Unwritten Law - The Hit List (Cover Artwork)
Staff Review

Unwritten Law

The Hit List (2007)

Rocket Science

Sort of in the vein of MxPx's 2002 retrospective Ten Years and Running, long-running skatepunks-turned-radio-rock-slobs Unwritten Law offers up 17 songs spanning their entire catalog in completely re-recorded form, along with two new ones. Think of The Hit List as the band playing lots of fan favorites at a current show, but cleaned up by studio production. Yeah, I'm basically that mixed about this thing.

First, the new tunes. "Shoulda Known Better"'s verses, like the band's last abomination, are repulsive, laying down embarrassingly rapped lines surrounding a snarling, vaguely Billy Idol-esque chorus. Needless to say it doesn't open The Hit List strongly, but "Welcome to Oblivion" picks things up a little; it has a big but not overacting chorus and the song is overall thankfully more reminiscent of the sharp pop-rock of 2002's Elva.

Obviously, the re-recordings of the band's more recent material ("Celebration Song," "Save Me," "Seein' Red," etc.) do not sound entirely different from their original versions, but in this context are much easier to intake -- in fact, despite glossy studio tinge, are somewhat enjoyable because of the inclusion of the band's better album cuts. What is a little strange is to hear 2007's Unwritten Law performing tracks now growing old in their stable of songs. It's obviously a little disappointing to hear what fans regard as classics ("Superman") stripped of their raw energy, but the consistent production makes the album rather linear, "correcting" the inevitable annoyance of the compilation "habit" that provides the listener with Mark Trombino one moment and Mark Tincan the next.

Unfortunately, The Hit List is hard to recommend as a starting point for one looking for an overview from which to reap the benefits of the band's back catalog, as they're obviously going to find a much different recording style from a much "less privileged" era upon discovering the actual album a song is "interpreted" from. However, fans having stuck with the band through their evolution should be rather psyched to receive such a consistent and generally enjoyable, generously wide-spanning compilation.

The Hit List proves Unwritten Law has assuredly morphed into a sometimes capable pop-rock unit with shades of `90s punk influence, and that despite an awful recent misstep, there's some hooks left in the tacklebox that haven't dulled quite yet -- and some others that can still be reused after all.

Shoulda Known Better
Up All Night