The Lawrence Arms have been my favorite band for about a year and a half. According to Last.fm, I have listened to them over twice as much as the next closest band, NOFX, who I hardly listen to anymore. I don’t think I have gone a week without giving at least one of their albums a spin or two since I discovered them in January of 2015. Four of my top five listened to albums are all Lawrence Arms albums.
So, why do I like them? It’s almost difficult to explain in words why I like The Lawrence Arms. It’s not like I love them, platonically or otherwise, as I’ve never met them, but it’s more that I need them. I’ve never been able to relate to a group of people more strongly than I have with The Lawrence Arms. This is kind of interesting considering our different upbringings. All three of the members of The Lawrence Arms are Chicago natives that played in local punk bands with mixed success since they were teenagers.
Their drummer, Neil Hennessy, played in a fairly unknown band called .baxter. that featured the now incredibly famous and lucrative Tim McIlrath of Rise Against. Their guitarist and co-vocalist, Chris McCaughn, played in a band I couldn’t find much about called Tricky Dick. Their frontman and bassist, Brendan Kelly was the most successful, who played in a short-lived but well-known ska-punk band called Slapstick with Dan Adriano of Alkaline Trio fame.
During their adventures with local punk bands in Chicago, I was busy not being born yet. After Slapstick and Tricky Dick dissolved, Chris and Brendan met and decided to form the band The Broadways. The Broadways released a split EP with .baxter. and the duo met Neil, which eventually led to the formation of The Lawrence arms.
Meanwhile I was busy being an infant. I attended preschool and Kindergarten as the first Lawrence Arms records hit the shelves. It wasn’t until shortly after the band had released their seventh (and probably final) record Metropole that I had even heard of them. I wasn’t releasing DIY records and meeting people through the streets of Chicago and struggling with unsuccessful punk bands. Instead, I was spending most of my time attending a K-12 prep-school in Sandy, Utah.
When I first heard The Lawrence Arms, I didn’t even like them. I listened to Metropole right when it came out because it was new, and it was my first exposure to the band. Brendan’s shrill vocal style perturbed me at first as it does many because it’s different and nonstandard. Right from the start I did enjoy Chris, but I immediately passed them up.
For what ever reason a couple of months passed and I decided to give the band a second shot, and I made an effort to actually listen to the lyrics this time. That’s when I discovered that possibly the two best lyricists out there were in the same band. Maybe not the two best lyricists for everyone, but definitely the two best lyricists for Jackson Anderson.
Chris frequently sings about being a shy introverted person who is overly cautious and wishes that he could experience more in life. He’s probably the closest I’ve ever identified with a musician. Songs like 100 Resolutions, Light Breathing (Me And Martha Plimpton In A Fancy Elevator), Turnstiles, Intransit, Lose Your Illusion 1, and others made me realize that there was at least one other person that felt like I did.
Brendan Kelly isn’t afraid to talk about anything. He’s puerile in a mature sort of way. Even without that tendency, he addressed feelings that I closely identified with. He talked about feeling overly sentimental, having trouble talking to people, and feeling out of place in social events. Songs like The YMCA Down The Street From The Clinic, Quincentuple Your Money, Hey, What Time is “Pensacola: Wings of Gold” On Anyway?, Like A Record Player, These Pigs Seem To Be Getting The Best of Me, and others helped me feel better about myself because not only was someone finding the strength to talk about problems similar to mine, but often they were worse.
In conclusion, The Lawrence Arms are my favorite band because they have become a sort of life force. They serve as a constant reminder that there are others out there like me. People with similar struggles, who aren’t afraid to talk about them. Often they say things that I have been feeling all my life, and wishing that I could express, better than I ever could.