The fourth studio album from the San Diego-based band, Unwritten Law, brought the group of ton of success in the early part of the 00’s era of pop-punk, and deservedly so. Elva is filled with crisp pop-rock gems including “Up All Night,” “Rescue Me,” “Sound Siren,” and their first chart-topping Modern Rock hit in “Seein’ Red.” Unwritten Law fought through the crowded scene of pop-rockers making a name for themselves like Sum 41, Good Charlotte, and Mest to improve upon their songwriting craft and deliver their most successful album to date in Elva. Produced by John Shanks, Miguel, Josh Abraham, and the band, this remains one of those records I look back fondly upon as it celebrates its 20 year mark. Led by the dynamic and energetic vocals of band leader, Scott Russo, Unwritten Law were starting to really make their mark in the music scene by the end of this album cycle.
Elva is separated with three interspersed, spoken word interludes that evaporate quick enough not to distract from the overall enjoyable listening experience. The record opens quickly with the blast of punk rock energy in songs like “Mean Girl,” and the first single released from the album in “Up All Night.” In the opening single, Scott Russo commands the track over some great drumming from Wade Youman, and the dual-guitar attack of Steve Morris and Rob Brewer. Russo sings triumphantly and admittedly on the second verse, “The more we try to change / The more we stay the same / We’re caught up in the game and now / Just like empty picture frames / So now we’re to blame / Said we were gettin down, on Genesee and fountain / Smelled another mountain now / If you aint gettin down, you’ll come around” and these lyrics set the tone for the material that confesses that the band is still the one fans fell in love with on their well-received self-titled effort.
”Sound Siren” is a fun and enjoyable track that bounces along with veteran ease, and showcases the band’s continued improvements in the songwriting department. The memorable chorus of, “So bombs away and as they say / Here’s to oblivion / And cheers to you as well it’s through / Sound siren / She’s still cryin’, it’s over, it’s over / Sound siren / It’s over, it’s over,” is a true indication of the fun Unwritten Law had while creating Elva, and the good vibes are presented well throughout each recording. Other mid-tempo songs like “How You Feel” speak to the depth of the material that the band were capable of creating at this stage of their musical careers. The ultra-melodic choruses on each of these songs are incredibly well thought out, and still sound as powerful today.
The blistering delivery of “Blame it on Me” sounds as aggressive as anything the band has created to date, and remains a live set staple. Everything seems to build up to their most successful single to date on “Seein’ Red” as Scott Russo opens with, “I’m seein’ red / Don’t think you’ll have to see my face again / Don’t have much time for sympathy / Cuz it never happened to me / You feelin’ blue now / I think you bit off more than you could chew / And now it’s time to make a choice / And all I wanna hear is your…” before exploding into a ultra-memorable chorus. What the band does particularly well on this song is not rush the crescendo that occurs in the hook, and they continue too find new ways to make their brand of pop-punk seem different than all the other four-chord rockers out there.
The abrasive “Hellborn” follows after short interlude, and the band is able to convey a heavier side to themselves as they paint with new and vivid colors. It’s a pure blast of California-based punk rock energy and makes the listener want to continue down the exploratory path that Unwritten Law were going for here. Things turn on their head quickly with the near-ballad “Geronimo,” where the band showcases their ability to craft a well conceived love song. My favorite part of the song comes in the bridge where Russo passionately sings, “Let’s leave today and forget everything / Can’t really take this place / So what you say / Let’s leave it all behind and don’t look back / We won’t rewind this time / Let’s get away,” that improved upon the lyrical material found on their self-titled.
Other middle of the album songs like “Rescue Me” feature a great start-stop tempo over a riffing guitar/bass line that finds Unwritten Law continue to explore the best parts of their sound. The pop bliss of “Actress, Model…” might be thew only song that doesn’t seem to quite gel with the rest of the material on Elva, but it still has a nice pop-punk bounce to it. The exploratory “Babalon,” “Elva,” and album closer, “Evolution” find the band tuning in to the harder-tinged rock that they wanted to journey with on this record, and almost all of it works pretty damn well. Throw in an extra and great ballad in “Rest Of My Life,” and Unwritten Law were off to the races in creating one of their best, if the not “the” landmark album of their young career. There’s plenty to like and remember fondly about on Elva, and it’s a shame this record didn’t get as much love and recognition as it rightfully deserved during the crowded era of our scene’s peak of popularity.