The Lawrence Arms – Metropole
I was already a fan of the Lawrence Arms when their fourth album—2003’s The Greatest Story Ever Told—was released, but the liner notes on that album made me a true believer. The lyrics were annotated with a hundred corresponding footnotes that illustrated the beautiful marriage of intelligence and lowbrow humor that has always made this band so compelling. Fart jokes next to thoughtful analysis of Bulgakov’s The Master and Margarita, etc. It was wonderful.
Eleven years later the Lawrence Arms are still just as lewd and still just as smart. The tug of war between Chris McCaughan’s sensitive croon and Brendan Kelly’s gravely bark is maybe the best it has ever been and though the band’s last release was a juvenilely titled Buttsweat & Tears (brilliant), Metropole tackles growing old with grace, big city livin', mortality, drinkin’, and beautiful things. There’s also a track called “Paradise Shitty” which sounds haha but is actually the most moving track on the record. “I’m so alive/ I’m so afraid/ That I’m wasting what’s left of these days,” Brendan Kelly sings, injecting his cigarette addled whisky soaked vocal chords with more sensitivity than ever.
The Lawrence Arms continue to stay true to their Midwestern roots, which makes Metropole sound both humble and huge at once. There’s a landlocked charm that haunts these songs. There’s also a song called “Drunken Tweets” where Brendan Kelly extols the virtues of the phrase “FUCK YOU” (which provides stark contrast to the aforementioned sensitive jam “Paradise Shitty”). The Larry Arms haven’t made any great strides in their overall sound over the year, but album after album they seem to mature a little bit more. Get better with age. Metropole is their tightest album to date and manages to sound accomplished without sacrificing the childlike joy (and straight up childishness) that makes the group such a joy to imbibe.