The Lawrence Arms - Ghost Stories (Cover Artwork)

The Lawrence Arms

Ghost Stories (2000)

Asian Man

Musically, this release from the Lawrence Arms has a better produced sound (the songs are also structured much more intelligently and interestingly) compared to their early Asian Man Records effort "A Guided Tour of Chicago," though it keeps a rougher, more honest feel compared to their well polished Fat Wreck Chords release "Apathy and Exhaustion." The songs are quite catchy and well put together, although aren't as instantly accessible as the aformentioned, more pop oriented (in my opinion) "Apathy and Exhaustion." The Punknews review for "A Guided Tour of Chicago" points out that it was thrown together quite quickly and the band was generally not 100% satisfied with their work. Honestly, I agree with Brendan Kelly (vocals, bass) as I find this album to be much more interesting and fun to listen to. As an awesome added bonus, after the last track fades away, you are treated to three, yes three, bonus songs. So even though the track listing on the back of the CD says there are twelve songs, you actually get fifteen. The three bonus songs aren't just a few songs that fell like leftovers, they actually add to the overall feel of the album and make it a much better listen.

1. Sixteen Hours: A kick in the mouth opener. I figure this to be the absolute perfect place to put this song, as it is one of the most accessible tracks on the whole album and it's also short. If this one wasn't here, I feel that some people could easily lose interest in the album and not give the rest a chance. The first thing you will notice is the raspy vocals of Brendan. I guess it's a love/hate type of situation here, you're either gonna like it or you won't. Either way, this is a great opener and really gets this album off to an incredible start.

2. Chicago Is Burning: Another great track by Brendan, upbeat and almost seems to play off the last song, at least musically (the two tracks flow very well together). The song has a nice breakdown in tempo at the end.

3. Turnstyles: This is the first song sung by Chris on "Ghost Stories." If you aren't familiar with the Lawrence Arms, you will notice Chris' voice isn't quite as rough sounding (it's almost disturbingly soothing and smooth on "Apathy and Exhaustion). This is a solid track and good introduction for Chris.

4. Asa Phelps Is Dead: This song is one of my favorites on the album, but may take a few listens to get into. I can't be certain, but I'm quite sure there is an effect used here on Brendan's voice, you'll see what I mean when you hear it. The song is very abrasive sounding and incorporates a clip from a movie towards the end. Not sure which movie it's from, but it fits in nicely and doesn't sound forced like some other bands are guiltly of.

5. All the Week: I don't know why, but I always look forward to hearing the very beginning of this song, a low, undistorted guitar with Chris singing "misleading utterings." The song seems to be about finally coming out with bottled up emotions, and how good that can feel.

6. The Old-Timer's 2x4: Not a bad song by any means, but probably my least favorite on the album. The first time I listened to the CD, this song and "All the Week" (#5), seem to flow together, and I didn't even realize that the song had changed.

7. Here Comes the Neighborhood: Incredible. Awesome upbeat song. I love the intro, cool little bassline. This is probably my favorite song on the entire album, very catchy throughout, I really like the tempo changes in the middle and toward the end.

8. Light Breathing (me and Martha Plimpton in a fancy elevator): Mid-tempo song sung by Chris. I think the cool thing about the lyrics on this song is that it's basically a little story that takes place in the matter of a minute on an elevator. To sum the story up, it's about him being nervous in front of a girl and not being able to act himself.

9. Ghost Stories: Another Chris song, starts with a cool little bass part.

10. 106 South: Chris sings this song (yes three in a row). I really like the lyrics, especially, "watching Simpsons/afraid to call you/I know I fucked up/I know I owe you." Well, I'm sure most of us can relate to girls and Simpsons.

11. Minute: This song has a sort of depressing feel to it. Brendan sings in a slightly different style here, almost with a haunting tone to his voice, which then builds up to a climax and promptly ends after a minute and six seconds.

12. The Last One: Yes, this is the last one...or is it? No, no it's not. I really like this song, probably my favorite one sung by Chris on the whole album, nice finish to the main songs. After the song fades away, you are treated to three more Lawrence Arms songs. The first one is an extremely upbeat song with a harmonica thrown in for added variety. This one is sung by Brendan and as I said is very upbeat and catchy, very different from anything else on the album up to this point. After this we are treated to two acoustic numbers, Chris takes the first one and Brendan closes out the album with the next one.

Well, that's it. Fifteen excellent songs. Money very well spent. This album is definitely one of my favorites out of my collection. If you are just getting into the Lawrence Arms, I really think you can't go wrong with either this or their newer release "Apathy and Exhaustion." Both have different feels to them, and depending on my mood I'll like one better than the other. "A Guided Tour of Chicago" is an album I feel you should probably pick up after you've gotten their last two releases and want to complete your Lawrence Arms collection.