Review Summary: “I’ll never fade away”
It’s really funny, there are an abundance of moments on this latest Lawrence Arms album in which the band sounds really tired
. From the same band that brought you such urgent punk music in Oh! Calcutta
is regularly weary, from vocal performances to lyrics to the slightly blunted production: the sound of a fifteen-year-old band who haven’t put out an album in eight years.
But, my God, Metropole
is a truly beautiful piece of punk music. The source of this revelation is the most obvious theme of the record: age. From there, you start to realise that Chris McCaughan’s utterance of “where you are is where you are / and it’s just the way it is / days just keep rolling on / they won’t miss me when I’m gone” that opens “You Are Here” is an intensely sincere statement on nearing the big fortieth year and having spent half his life in the repetitive routine of touring and recording as a professional musician, and perhaps how tired he is of it. That
is where Metropole
’s emotional drive is found, and that is what unifies and collects its many aspects into such a touching body of work. Instrumentally, Metropole
combines the emotive, more-singing-less-shouting nature of the McCaughan penned songs that dominated The Greatest Story Ever Told
with the tag-team vocal style of Oh! Calcutta
, albeit with less of the energy that either of those albums carried, though the sound yielded is still unmistakably classic Lawrence Arms.
Regardless of the band’s slightly subdued performance, however, it’s impossible to deny that there is emotion in what they’re doing. It’s all there in the reflective lyrics (“You Are Here”, “October Blood”), lamenting vocals (“Seventeener” , “The YMCA Down the Street from the Clinic”), and melancholy tones. Just look right to McCaughan's heartfelt singing at the most exciting moments on “Never Fade Away”, or the title track in which Kelly gives us the most beautiful five seconds of the record and his career in his wispy “I blinked twice and twenty years went by”. The most important thing to understand about Metropole
is that Brendan Kelly (the oldest member of the group) was twenty-eight when the band released their last full-length, and he’s now thirty-seven. Needless to say, he likely just does not
retain the fire that he had on those earlier records, but The Lawrence Arms do not let their seemingly dispirited effort on Metropole
go unchecked. The album is an embrace of the members’ collective approach towards mid-life--shown in the downtrodden mood of its music and explained in its sorrowful lyrics--instead of a blatant rejection of age as so many bands have tried to do in a bid to seem relevant.
Almost as prevalent as the sad songs about time and days past, however, is a revitalising never-back-down statement manifested in brilliantly fiery songs like opener “Chilean District”, “Acheron River” and even the classic Kelly throwaway “Drunken Tweets” that affirm the sentiment expressed in “Hickey Avenue”: “so let’s keep rolling / out of these sh**ty yellow lines / ‘cause we be strolling / through this endless parade of identical days”. It’s in this dual nature that Metropole
does something beautiful; something that all too few bands are able to do upon reaching veteran status. Despite the heart-wrenching theme of age, The Lawrence Arms close with “October Blood” that carries in its lyrics two defining statements: “don’t hold on too hard / to the way that everything was” and “I burn on / I burn on / this is the day that I was born”. Metropole
thereby becomes a simultaneous elegy for the past as well as a welcoming punk fanfare for the future: despite an apparent weariness in the sound of The Lawrence Arms, the band is still giving it everything they’ve got.