Just like the famous quote from the character Michael Corleone in The Godfather: Part III of, “Just when I thought I was out, they pull me back in,” can be directly re-applied to the case of Unwritten Law. The band seemed to have a tough time getting that “magic” back on the past few releases like Swan, and at-times Here’s to the Mourning, something appeared to be slightly out of sync in the band’s delivery. Enter the era of The Hum, and all appears to be heading back on the right course. The Hum is a cohesive and electric collection of songs that fit well from beginning to end, and feature several key songs that keep the listener coming back for repeat listens. While Unwritten Law doesn’t cover a ton of new ground here, getting the train back on the tracks is the most important thing that the band could’ve done here to re-establish their brand of music in the crowded pop-punk realm.
The album is organized into four different sections, with various interludes called “Luna,” that showcase the four phases of the moon (Waxing, Full, Waning, and New). It’s likely no accident that the band closes out with “Luna, Pt. 4: New Moon” as it signals to long-time fans of Unwritten Law that the band is back, and the best is still to come in this next exciting chapter of the band’s re-discovery and re-kindling of their band chemistry, or “magic.”
Kicking things off on the right foot is “Discordia,” that features a frenetic electric guitar before band leader and vocalist, Scott Russo cuts through the void to sing, “I know, I know / This life is more than echoes / Reverberating from the sun / I’ve seen, I’ve seen / Too much and far too broken, at least / We still believe that we’re free / That we can be free.” It feels reinvigorating to feel Russo sing with this much passion again, and it comes through in the music brilliantly. “Beggars” features a great drum beat (courtesy of longtime drummer Wade Youman being brought back into the fold after reconciling with Russo) to set the tone for the third track in the set, and Russo continues to command the song from start to finish. The song features a very Social Distortion-type of slow chorus as he sings, “Beggars can’t be choosers, losing anyway / But you’re so beautiful, you’re so…” Its a nice return to form for Unwritten Law.
Lead single, “Ghosted” comes next at just the right time in the album sequencing with some great guitar parts, courtesy of new lead guitarist Chris Lewis (Fenix Tx) who pairs nicely with the rhythm guitar of Russo and Scotty Mac. The bridge in this song features some acoustic guitar and a slowed down section of the chorus as Russo croons, “Now I’m a ghost / I’m a parasite, you’re my host / I’m a forest fire, you’re a raging flood / Over and over, I’m a ghost / I will haunt you the most / Alien inside this empty home / I’m a ghost / You welcomed me into your home.” It’s one of the best songs Unwritten Law have crafted in the better part of a decade, and the band chemistry continues to click on all cylinders with tracks like this.
Another early standout is the mid-tempo “Magnetic,” that features a bouncy chorus and anthemic moments, courtesy of backing vocals from Russo’s bandmates to create a great wall of sound in its structure. “Lighthead” squeals along with some more aggressive, hard-nosed guitar parts and showcases what Unwritten Law can do when they try and write a heavier song.
”Dark Seas” is the band’s take on some tropical-flavored sounds made into a rock song, and has mostly favorable results in its cocktail of Sublime-esque ska chords paired with a great bass line from Russo’s brother Jonny Grill. The song eventually launches into the stratosphere at its crescendo around the 2:30 mark in the song before settling back into the main groove of the song. “Murder Days” on the other hand, is a pure blast of punk rock energy and re-kindles the days of Unwritten Law’s early story told on Blue Room with more of the pop-sheen found on their self-titled record.
Add in a nice cover song of Fleetwood Mac’s “Little Lies,” featuring guest vocals from Cailin Russo, and it seems like everything is clicking perfectly into place for the veteran pop-punkers. Cailin really has a great voice, and at times even outshines her talented father on this electric-charged cover song. “Take Me” brings the energy way down after the pace of the earlier material, and it ends up being a rare “miss” in the album sequencing and overall delivery found on The Hum. The title track comes after the third interlude and brings the energy back up to its expected pace. The heavy guitar tones found this song showcase the talents of three-headed approach to their guitarists in swallowing the listener whole in their songwriting. “Chrome and Glass” closes out the songs found on The Hum with another ballad that just didn’t click for me, even after repeat listens. I’m a big fan of closing out an aggressive-sounding LP with a nice, tender slow jam, but for whatever reason this track didn’t quite send the band onto the trajectory I was expecting.
Overall, there’s plenty to love on The Hum by Unwritten Law. Getting a reconciliation between Youman and Russo pays off major dividends into the drumming/rhythm department of this record, and I hope they can continue to rekindle their love of punk rock music on future releases. I won’t call this a “comeback record,” but rather a stellar “return to form” as their earlier material of Elva and the self-titled era feature some of my favorite pop punk songs to come out during that time. Whether or not The Hum surpasses my love for those records remains to be seen, but Unwritten Law have certainly pulled me back in at just the right moment in my life.