I felt cheated by this disc the moment the introduction gave way to the opening song “Raw and Searing Flesh.” For starters, it was my first exposure to the trio. And with a name like The Lawrence Arms, I anticipated an ugly, angst-ridden blend of oi in the tradition of The Business or The Cockney Rejects. To my dismay, my ears were instead treated(?) to watered-down punk rock, leaving me to wonder if it was truly a product of Fat Wreck Chords.
A quick review of fatwreck.com confirmed that The Lawrence Arms were indeed a Fat Mike product, so I was forced to sit back down and give The Greatest Story Ever Told another listen. Okay, so it’s better than Clay Aiken and it would find its way into my CD player before Good Charlotte ever would, but I’m still not sold.
Generally speaking, the album wavers too much between styles, with grating punk vocals sneering through one track, and sustained distortion and mid-tempo melodies dreaming through the next. As a result, The Greatest Story comes off like random tracks put together without much forethought or team effort. One gets the sense that Apple’s iTunes dollar-per-song music service has changed the face of music forever.
What happened to creating an entire album of tracks that moved in a linear fashion, building on each other and offering the listener an experience, let alone something new? I’m not asking for rock operas here, but more than a half-assed effort would be nice. Certainly we deserve more than something that sounds like it was recorded for the sole purpose of releasing an album. And here comes the “nostalgia ain’t what it used to be speech”:
When Brian Wilson first heard The Beatles’ Rubber Soul album, he took it as a personal challenge. The result was The Beach Boys’ Pet Sounds. In more recent times, Jane’s Addiction gave the industry a kick in the ass, and Radiohead has gone above and beyond even those standards.
So is it fair to judge a young group of punks based on the accomplishments of the truly elite artists of our day? Possibly. But I maintain that a good number of consumers are sick of the fast-food music industry and tired of shelling out cash for crap. If you’ve nothing interesting to say, then don’t bother. Of course, for fans of The Ataris, The Lawrence Arms will certainly worm its way into their hearts. Let’s just hope they’ve had their shots.