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

The Lawrence Arms

A Guided Tour of Chicago (1999)

Asian man

For a punknews writer, who has never really listened to The Lawrence Arms, it only makes sense that I’d be assigned their debut album. Of course you’d need to have lived under a rock to not know who these guys are, and while I’ve been a huge fan of several bands from the same scene, even bands that the members of TLA are in, they are a band that just floated under the radar for me.

After the first tune, I was confused on how I had let this happen. It was a track full of the same aggression and melodies that all of my favorite Chicago bands were apt to put out in the late 90’s. I really enjoyed the lyrical and vocal presence that Brendan has on the record, but that’s not surprising as I’m a pretty bet Falcon fan. It was interesting to hear a piece of Brendan’s history (probably not for the first time, granted, but the first time I was paying attention). His vocals come off more raw, specifically on the second track “Kevin Costner’s-Casino”. There is one break in the song where his normal growl breaks, and it sounds… almost clean.

Track three explodes out of the gates with a very familiar guitar riff. It sounds like an Alkaline Trio song, and as I’m reminded that this record came out at about the same time that I discovered AK3, and them being from the same streets, I find myself drifting from comforted by familiar sounds, to pissed off that I’ve let myself go this long before hearing these tunes with any intention of delving deep into them. It’s just solid punk rock, from a scene that birthed so many greats, with outstanding satirical lyrics and titles to songs. It literally checks every box for me.

My favorite track is likely “The Northside, The L&L, or Any Number of Crappy Apartments”, which both slows it down just slightly, and brings in a second vocalist to offset Brendan’s growl, giving a perfect mix of clean and growl, over a beautiful punk rock ballad-esque track. Lot of fun, and definitely made my playlists. Following it, is another fun one “Smokestacks” which probably is the biggest rival to my favorite track. It’s got that same stop-go feel that most of the Chicago based bands of this time had. You feel like its supposed to slow down, and it just juts back out there.

All said, I’m very pleased to have been a part of the TLA week, and in part, had to kick myself a few hundred times, for not listening to them until now. Lot of fun that I’ve been missing out on.