Unwritten Law has had a long and storied career as one of the original punk-rock champions of the 1990s. Within that 16 year timespan, we have seen the band evolve and grow while keeping their mantle. It’s a relief to see that a stored band is willing to try new things. The band itself has had many lineup changes throughout their history, so slight alterations of older songs should not be alien to the Unwritten Law faithful. Acoustic, the band’s first release since their 2011 album, Swan finds the band trying their hands at a plethora of new genres.
Some may think that an acoustic or remix albums are a holdover just to hold fans over until the next proper release, but the collective really are trying different things. There are parts of it that seem valiant in that they are actively trying to add to their musical repertoire. Then, there are some that stretch a little too far given the basis on the previously conceived material.
Acoustic is almost a tale of two albums altogether. There are so many genres at play that the main heart of the album seems to get lost as some points. The opening song, “Celebration” that originally appears on UL’s 2005 Here’s To the Mourning makes use of drum machines and electronics that throws the listener off a little bit. The following song, “Nevermind” has a reggae-like vibe to it that is more like a remix update than a new iteration. The cover track, “Huartbreak” that was initially done by electronic duo MSTRKRFT and John Legend does work well as an acoustic track at the start, but the chorus turns into this quasi-glitch, percussion heavy track that is a little uneven.
There are some songs that work well in this setting. “Oblivion” that was originally showcased on 2007 The Hit List really fortifies the plight and darkness of the song with the string arrangement showcased within the background of the acoustic guitar. “Seeing Red”, a track off 2002’s Elva has gang vocals and marching drum patterns that give the track a great contrast from its heavier counterpart.
This is the personification of the best parts of Acoustic – where there is a real distinction that sounds full and natural. “Up All Night” is a good example of where new elements work well – complete with Spanish guitar. Another song of Elva, the song adds a new sexy and danceable element to it where it might bring about a corner of the band that they could explore further in future albums.
While it isn’t perfect, you have to give these long time rockers credit for trying something fresh this deep in their careers. They could have settled for your typical “greatest hits” release, but they decided to touch up songs themselves. With a catalog as vast as Unwritten Law’s is, you could make the case for future iterations as they learn from the peaks and valleys that Acoustic as taken them.
Rock / Alternative | Interscope