Skeleton Coast

The Lawrence Arms

Epitaph, 2020

REVIEW BY: Tom Haugen


The city of Chicago has long been a haven for seminal punk rock bands. Even if you're only vaguely familiar with the genre, you've probably heard of groups like Naked Raygun, Screeching Weasel, or Rise Against. Now, 20+ years together and seven albums deep, I think we can safely add The Lawrence Arms to the list of punk rock royalty from the Windy City, as my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250 Skeleton Coast, the trio's seventh album, is likely going to be the best punk album of 2020.

“Quiet Storm” starts the listen soft and angular – almost like a J. Robbins tune – before abruptly shifting into speedy punk rock with smooth, harmonic vocals and furious percussion. This intensity continues to the raspy singing of the razor sharp “PTA.”

At 14 tracks, which is pretty long by punk standards, The Lawrence Arms doesn’t wear out their welcome with the soaring and anthemic “Dead Man's Coat,” as well as the jagged “Pigeons And Spies.” On the latter, the lively rhythm section matches the energetic vocals perfectly. “(The) Demon,” the best of the best, then offers a throaty, charged two minutes of buzzing, timeless, melodic punk.

Deeper into the listen, “Under Paris” bristles with a darker atmosphere that tips its hat to fellow Chicago legends Alkaline Trio, and “Goblin Foxhunt” alternates between fist-pumping intensity as well as calmer ebbs of simmering melody. “Coyote Crown” exits the listen strong with some subtle post-punk nods in the longer, layered finish.

In the grand tradition of punk, The Lawrence Arms trims all the fat and gets right to the point with all 14 tracks unleashed in just over half an hour. Self-described as their “most urgent” record to date, the band recorded in Texas instead of their usual hometown approach, and it results in some welcomed exploration while still staying true to their ultra-gritty and incredible catchy formula.

Rating: A

User Rating: Not Yet Rated



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