Walking On Eggshells, Covered In Flies
Your teeth are black and your beard is turning gray. What’s left to do besides load the shotgun and pull the trigger? Good thing there’s a new Lawrence Arms album for that! From the dankest dungeons of Portland to zee southwest of France, mon ami! This is Screen Door Revolution for zee 30th of January, 2014. The year of the pony is upon us! This calls for a lunar horse fry…
The Lawrence Arms
The Lawrence Arms’ first full-length effort since 2006’s Oh! Calcutta! arrives eight years on with the band sounding refreshingly well-tuned and still in top creative form. The Lawrence Arms, in holding to their long-standing tradition of dipping the quill once again deep, deep into the well of Jawbreaker influence, turn in a scratchy pop punk record that is perversely palatable to the maladjusted ears of old, worn out punk dudes. Before delving too deeply into Metropole, it’s worth mentioning that the Larry Limbs are also artistic cousins of Alkaline Trio, the Chicago pop group who rose from relative obscurity on Asian Man Records in the late 1990s to top the Billboard Charts with a string of catchy, nonthreatening radio-friendly singles in the 2000s that also blatantly ripped off Jawbreaker. You’ll hear some of the Alkaline Trio connection in tracks like “Beautiful Things” on Metropole, but largely the Lawrence Arms deliver an album that seems aimed at hobos, miscreants, decaying social outcasts, and Juggalos. And what’s not to like about all that? Metropole fits in seamlessly with the rest of the Lawrence Arms’ discography, although new listeners should seek out 2003’s Apathy & Exhaustion for a basic primer on the band. By no means a perfect album that everyone will enjoy, Metropole pretty much dominated a week’s worth of listening on our end since it debuted at the A.V. Club last week. In a week that also saw the first new releases in years from both Against Me! and Bruce Springsteen, that’s saying something. This is pop punk high on substance and low on pretense. Select tracks: “Chilean District,” “Seventeener,” + “The YMCA Down The Street From The Clinic.” Metropole is 5 out of 5 stars. Up the punx, indeed. If you’re in Portland, The Lawrence Arms are set to perform live at the Hawthorne Theater on Friday, February 21. 2014 with Nothington.
Transgender Dysphoria Blues (2014)
Transgender Dysphoria Blues is the presumed final album from Gainesville’s Against Me!, and the first to feature the vocals of Laura Jane Grace. Sort of. You see, Laura Jane Grace used to be Tom Gabel, Against Me!’s founding vocalist and one of the most controversial figures of 21st century punk rock. Once a poster-punk for radical leftist anarchism, Gabel’s band went on to mainstream success with recordings that were decidedly more pop and seemingly disco-inspired than anarcho. 2010’s White Crosses was met with a mix of acclaim and revulsion amongst longtime listeners. Transgender Dysphoria Blues arrives after months of delay that saw most of the band quit, only to be replaced by (legendary NOFX frontman) Fat Mike and a selection of supporting friends in the studio. Transgender Dysphoria Blues is undoubtedly the “Brokeback Mountain” of pop punk albums, so you’ll want to play it for your dude-head friends to see how quickly things get awkward. Despite the fact that the band now seems to be fronted by a sweet transvestite from transexual Transylvania, Transgender Dysphoria Blues is a surprisingly good rock album. Grace belts out “Osama bin Laden As The Crucified Christ” with signature unhinged Against Me! aplomb, and “Unconditional Love” is on-par with the best songs from White Crosses. Other selections, such as “FuckMyLife666” and “True Trans Soul Rebel” address the central theme of chopping it off. Up the punx! 4 out of 5 stars.
Meanwhile, in France…
This week sees the culmination of the Angouleme International Comics Festival, Europe’s largest comic con, and there’s good reason to pay attention to this year’s Grand Prix. The award, which is bestowed annually upon a single creator in recognition of lifetime achievement, is kind of like the Nobel Prize of graphic literature. Over the years, the festival has transformed the picturesque city of Angoulême into a surprising international pop art destination in southwest France, with attendance exceeding 200,000.
While the Grand Prix has historically been awarded to mostly European (and more specifically: Franco-Belgian) creators, 2014’s Angoulême has stirred things up with a bit of global intrigue. For the first time in the festival’s history, none of the three finalists for the Grand Prix hail from mainland Europe. They are: Bill Watterson (creator of Calvin & Hobbes), who is American, British author and Watchmen creator Alan Moore, and legendary Japanese creator Katsuhiro Otomo, whose Akira stands as one of the greatest works of manga ever imagined.
What’s most interesting is that, in accordance with Angoulême tradition, the winner of this year’s Grand Prix will serve as president of next year’s festival. Of the three finalists, it would be most interesting to see Bill Watterson, the notoriously-reclusive Calvin & Hobbes creator who refuses to be photographed or sign autographs for fans, honored and bestowed with hosting duties for 2015. Would Watterson show up if the world’s greatest comics festival extended an invite?
There’s a bit of a boycott going on among some of this year’s festival voters, as 16 of the 26 previous winners have announced that they will not vote in protest of the festival’s shut-out of Franco-Belgian creators. This year’s selection will then be determined mostly by the festival’s 800-or-so registered artists. Our money is on Katsuhiro Otomo to receive the award outright, as Akira is a singularly monumental piece of 20th century pop culture.
Next time on Screen Door Revolution: Love, wretched love, and possibly more.