The Lawrence Arms – Metropole

There is a point in each and every episode of Dawson’s Creek where Dawson, usually sitting alone on a dock as the sun goes down, ponders life, love and what really matters. It’s inevitably some kind of bittersweet revelation that growing up isn’t so easy – that there are no promises in this life and that sometimes, good people face hard choices where none of the options yield entirely happy results. Life isn’t always fair, but hey – you’ve just gotta keep summoning up your courage and charge on.

And a lot of the popular punk rock from the last 15 years or so is coming from a similar vantage point as Dawson’s. I wouldn’t call this kind of music emo per se. Maybe “bromo” would be a better term. This is to say that this variant of punk is less about adolescent heartbreak and more about sensitive-yet-rebellious dudes mourning their loss of youth: coming to terms with life’s hard knocks over a beer, remembering that summer when the band meant everything, that drunken night at the Fireside Bowl when you met a girl, went back to her apartment, and woke up hungover but starry-eyed in love the next day. Yeah, dude. I thought those days would never end.

“We were so lost, and we were so young,” laments The Lawrence Arms’ Chris McCaughan on “Beautiful Things,” the fifth track on the band’s new album, Metropole, and that pretty much sums it up.

Playing the sincerity card can be a risky move. Many a sturdy, likeable Midwestern punk band has tripped up while attempting this. Attempting to channel one’s inner Springsteen or Strummer oftentimes yields results that are closer to the oeuvre of Bryan Adams.

OK, maybe I shouldn’t be so hard on The Lawrence Arms here. Metropole features a host of strong, memorable tracks and the sentiment is not exactly saccharine, either. These guys really are sincere – and halfway smart, too.  And musically, the band delivers the goods in a raucous Jawbreaker/Replacements/Husker Du kinda way that is legions better than their contemporaries like the Alkaline Trio and The Gaslight Anthem.

Maybe the problem is not with The Lawrence Arms, but with me. I actually really like this band and I really like this album. Taken individually or in small doses, the songs on Metropole sound great. But after hearing four or five tracks in a row, I find myself wondering why I should give two shits about the pre-midlife crises that apparently inspired these songs. I just wish these guys would drop the Dean Moriarty/Holden Caulfield “bad boy grows up” schtick once in a while and rock the fuck out a little bit more. A guitar solo or two wouldn’t hurt, either.

The Lawrence Arms