The Lawrence Arms - A Guided Tour of Chicago (Cover Artwork)

The Lawrence Arms

The Lawrence Arms: A Guided Tour of ChicagoA Guided Tour of Chicago (1999)
Asian Man Records

Reviewer Rating: 4.5
User Rating:

Contributed by: DoddfatherDoddfather
(others by this writer | submit your own)

The Lawrence Arms, as everyone may know, consists of former Slapstick and Broadways catalyst Brendan Kelly (vocals, bass), former Tricky Dick guru Chris McCaughan (guitar, vocals) and Baxter icon Neil Hennessey (drums). They have made a promising name for themselves with their new release "Apathy an.
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The Lawrence Arms, as everyone may know, consists of former Slapstick and Broadways catalyst Brendan Kelly (vocals, bass), former Tricky Dick guru Chris McCaughan (guitar, vocals) and Baxter icon Neil Hennessey (drums). They have made a promising name for themselves with their new release "Apathy and Exhaustion" on Fat Wreck, but "AGTOC" is where they started, and laid the groundwork for future success. Without any previous knowledge of Kelly's vocals and lyrics, one would have trouble becoming acquainted and at the same time admiring his unique skills. His voice has been described as snotty, or gruff (a word that he might have innovated) but it gives TLA their sound and their own dimension. McCaughan adds some quality riffs and signatures, but as anyone can tell by listening to the entire TLA collection, this release is obviously not as refined or prepared, in regards to sound and recording quality, as much as later releases, but could still go down as their best album.

It did not take me long to fall in love with the album, as I was always in admiration of the lyrics and the tempo of each song. It's fast and upbeat, and each songs take over from the previous in a manner where you become hooked. Kelly has admitted that this release was rushed and preparation was lacking only because the demise of the Broadways took place a few months before the release. All in all, one could see what the Lawrence Arms were capable of doing, and how they could only get better from here on.

The album begins with a catchy guitar intro in "An Evening of Extraordinary Circumstance," where Kelly discusses exactly what his life was about. Anyone can relate to the song that has lived on their own and only dreams of something a little better and a bit more exciting. It's an opener that will definitely have you singing along in no time.

"Kevin Costner's Casino" is next, and you will never hear Kelly, or many others sing as fast as he does here. Also, you'll never ever appreciate Kevin Costner, but who's to say you ever did. Kelly displays some unique, Broadway-ish lyrics here, in a more political aspect.

The best song that could fit into the album's tempo at this point is "A Guided Tour of Chicago," as it's not as fast as the two, but more mellow. This song is about all of the homeless people in Chicago that you come across, and Kelly adds a humourous Sesame Street line at the end. Look out for it.

Who said that TLA had a drinking problem? Well, I guess they do a good job of promoting it, as "Take One Down and Pass It Around" is next. Kelly does an excellent job here of providing dark insight of drinking. I can only emphasize to the reader to check out these lyrics. They are incredible and Kelly does such a great job of relaying his thoughts and ideals into music.

Another interesting perspective that Kelly leads us into is the idea that we are all bloody lazy. "One Day.. We're All Gonna Weigh 400 lbs." is a fantastic song about what we have, what we abuse, and how it is just plain lazy. This is another must check out song as it will make anyone think about what we are fortunate to have, on a technological standpoint, yet Kelly makes us feel like we should be ashamed. Interesting.

Guitarist McCaughan makes his debut with vocals alongside Kelly in the next song, "Northside, The L&L, And Any Number Of Crappy Apartments." It's actually about a night between best pals Kelly and the infamous Matt Skiba. This is an excellent song to see live, as Kelly and McCaughan face each other, providing taunting riffs on each of their instrument, and usually some crazy hi-jinks provided by Kelly. It's a strong, strong debut by McCaughan.

The following two songs are similar, as they are both real fast and real easy to love. "Smokestacks" is a great song, real catchy, but "Detention" deserves attention. It's about a dream that Kelly had which adds an eerie feeling when listening to it (a guy dreamt this...?) but the drum beat to open it, Brendan's crazy, and fast vocals and the powerful ending is something to love. It's a song you can only dream they'll play live. I bet it can't be done.

"Uptown Free Radio," is a real cool song. It never hit me as much as every other song, but it is not bad at all. You'll love Kelly's vocals a lot in this song, and McCaughan adds excellent harmony when it is most needed.

The album closes with "Eighteen Inches," which is a TLA supporter favorite. It takes so many different twists, and the lyrics are incredibly different in every phase of the song. It's the first ever TLA anthem, and it's one of their best songs ever. It's a solid way to end the album.

If you heard the Lawrence Arms first through "Apathy and Exhaustion," you must pick up AGTOC. You may be dissapointed, as the quality of sound is less. But then again, realize this is Asian Man compared to Fat Wreck. The music is brilliant, the lyrics are the rawest and best they've been, and it's a must for anyone who is into a fast, incredibly upbeat tempo with deep and socially critical lyrics.. I am sure any TLA fan, or Alkaline Trio fan has this album, but if you've liked what you may have heard on "A&E," pick this up immediately.


People who liked this also liked:
The Lawrence Arms - Oh! Calcutta!The Lawrence Arms - The Greatest Story Ever ToldThe Lawrence Arms - Cocktails And DreamsThe Lawrence Arms - Ghost StoriesThe Lawrence Arms - Apathy and ExhaustionAlkaline Trio - GoddamnitAgainst Me! - is Reinventing Axl RoseAlkaline Trio - Maybe I'll Catch FireOperation Ivy - Operation IvyJawbreaker - 24 Hour Revenge Therapy

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Fine Print: The following comments are owned by whoever posted them. We are not respon sible for them in any way. Seriously.
taneff (October 31, 2009)

this is my favorite lawrence arms album and one of my favorites of all time. brendan kelly is just fuckin great. I listened to this one first so i was hugely disappointed by their other albums but i still like tla in general. can anyone give me recommendations on anything that sounds like this?

aloveofillinoispedro (March 7, 2007)

There best album right after the greatest story ever told

RondoMondo (April 26, 2004)

Larry Arms really know how to play some good punk rock. I like the stuff on the splits with the Chinkees and Shady View Terrace though.

Anonymous (September 24, 2003)

yea, the only thing that holds this album back from true greatness is the major lack of Chris. He sounds awesome in the one song though.

It's weird, I bought this when I was getting into the Larry Arms and didn't pay much attention to it because Ghost and Apathy were so fucking amazing. I'm really starting to warm up to this now though. "Eighteen Inches" is just so amazingly awesome.

Anonymous (April 21, 2003)

um... give it a 6. I saw these guys for the first time right before this came out, and they kicked ass. But i'd say this is their worst release. The production sucks, Chris sings half a song, blah. I'd say if the splits were one album, that would be the best, followed by "Apathy and Exhaustion", then "Ghost Stories". And though i love these guys, i wonder why they never put much thought into the music. They have awesome lyrics, but the music is always so sloppy and seems not too thought out.

Best Tracks:
"The North Side, The L and L, and Any Number of Crappy Apartments"
"An Evening Of Extraordinary Circumstances"

Anonymous (November 20, 2002)

i posted below...

PS - damn fine review of one of my favortie bands many splendid releases

PPS - rip slapstick

Anonymous (November 20, 2002)

1) to the guy who asked about being the only person in chicago who doesn't like tla or alk3... no you're not the only jaded scenester, but one of very few none the less

2) to the kid who said about singing in key...

you get drunk all the time, smoke a helluva lot of cigarettes everyday, and record and release a cd that has some terrible sound quality and still be "on key", then you can come back and bitch about the vocals...

i'm sure if they had a major label backing them, brendan would sound "on key" cause they can make just about anyone sound how they want them to (i.e. justin timberlake sounding like a 12 yr old girl, the same being applicable to the guy from nfg)

and i feel this way and i dunno if anyone else agrees, but a&e seemed almost overproduced for a tla release... anyone else agree?

Obscene_Jesture (November 20, 2002)


I wish the stench of a fart could come out my nose when I sneeze too.

waste_elite (November 19, 2002)

personally, i think brendan's voice is better. excellent lyricist as well.

Anonymous (November 19, 2002)

Great CD!

Anonymous (November 19, 2002)

Lawrence Arms are amazing. Sometimes Brendan's vocals seem off but their lyrics are amazing. I think Brendon should take second to the singing of McCoughan. I think he has one of the best voices in the industry. Northside, The L&L, and any number of crappy apartments is my favorite songs..they just need to come back and play for cincinnati again!

SOYBOMB (November 18, 2002)

Sad but true, at PFP and at Knitting Factory (the last few times I saw'em) few if any other than I knew their songs... I really do love their music and they definitely deserve a larger fanbase.


waste_elite (November 17, 2002)

i don't think Dillinger Four and the Lawrence Arms sound similar in anyway whatsoever. nonetheless, i'd have to say both of those bands are brilliant in their own right. i'm surprised LA don't have a larger fanbase. turnout for their Plea for Peace sets was relatively dismal, and they are still crashing at people's houses as the guy mentioned below.

what the hell?

Anonymous (November 17, 2002)

This is one of my favorite albums of all time.

The only thing I really want to comment on is that Chris was in The Broadways as well (why does everyone forget this?!), where he served as a guitarist and vocalist alongside Brendan and Dan Hanaway (who currently plays guitar and sings in Honor System and played trumpet in Slapstick). He primarily played guitar, but he also sang a few songs (including the outstanding "Lake Michigan" and the forlorn "Restless")

Anonymous (November 17, 2002)

ha ha


Anonymous (November 17, 2002)

the best is whoever said the larry arms are overrated. wtf? did i miss something. i saw them at plea for peace and about 10 people knew who they were. they stayed at my apt. afterwards which was real cool though. i guess theyr'e so overrated they can't afford hotel rooms. this was 2 months ago, so unless something drastic has changed, they are still have a small fan base. it should cahnge, cuz they do kick fuckin ass. check out dillenger 4 if u like em, they're the closest sounding band to them, however some of chris's new songs sound very alk3 ish (your gravest words).

TheOneTrueBill (November 17, 2002)

that's what i thought... i guess i'll have to live off naked raygun, the effigies, and STYX for my chicago music fix

lalombriz (November 17, 2002)

I think that this review was really really good... specially because it was about one of my most favorite bands! I agree with everything you say, and it's really accurate :) I love the lawrence arms... Bren is really cool, when they played the troubadour with dillinger four, my sister was really late picking me up... and i was waiting outside for a long time... Bren offered to lend me his cell phone, and then told me that i could crash with them (too bad my flight left the next am... i would have definetly ditched my sis :) ) and he was just really really cool... great band... great review! great album!

Fuzzy (November 17, 2002)


How are you so wrong all the time?
Just kidding. I just love The Larry Arms, and I think almost everyone should.

The older albums are really good, but sort of hard to get into, because the production value is so low on them compared to AnE. Still great stuff...

BostonMusicGuy (November 16, 2002)

The Lawrence Arms are ok... but overrated.-BostonMusicGuy

Anonymous (November 16, 2002)

There is only one good song on the chinkees split. The rest are crap

Anonymous (November 16, 2002)

A good introduction to The Lawrence Arms but I think their better songs were on splits w/ Shady View Terrance and The Chinkees. Their new song on the latest Fat sampler is ROCKIN but too short. Oh well.

(If "Apathy and Exhaustion" is not on your top 10 of '02, then you must be deaf.)

Anonymous (November 16, 2002)

the only larry arms cd i've heard is the new one. and i was impressed. but when i heard old stuff and saw them live, i waas horrified at the vocals. these kids can't sing for shit, and it ruined the show. i dont care if they're "gruff" or any of that crap, it doesnt help unless they sing in key. arg.

SOYBOMB (November 15, 2002)

I saw Lawrence Arms in The Knitting Factory and at PFP and they were amazing. I've spoken to Bren on numerous occasions and he is a cool person.

Their music is great, and their latest work honestly is the best album of 2002 in my opinion.


linuxpunkr (November 15, 2002)

I saw these guys play in a small, shitty venue with a friend's band like 5 years ago. I think the just finished this CD at the time. Their live show was damn fine even then, and I've been pretty hooked on this ever since. Still, "Apathy..." kicks this one down. That's a fucking solid album if I've ever heard one. I don't dig that Kevin Constner song. I hate Costner, and the lyrics are good, but it just doesn't do it for me.


Anonymous (November 15, 2002)

To the guy asking about Chicago. Yes, you're just about the only one.

Anonymous (November 15, 2002)

it is "these are the people in your neighborhood!" .. they are the people you dont see, when walking down the street.. bren once told me its best to rip off other people's accomplishments... cheers.. dodder

Anonymous (November 15, 2002)

What is the lyric taken from sesame street? I haven't a clue.

Anonymous (November 15, 2002)

That Kevin Costner song is awesome. Maybe the best Larry Arms song ever...


Anonymous (November 15, 2002)

Easily one of my favorite bands...

- Scott
(I owe it all to Slapstick)

TheOneTrueBill (November 15, 2002)

am i the only person who lives in chicago who doesn't like these guys or Aklaine trio?

Hubitcherkokov (November 15, 2002)

This album is incredible. I love this album, but its still a toss-up between Apathy and Exhaustion and Ghost Stories between my favorite Larry Arms album. But this is still a gem.

Anonymous (November 15, 2002)

I just saw these guys for the first time w/ the alk3 on nov. 1, and the bass player was dressed as AWK, haha, it was so funny. They're music's really good too!!!

Anonymous (November 15, 2002)

the lawrence arms are one of my favs. brendan is the man..come to think of it, neil and chris are 'the man'(the men?) too. I think ghost stories is a little better than 'agtoc' but i love the song 'agtoc' and 'kevin costners casino'. i the TLA should write a few more politically inspired songs now, however. it seems as though they've abondoned that type of thought in their songs, but who am i to judge, they rock anyway. my fav songs by TLA are 'faintly falling ashes' and '100 reslutions', if you care at all..

FeedMyNightmare (November 15, 2002)

I dig these guys so much. I want to move to Chicago and become a messanger boy like Brandon was. But still, my favorite LA release will always be Chicago is Burning...

Anonymous (November 15, 2002)

I am a very big fan of this album. From the start, one could tell that the larry arms were on to big things. kelly's vocals are fantastic, and chris are slowly developing into what they are now. its a quality album without a bad track. i recommend it for sure. solid review DD

SOYBOMB (November 15, 2002)


This is the first Lawrence Arms' CD I got and I wasn't disappointed, but there clearly is an improvement in song and sound quality through their releases.


Anonymous (November 15, 2002)

this album is cool, but its definately not as good as apathy and exhaustion. they have truly come into their own as songwriters, but this album, although ali8ttle raw sounding, still has some dope songs, like kevin costners casino and 'take one down and pass it around'

evildeadalive (November 15, 2002)

Da Doddfatha? Are you serious? What the fuck kind of name is that? No offense or nothing, I'm laughing with you not at you... I think. Another good review.

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