For a band that supposedly helped sculpt the California skate/punk scene, Unwritten Law has made a record that sinks in the heavily treaded blueprints of their anti-authority predecessors. Their sixth studio album, Here’s to the Mourning, revels in the all too familiar territory of hookless punk rock.

Music Reviews
Music Reviews
“If we look emotional, then teenage girls will buy our records.” (Courtesy of Lava Records)

Fellow San Diego locals Blink-182 have had little trouble conquering the major label punk map, and a bit farther north Green Day maintained a virtual pop-punk monopoly. Unwritten Law, though, have used their new album as a jumping point for the thrash of big metal riffs and raspy choruses that usually aren’t found in a genre that’s thrived on a trend of whiny vocals and catchy guitar hooks.

While a small handful of the 12 tracks are enjoyable, the majority of the record is coded with “whoa oh oh” choruses and crunchy guitar work. The album opens with a confusingly short electronica track that transitions nicely into the anthemic “Get Up.” Laced with an infectious chorus, drippy lyrics and the feel of a surefire live sing-along hit, “Get Up” offers one of the minor pleasures of the album. The closer, “Walrus,” is another enjoyable track with its bouncy acoustic guitar riff, swooning string section and commanding presence from singer/guitarist Scott Russo.

Yet clustered around these two tunes is a smattering of mediocre pop-metal material. The trite “Because of You” has the lyrical depth of a bubble-gum teen idol, with Russo musing “Because of you / My dreams come true” over and over. “F.I.G.H.T.” hits hard with an arena-sized metal riff, but then fails to impress with a chorale section of children spelling out the word. The album’s lead single, an alternative radio-friendly ditty titled “Save Me” is the most interesting aspect of Law’s Mourning repertoire. Though it is admittedly catchy, the song was co-penned by established songwriter Linda Perry in an obvious bid for crossover appeal. The collaboration lends to the suspicion that record company executives needed an alternate way for Law to conquer the charts with their anticipated comeback album. Either way, the track fits the pop-metal blueprint to a tee, complete with the introspective verse, sugary chorus twice and an acoustic refrain ready to bring a tear to a high schooler’s heartbroken eye.

Here’s to the Mourning comes off as unnecessarily frantic and loud. Perhaps this is to be expected after the 2002 MTV special From Music in High Places, the show which literally placed the boys atop a rocky perch for an intimate acoustic performance at Yellowstone National Park. This collection of songs from Elva, their most successful album to date, showcased their polished work, but left rabid Law fans looking for a newer, harder offering from the veteran group. Here’s to the Mourning may quench the thirst of the fanatical pop-metal rocker, but for an offering from such a seasoned band, the record suffers from a spell of mediocrity.

Rating: 2 out of 5 stars

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