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Oh! Calcutta!

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Album Review

Oh! Calcutta! is the fifth studio album from some of Chicago's finest punk rockers, the Lawrence Arms. Always ones for consistency, the album falls easily into the ranks of other releases from the raucous trio; it's a blazing dose of gritty, energetic punk rock with enough attitude to spare through Chris and Brendan's trademark duel vocal assault, which actually trades off more within each song this time than each having their own tracks. Brash, desperate emotion spills over each song with the raw air of being on the verge of breakdown, but it's that same passion that manages to hold everything together seamlessly song after song. Though the album mostly contains these frenzied up-and-down rockers, each incendiary song distinguishes itself through rousing choruses and empowered lyrics that speak of leaving the past — whether good or bad — behind. The stylish "The Devil's Takin' Names" contains sweetly pathetic lines like "You've got those moves and those eyes/I've got these shakes and bad breath." And though one might cringe at the opening Dead or Alive-esque sentiments of "Like a Record Player" ("I'm like a record player/I keep going round"), the song soon launches into a sentimental ode to friendship and the road. Don't forget to also stick around for the folksy hidden track soon after the last song's end for a little insight into festivals like the Warped Tour via the Lawrence Arms. Plain and simple, Oh! Calcutta! is more of what fans of the group have come to expect from the guys. Every spin is like a freakin' party. On the one hand, it's good to see the Arms haven't lost any of the vigor that's made them so engaging over the years. On the flip side, however, the album unfortunately probably won't garner the guys any more attention than past efforts received, thus retaining their place as one of the most overlooked bands in today's punk scene. But hey, when the band and its fans seem most comfortable playing and drinking together in the sweaty dive bars across the world anyway, you can just look at it as everyone else's loss.


Formed: 1999 in Chicago, IL

Genre: Alternative

Years Active: '90s, '00s, '10s

The Lawrence Arms got together in 1999 after the departure of Chicago pop-punkers the Broadways, Slapstick, Baxter, and Tricky Dick. The collaboration of Brendan Kelly (vocals/bass), Neil Hennessy (drums), and Chris McCaughan (guitar/vocals) produced music in the same vein of their previous bands: clever -- often politically inspired -- pop-punk with an aggressive, gritty edge. Asian Man Records released the Lawrence Arms' first album, A Guided Tour of Chicago, in November of 1999, while their second...
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Oh! Calcutta!, The Lawrence Arms
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