In a recently aired episode of the AP.net podcast I go on a (way-to-long) rant about genres and the labels we put on bands. The heart of the argument is ‘fuck labels and fuck genres’ because it’s all a mess. We waste time sitting around saying, “Is this pop-punk, or pop-punk, or pop-punk?” The whole thing is a classification system that no one agrees on, no one abides by, and it becomes a cluster-fuck when trying to talk about bands or describe a sound to someone. In fact, sometimes I think we spend more time arguing about genres than the music itself. Some genres have turned into four-letter words and used as a means to demean and dismiss bands almost as a personal affront. I hate it and I’m unsure if there’s a bigger offender than “pop-punk.”
I started thinking more about this as I was listening to the new album from The Lawrence Arms. I realized that if someone asked me about it — having never heard them — I’d be stuck trying to describe the album as “pop-punk” and shove the band into some genre-canister that doesn’t really fit. Sure, it’s pop-punk the way we collectively described pop-punk years ago. And it’s pop-punk in the way that there’s an emphasis on melody and a punchy aesthetic. But it’s also two singers that don’t sound like choir boys and sure don’t look like they’re ripped from Abercrombie advertisements. And then there’s the underlying aggression and lyrical content that you’re not finding in many of the bands currently associated with the genre.
But what matters most is that it’s really, really good. In fact, it’s so good that it makes me angry at other music. I toss on another album and feel myself scowling at the speakers because I really want to listen to Metropole instead. It’s so good that I spent a night drinking beer and testing my cement wall’s soundproofing ability by just playing this over and over again. It’s so good that I pissed on a nu-pop-punk album after filling my bladder to capacity with beer.
One too far? Really Jason? Realllllly with the pee jokes?
Ok, I didn’t do that. But I do hate that the term pop-punk is so far gone that I can’t type it without suppressing a gag-reflex. And I do really like this album.
In the band’s catalog this one feels closer to The Greatest Story Ever Told — closer in terms to the feel and over-all melodic leanings.1 The dual vocals intertwine and are the epitome of why you don’t always need, or want, a “classically great” singer. The highlights for me are “Seventeener (17th and 37th),” “Metropole,” “The YMCA Down the Street From the Clinic,” and “Paradise Shitty.” The lyrics give you something to think about (maybe even “Drunk Tweets”) and carry with them a weight of existence; this isn’t a break-up album or ode to friends and lost nostalgia. A part of me respects that — I feel like I’ve heard those albums so many times that hearing this album feels refreshing. The louder the volume goes, the more it feels like the soundtrack to a city night and the smell of spilt beer.
The album sounds better though — which makes sense given that TGSET is over 10-years old now.↩