ALBUM REVIEW: The Lawrence Arms – Skeleton Coast

Release Date: July 17th 2020
Label: Epitaph Records
Website: None available


With a career spanning over two decades, it’s no wonder The Lawrence Arms are considered such an integral part of the punk scene. Six years since their last record ‘Metropole’, the band return with their long-awaited seventh offering, ‘Skeleton Coast’.

Opener ‘Quiet Storm’ is an idyllic sing-along track to re-introduce this band back into your life. It’s simplistic and easy-listening, and you’ll soon find yourself tapping along. However, this very quickly does a complete 180° as lead single ‘PTA’ follows. Although the track tells the story of a breakdown of a failing relationship, it’s very well-hidden underneath an eccentric gritty punk-infused riot on the surface, and any pause for emotional reflectional seems to get lost along the way.

One of the notable things about this band is the way in which they manage to link tracks almost in a story-like style, tying in the whole record seamlessly. Upon first listen, there are moments where you can hear wolf howls, which appears somewhat puzzling and seems to have no real purpose. That is until later when ‘Under Paris’ revives this theme of wolves roaming an apocalyptic world; “We are the wolves / Chase the light of the moon’.

Likewise, ‘Don’t Look At Me’ and ‘How We Rot’ both mention a mystery woman known as Brandy, which in fact is homage to one of the band’s favourite songs from the 70s, ‘Brandy’ by Looking Glass. Both tracks offer up something a little different thanks to Chris McCaughan and Brendan Kelly who both share the role of vocalist, something that has always been the trademark that has managed to set this band apart.

Musically, it’s evident that there’s been a real growth in their sound. Kelly‘s bass impresses in ‘Dead Mans Coat’, which really emphasises the emotion of the track, whilst ‘Ghostwriter’ offers an incredibly effective melodic bass line. Still, it’s safe to say that the standout performance comes from McCaughan‘s solo in ‘(The) Demon’, an unnerving track that really delves into some dark places.

The Lawrence Arms triumph in their gritty old school punk tracks, but it’s their contemporary punk rock anthems that keep them feeling fresh and current. ‘Goblin Foxhunt’ is reminiscent of classic Blink-182, combining energetic guitar riffs and humorous lyrics, whilst closer ‘Coyote Crown’ is clearly the track that’s going to be the crowd pleaser. It almost feels like the perfect finale for this album.

With 15 tracks crammed into 35 minutes, at times the chaos of it all can be very overwhelming. With an album that encompasses some epic storytelling, hilarious one liners, and incredible guitar solos, it definitely requires a couple of listens as it’s extremely easy to miss something the first time around.

Although it’s been a long time coming, ‘Skeleton Coast’ offers up that raucous punk sound that have helped The Lawrence Arms outlive many other 90s bands. The record demonstrates how they’ve grown over the years whilst still retaining the charm and talent that has allowed them to continue thus far, but we can only hope we don’t have to wait quite so long for the next album.