined.
paints a vivid picture of the life of a bunch of punks in Chicago at the time. With songs about dumpster diving, giving up your possessions, and sticking it to the man, you start to get a feel for what it's like to be young, poor, and idealistic in a large urban environment. The lyrics on the album basically sum up to thinking everything about the status quo is bull***, and the frustration that comes with being an outcast in your own hometown. Most of the lyrics are drenched with wit, sarcasm, and humor that transforms what would usually be really downer type lyrics (Anti-Flag) into really enjoyable and thought provoking verses. For example "Everything I Ever Wanted To Know About Genocide I Learned In 3rd Grade" is about how ***ed up Thanksgiving is if you hadn't already guessed just from the title. The lyrics make the band really stand out from the rest of the pack, and Brendan and Chris' lyrical style would only grow as they moved on the The Lawrence Arms.
While the album is very raw, some of the tracks are quite catchy. "We'll Have A Party" has the melodic chords and crunches Chris McCaughan is known for. Towards the end of "We'll Have A Party" the track breaks down into this beautiful instrumental section that elevates the song into something truly special. "I Hear Things Are Just As Bad Down In Lake Erie" is interesting because it's the only song with major vocal contributions by all the three vocalists. The singers change with each verse in a way that's reminiscent of hip hop that helps the track stand out.
What Broken Star
lacks in fancy production and in-tune vocals it more than makes up for these faults with immense character and charm. It's a shame The Broadways weren't around long enough to gain a lot of attention because this record really is special. I find solace in the fact that out of the ashes of The Broadways The Lawrence Arms were born which carried on the torch and members Chris and Brendan finally started to get the attention they deserved.