What is it about the Southern California pop-punk scene that makes my cholesterol rise like a sack of White Castle burgers? Is it the goofy, happy-go-lucky skater colors, graphics and stickers? Maybe it’s the fact that the bands involved with this scene feature men in their late ’20s/early ’30s singing about themes that would only ring familiar to a sexually frustrated high-schooler. Perhaps it’s just that all these silly pop-punk bands always sound identical to their peers? Well, such isn’t quite the case with the ever-popular Unwritten Law, who is currently on tour supporting its latest release, Elva, on Interscope Records.
Unwritten Law began much like their Southern California counterparts — two releases that consisted of nothing more than short, fast, nauseatingly catchy pop-punk fluff. Their last release on Interscope found them drastically re-working their sound for the better. While they still had the pop-punk aesthetics down, they were evolving into a more mature alternative power-pop kind of sound. This is still the case with Elva. Crisp sounding production value and some slower, quality pop songs such as the TRL single “Seein’ Red” and “Mean Girl” are scattered throughout the album.
Despite their attempt to come off as a more adult pop band, they are still plagued by their Southern California tendencies. The lyrics are pathetic all the way through, songs that start off with potential grow stale quick due to a lack of musical craftsmanship and tracks “influenced” by another genre s are just plain bad. One of the songs, “Rescue Me” starts off with a smooth chorus and then drives itself into a brick wall with its forced Jawbox sounding verses. On “Rest of My Life” the band attempts something tinged with a bit of country and again it comes off as sloppy and forced. The last of my gripes comes with “How You Feel.” This track proves that no matter how hard they try, So-Cal bands can never grow up and give up feeble traits such as ska-punk. The album is not a terrible waste if you are a huge fan of empty power-pop like Everclear or Lit. There are a few tracks that make it worth a listen, but keep in mind I warned you: this album is better suited for white, Alien Workshop-wearing, west coast high school kids.