The Broadways - Broken Star (Cover Artwork)

The Broadways

Broken Star (1998)

Asian Man

First things first, this band has three singers and none of them can sing all too well (save perhaps for the drummer), and none of them are very proficient with their instruments either. But I'll be hard-pressed to find a band that could write socially-conscious melodic punk songs as great as the Chicago four-piece The Broadways. Scott wrote a review of their second disc Broken Van that goes in-depth about the spiderweb of bands these guys have been involved with so I won't go into that. The Broadways's sloppy and aggressive pop-punk sound is nothing new. It's been done a million times before, but what sets this band apart is the acerbic wit of the lyrics. The band lambastes social problems ranging from Native American rights to innercity schools with ease and finesse. Almost every song on this record has one moment where all the instruments and vocals come together and everything simply clicks.

The record begins with the upbeat opener "15 Minutes," which is a plea to stop commercialization with Dan asking, "I wonder if my kids will ever see a horizon untouched by billboards and shopping malls and I wonder if this crazy world thinks I'm the one who's crazy? What if I'm the one who's crazy? I'm not crazy, just frustrated!" Tempo wise, the album never really lets up. Pardon me, but I have a little bit of trouble discerning between the songs that Chris and Dan sing as Chris's vocals aren't as smooth as the later Lawrence Arms records. However, Brendan sings about half of the songs with one duet with Dan and one duet with Chris. One of the best parts of the album is the vocal interplay between the three guitar players. There are harmonies and backup parts everywhere, best exemplified on "Fuck You Larry Koesche…" and "Jonathon Kozal Was Right." Amid all the songs about police brutality and government control and being self-sufficient, there is one love song, "Red Line," thrown in by Brendan. The song is alright but doesn't fit in with the rest of the politically-minded songs.

Rob DePaola needs to be commended for his drumming here. His fills are tight and he does some awesome things with the subtle ride cymbal while pushing this band. Brendan does some fairly intricate fills amidst the mostly palm muted guitars. Despite the rather simple octave leads, there are several catchy and impressive lead guitar parts. There's nothing extraordinary musically but the band manages to accompany the melodic yet stinging vocals well and keep a driving tempo. Lots of the songs have the Jawbreaker-ish instrumental outros as well, which I am rather fond of.

One drawback with the record is the recording quality. Matt Allison has done some great recording jobs, whether it's the rawness of the early Alkaline Trio records or the newer and glossy Lawrence Arms records but this one isn't one of them. The cymbals and hi-hat are way too high in the mix. Listen to "Jonathon Kozal Was Right" to hear what I mean. Also, the bass occasionally gets lost in the mix only to come back in loud and distorted. These are minor complaints as the vocals are loud and clear and shine through over the noise. The liner notes are extensive with nice artwork and all of the lyrics.

There's not enough here creativity-wise to warrant a perfect rating but this is a very rewarding listen that covers many social and political aspects in a very witty and exciting manner.

MP3 - 15 Minutes