Monday, February 07, 2005

Unwritten Law - Here's to the Mourning CD Review

Does anyone want to tell me what happened? This sure isn’t the classic Unwritten Law of many years past, or even that of a scant couple of years ago. Their self titled release from 1998 was a competently done punk record that garnered a decent fan following after a few years of releasing surf punk discs to a rather small following. Four long years later they released Elva, which showed them to be moving in a more hard rock oriented direction. Thankfully it was still a pretty good listen. A year later they released Music in High Places, which was hit or miss depending upon how much you dug listening to their songs acoustically. Now in 2005, Unwritten Law have released Here’s to the Mourning, a horribly misguided album lacking the punk of their early work, missing the intimacy of Music in High Places, and making extremely bad use of the hard rock style they showcased on Elva.

From the second track of this disc (the first is an intro), you’re confronted with a band unsure of whether to stick to what they’ve done well on their last studio release or try to change what they’ve done in order to grab a bigger audience. There are a few driving hard rock songs, such as “Lost Control” and “F.I.G.H.T.,” but for the majority of the disc you’ll be subjected to a healthy chunk of cheesy pop rock in which they make use of almost every terrible rock cliché that you know.

“Get Up” gets off to a good start with some thick, meaty guitars, but once the chorus hits you’ll be rolling your eyes at the high pitched “get up, get up, get up” background vocals and the unintentionally bad melodic lead vocals. “Celebration Song” starts out much like “Get Up” with the driving guitars, but this good start is again ruined by a new wave inspired verse structure that sounds unbelievably out of place. Maybe the third time will be a charm? Well, as opposed to the previous two tracks, “Because of You” starts off very mellow in a decidedly pop-rock style complete with “oooohhh”s in the back up vocals before doing the pop-rock chorus. After three terrible songs, “Lost Control,” the fourth is one of the few decent entries on this disc—a straight ahead, simple, hard rock tune.

As for the rest of the disc, there’s a ton of even more terrible hard rock songs polluted by pop conventions. It’s sad to hear all of the good moments presented in so many of the songs as they are eventually played off and watered down by an attempt at being the next big radio friendly rock band. Take a look at their first single, “Save Me,” for example. It starts off with a melodic verse over a clean cut guitar line only to be followed by the quick paced, three chord rock out chorus, complete with sing-a-long vocals, from which you are lead into the bridge, which consists of bouncy guitars and “whoa-oh” vocals, followed shortly by an extra mellow verse, which is then topped off with a blast of the chorus and more “whoa-oh” backup vocals. This is manufactured pop rock taken straight from the template laid down by hundreds of past pop-rock bands. For an even more egregious use of crappy pop clichés, listen to “I Like the Way,” in which you get hip hop vocals and whistling among other things.

More than anything, I feel sad for these guys because any bit of respect or following they’ve garnered over the last few years from their fans is going to fly right out the window with this release. If you are one of their fans, go back and listen to Elva or their self titled release a few more times and pretend this release never happened. It’ll be for the best, trust me—manufactured radio has claimed its latest victim and went by the name Unwritten Law.

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