Unwritten Law – Swan


Artist

Album

Swan

Label

Suburban Noize Records

Year

2011

For Fans Of

MxPx - Rancid - The Ataris

Summary

Defiant, anthemic, powerful effort for one of pop-punk's mainstays.

Rating

90 / 100

Remember the story about the ugly little duckling that grew into a big, beautiful swan? Yeah, well Unwritten Law never really were an ugly duckling. But even so, Swan is undoubtedly their blossoming into something incredible. It’s hard to believe this album was originally intended as the band’s last album, their final farewell. Instead, this is a sort of rebirth of a band that have been great for so long, but are now something above and beyond. Upon realising how well they were playing together in the studio, the band decided that rather than being their ‘swan song’, this would be a resurrection. Swan is heavy, punchy, energetic pop-punk at it’s finest, and will please old fans and new converts alike.

Far from your traditional power-chord laden pop-rock throwaway tunes, this is rapid-fire, heavy, grungy pop-punk. The sound is tight, polished and edgy, Scott Russo‘s vocals are powerful, and the whole thing is just downright perfect. I can hardly find fault in this album; it’s a grown-up pop-punk fan’s wet dream. Whilst undoubtedly maturing musically and lyrically, the So-Cal skate punk roots behind Unwritten Law are still clear, and they’ve somehow stuck to the sound we know and love while bringing something that feels new to the table.

Swan starts strong with "Starships and Apocalypse", bass-heavy with rich guitars and a dancey chorus, reminiscent of early Good Charlotte, and complete with Bowie referencing lyrics ("ground control to Major Tom/and here comes a story so sing along"). "Nevermind" features a Killers-esque synth underlay, but with a powerful anthemic chorus and "woah-ohs". "Sing" is your typical mid-album acoustic track, but is far from forgettable. This is a really sweet track and a pleasant change of pace within the album’s energy. But straight after this the album leads into the aggressive, heavy-riffed "Superbad", with defiant and honest lyrics about fighting through all life’s bullshit.

"Let You Go" has an irresistible rock swagger, yet is one of the album’s most introspective and emotional tracks, with choruses of "forever is a long time". Following this is perhaps the best track on the album,"Chicken (Ready to Go)", featuring Oakland rapper Del The Funkee Homosapien. By no means a deep song, but this is an aggressive, party-rock track, catchy and laced with awesome heavy melodies. "Love Love Love" is perhaps the only forgettable track on Swan, a stripped-back ballad with a drum machine, it just feels a little out of place on an otherwise powerful album. But closer "Swan Song" brings back the energy, but hints at the band’s future (‘this could be the end/I’m not holding on/ I can’t go on any longer‘).

I’d like to hope this really will be a rebirth rather than the end, because this album is something special. This is Unwritten Law‘s most inspired, cohesive effort so far. Rather than Scott Russo‘s distinctive vocals carrying the album, the band play brilliantly as a collective, and Swan is a testament to their musicianship and their longevity as a band.

Conclusion

Unwritten Law have crafted a stunning, heavy album alive with defiance, swagger and accessible lyrics. Whilst their pop-punk roots are still evident, Swan sees the band maturing as musicians and as songwriters, and feels like they are bringing something new to the table while sticking to the sound that won over fans in the first place.

Tracklisting

1. Starships And Apocalypse
2. Nevermind
3. Dark Dayz
4. Last Chance
5. Sing
6. Superbad
7. Let You Go
8. Chicken (Ready To Go) Feat. Del Tha Funky Homosapien
9. On My Own
10. Love Love Love
11. Swan Song

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