It’s true what they say – feeling old is a state of mind. The people who feel the oldest are those with the most regret. You don’t truly feel old until you can look back on all of the opportunities you’ve missed; all of the times that you’ve tried and failed or never tried at all. Some people just seem to get stuck. Everyone needs to grow up eventually but some of us just don’t know how.
It was this past Monday when I finally took the time to sit down with the latest Lawrence Arms album ‘Metropole’. The Larry Arms have always had a musical hold on me. Each time they put an album out their lyrics seemed to resonate with that specific time in my life. It always seemed eerie. It’s always been as if we were growing up together. Now that sounds cliché but I guess we’ve all got that one band. For me, it’s the Lawrence Arms.
But have you ever come to a point in which you can relate to an album so much that you almost can’t stand it? ‘Metropole’ has defined, for me, “beautiful tragedy”. As a whole, it’s poetic. It really is masterfully written – lyrically, at least. It’s hard, sometimes, to mix up your riffs as a punk band so not much has changed instrumentally on the record. And that’s very OK. I’ve always considered this band to be lyrically driven anyway. Lyrics have always been the first thing I notice about a band. They are the strongest feature. I don’t care how well you can pluck out jive licks on your guitar. It’s all pointless if you don’t match them with lyrical talent.
The Lawrence Arms can write a set of lyrics that has the capability to punch anyone in the nostalgia bone. In the case of ‘Metropole’, that’s not always a good feeling. Songs like “Seventeener” and “The YMCA down the street from the clinic” speak volumes on their own – then there are still 13 more tracks to invest in (if you managed to get the deluxe release).
I went through a sequence of reactions. The first simply being the fan-boy experience. It’s been years since the trio has released an album and, honestly, I was just excited to hear it regardless of the quality. Even if I ended up disliking it overall, that first listen still would have been enjoyable.
My almost immediate second reaction was – well, fuck. I’ve aged. I’ve missed out on so much. I’ve made mistakes that I haven’t necessarily learned from. These words – these disastrous words coming out of my speakers are heartbreaking, enlightening, and alarming with a certain “where am I going, where haven’t I been” air to them. Listening to this record was like staring into a mirror for far too long.
Lastly, my third reaction came: the realization that beauty can come out of the tragic. Like watching a beautifully-shot drama or reading a cynically-crafted best-seller, this album leaves a generation of people like myself feeling somewhat hollow, defeated, and abandoned by themselves. But that’s where the silver lining can be found. This album is a self-realization. It’s a depiction of what’s gone wrong but may be able to catch our disease in time to beat it into remission.
It’s been said that you can’t start down the road to recovery until you’ve hit rock bottom. Well, here it is. This album does what is so hard for some people to do – it lays everything out on the table. It is full exposure that closes with a question that never truly goes away: where do we go from here?
We won’t know where the Lawrence Arms go from here for quite sometime. A follow-up record is certainly years away, if there is to be one at all. Self-deprecation can get stale fast and if we are to expect any more from this trio then they will have to go through some personal changes before that can happen. Hopefully those changes end up being for the better and I can continue to listen to them with a sense of familiarity. But for that to happen, I also must come to terms with where I’m going.
So I thank the Lawrence Arms for this album and everything it has awakened in me. I’d like to think I’ll use this album as a kick in the ass. Everyone eventually needs to grow up. Some of us just need to be reminded every now and then so we don’t become lodged, lost, and forgotten.