Unwritten Law

Here's to the Mourning

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Despite scoring a modern rock radio hit with 2002's "Seein' Red," Unwritten Law were left without a record deal soon after their commercial breakthrough. They landed on Lava for 2003's all-acoustic Music in High Places, but were sidetracked again by the departure of drummer and band co-founder Wade Youman. It was a run of bad luck, to be sure. But the stretch also distinguishes the Unwritten Law of 2005 from their swaggering punk-pop past. On Here's to the Mourning, they blend spluttering electronic programming and acoustic elements into crashing guitars for "Get Up," "Rejections Cold," and "F.I.G.H.T."; move into slick, anthemic pop on "Because of You"; and even tap songwriting pro Linda Perry for help on the single "Save Me (Wake Up Call)." The emphasis on Scott Russo's brash vocal and lyrics certainly gives material like "Save Me" and "I Like the Way" a swagger. ("I got a cyclone woman," he sings on the latter, "And she's cookin' up a pound of thrills.") But like Good Charlotte did with Chronicles of Life and Death, Unwritten Law busily feature as many punchy dance beats, keyboard drop-ins, and filtered vocal layers as they do screaming guitars. The expanded palette moves them away from punk-pop and establishes something more widely accessible -- a composite of loud guitar excitement and predictable but effective enough melodies, tied together with stories of hard living, easy loving, and the occasional romantic notion. ("Come entertain us/So stupid it's contagious," one passage sneers knowingly, but another rhymes "Because of you" with "dreams come true.") The end product can coast on Russo's charisma, top-tier production, and a handful of solid melodies. But it lacks heart, having perhaps gone too far in its bid to spread out the sound. Here's to the Mourning wipes Unwritten Law's old slate clean; problem is, it doesn't write anything very memorable in its place.

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