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Lawrence Arms - Oh Calcutta !

  by Alex Halls

published: 17 / 3 / 2006



Lawrence Arms - Oh Calcutta !
Label: Select Label
Format: CD

intro

Worth-the-wait follow-up from thought-provoking punks the Lawrence Arms to 'The Greatest Story Ever Told', their groundbreaking last album of three years ago


Since making 'The Greatest Story Ever Told' available to the public three years ago, it has been a tremendously long wait for 'Oh! Calcutta!' Last year’s Asian Man Records release, 'Cocktails and Dreams', went some way to filling the void by providing a mixture of new tracks, rarities, B-sides and tracks off the band’s split records but, for Lawrence Arms fans, new material was a touch on the scarce side. 'The Greatest Story Ever Told', the Chicago-based trio’s break-through album, was never going to be easy to follow: it was a bold statement of intellectuality and cadence; it was as close to perfection as modern punk can get. In short it is, to this day, still a great album and will continue to be for a good while yet. 'Oh Calcutta', whilst presenting different faces to the Lawrence Arms, is a damn good attempt again and can sit aptly alongside its predecessor. The twelve tracks that form 'Oh Calcutta' stand at just over half an hour in length and offer a range of styles, from the more subdued to the thoroughly upbeat. Opener, 'The Devil’s Takin’ Names', fits into the latter bracket by immediately taking the listener into a frenzy of power and emotion; enough to realise that the album isn’t just going to sit there and sound pleasant. On the other hand, there are plenty of times when 'Oh Calcutta' makes you think (a Lawrence Arms trademark) due to the softer and more searching sounds. The depressed ‘whisky bar’ introduction to 'Jumping the Shark' is a good sign of this before it feels almost obliged to move into the band’s generally more raucous musical mood. But where would a Lawrence Arms record be without the catchy material? 'Lose Your Illusion 1' is the embodiment of catchiness on 'Oh Calcutta', due to the use of perfectly tuned vocals and guitaring that tails the track to an inspired conclusion. It will easily be one of the tracks that ends up being included within the live sets as the contrasts work magnificently. 'Cut It Up' also gives 'Lose Your Illusion 1' a run for its money but adds more fire to the proceedings. Devotees will be pleased to hear that the alcohol influences remain, as does the dual-singer approach, with the unmistakable lyrics and vocals, which effectively allow 'Oh Calcutta' to pursue the band’s natural course. In effect, the record is like a river that has had its fluvial course altered, yet, at its mouth, the water escapes into the same blue expanse. Put otherwise, whatever the Lawrence Arms do to get a record out, it always sounds great. Once again, the Lawrence Arms have hit all the right notes. 'The Greatest Story Ever Told' exhibited many intelligent note combinations as well as lyrically probing deeper into modern culture. 'Oh Calcutta' also makes literary reference whilst jibing at life around us. The Lawrence Arms have re-established themselves at the centre of punk music: in truth they never left. Even if 'Oh Calcutta' is essentially different to previous Lawrence Arms releases it, once again, delivers in full. Who could expect otherwise?



Track Listing:-
1 The Devil's Takin' Names
2 Cut It Up
3 Great Lakes / Great Escapes
4 Recovering the Opposable Thumb
5 Beyond the Embarrassing Style
6 Are You There Margaret? It's Me, God
7 Jumping the Shark
8 Lose Your Illusion 1
9 Requiem Revisited
10 Key to the City
11 Old Dogs Never Die
12 Like a Record Player
13 Warped Summer Extravaganza (Major Excellent)
14 The Rabbit and the Rooster



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interviews


Interview (2003)
Lawrence Arms - Interview
Punk group the Lawrence Arms' latest album. 'The Greatest Story Ever Told' takes some of its influences from literature. Guitarist and vocalist Chris speaks to Alex Halls about the trio's first four years together

live reviews


Joseph's Well, Leeds, 24/4/2004
Lawrence Arms - Joseph's  Well, Leeds, 24/4/2004
In the secluded venue of Joseph's Well In Leeds. Alex Halls sees Chicago-based trio the Lawrence Arms "capture the audience with an array of sing-a-long tunes and fiery punk rock"

features


Lawrence Arms (2006)
Lawrence Arms - Lawrence Arms
In the latest in our Photoscapes series, Anna Gudaniec photographs Chicago hardcore trio the Lawrence Arms at the London Mean Fiddler


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