February 13, 2003

Test Spin: Unwritten Law

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What’s a drummer to do when his guitarists, bassist, and singer all leave his group? Well, for Unwritten Law’s Wade Youman the answer was simple: find a new quartet of wannabe punk rockers, eventually get a deal with a major label, and switch to a different sound — power pop/rock that nestles the band comfortably in between Sum 41 and Britney Spears on TRL.

On the heels of their breakthrough success with last year’s hit “Seein’ Red,” Unwritten Law’s latest release, Music In High Places, is an acoustic set of the band’s better-known songs. Recorded in Yellowstone National Park for air on MTV, the album has a jammy feel to it — there aren’t any traces of elaborate production or distorted guitars and vocals. The album sounds exactly what it is supposed to sound like — a bunch of guys sitting in a park with nothing but a few instruments. Many of the tracks, however, sound as if they are devoid of a certain power. The chorus of “Seein’ Red,” during which vocalist Steve Russo sings, “So follow the leader down/ and swallow your pride and drown” lacks the energy of the original, and is turned into something much more somber than the popular single. This feeling is also apparent on a number of other tracks; “Up All Night,” features Russo’s throaty cries over mellow guitar chords, a combination that flows together in dissonance rather than creating a harmonious melody.

The band displays their ability to play their instruments in a setting unfamiliar to the majority of rock groups. Music in High Places, though, seems to cater to an audience different than typical Unwritten Law fans. So, if you’re a fan of the power-pop that got Unwritten Law widespread airplay, you’re better off sticking to rockier terrain.


Archived article by Ariel Ronneburger