The Lawrence Arms - Metropole (Cover Artwork)
Staff Pick

The Lawrence Arms

Metropole (2014)


Metropole is the sixth album by The Lawrence Arms, released in 2014. For all intents and purposes, though they didn’t really go anywhere, this was their comeback album. It followed up their previous full-length Oh! Calcutta which was released 8 years prior, and an EP called Buttsweat and Tears in 2009. Eight years is a long time in punk years. For context, within eight years The Flatliners released four albums across 2005-2013. That time also saw the shift away from Orgcore to the emo revival. However, these sort of gaps have become the norm now for The Lawrence Arms as they gear up to release their follow-up in 2020.

At the time this was eagerly awaited, and in all honesty, it’s quite rare for albums after such a long break to be well-received. Metropole is different to Oh! Calcutta. It feels more reserved and self-aware. The fast punk songs are still there, but they act to punctuate slower, more melodic songs which make up the majority of the album. As we dig back through these Lawrence Arms releases for this retrospective, it’s quite interesting to see how their sound has progressed over the years, and even though this record draws comparisons to bands such as Alkaline Trio’s Crimson or Jawbreaker or later Hot Water Music, it feels fresh.

"Chilean District" is a great tone-setter for the rest of the album, beginning with some audience noise and a snippet of the very end of the record. It then blasts into life, as vocalists Brendan Kelly and Chris McCaughan overlap throughout. Despite the fast pace of the song, the vocals are mature and subdued. It strikes that balance perfectly, as does the rest of the album. The track is followed-up by "You Are Here", the lead single from the album. This track feels like it sums up the modern version of the Lawrence Arms, and their ability to craft a vivid mental picture for the listener.

To be so deep into your career as a punk band and be able to write songs like "Beautiful Things" which are almost instantly considered amongst your best is an impressive feat, when your previous records are so revered in the scene. It’s one of those songs which immediately feels nostalgic, even upon first listen, as McCaughan reminisces on his past.

"Seventeener (17th and 37th)" meanwhile shows Kelly at his best, as sounds pained about those around him not wanting his company anymore. It’s quite humorous having read his liner notes in the band’s greatest hits compilation, We Are the Champions of the World, as he states he was feeling sorry for himself when neither his wife, nor kids, nor dogs were spending time with him - so he locked himself in another room and wrote this extremely heart-felt and earnest song. It’s a great insight into how those small moments affect us and how songs as a listener we often only get a small glimpse at the bigger picture.

Despite this album perhaps not being as fast as Oh! Calcutta, it never loses its urgency for one second. The first four songs in particular feel as though they flow perfectly, with strong chorus after strong chorus. However, later in the album, the pace does change as the title track begins with acoustic strumming and hums along at half-pace compared to the rest of the album. It’s a realisation that the rest of the album isn’t necessarily slow, yet more calm and considered. "The YMCA Down the Street from the Clinic" is another great example, seeing the band really halt the brakes and lean into that dark and vivid storytelling.

The long break did The Lawrence Arms well. This album is a culmination of time off and being able to reset, rather than getting burnt out or falling into the trap of re-writing the same album over and over again. It sounds fresh, even six years on, as all of the best elements of their musicianship remain, yet they have managed to evolve and grow. A lot of bands who have taken such long periods off have followed-up sounding irrelevant by trying to copy their previous work, or sound like pale imitations of their former selves. In this case, The Lawrence Arms managed to walk that line and write an album which showcases them at their best.