Album Review: Unwritten Law – Swan

Southern California’s Unwritten Law once used to be a skate punk band that was a ritual in my ears.  I popped in their cassette in my trusty Walkman daily and used them as a soundtrack to my life.  As the years went by, they kept dropping albums and thier songs followed me around.

The first time I ever saw Unwritten Law was at a Warped Tour in some stone-covered parking log in Cleveland in the mid-nineties.  They were just what my young ears were looking for.  Weeks later they opened for Bad Religion at the infamous Agora.  That was all I needed, I was an instant fan.  From there on I made a point to see them live every time they came to Cleveland.

I can sit here and recall portions of my life that included an Unwritten Law song.  I remember having a first kiss to “Catlin” in my beat up Cutlas Calais and years later hearing a girl admit their love to me in some dindgey-ass Kent State apartment while “Because Of You” played in the background.  The songs pose as prompts to personal memories that will last for a lifetime thanks to a band that I have seen live easily over 12 times.

After battles with drugs and alcohol as well as with a brush with death due to a fire that claimed all of lead singer Scott Russo’s possessions (but not family), the band took all of their problems and issues and used them as fuel to write an all new album.  Recently the band, including original members Russo and bassist Pat “PK” Kim, dropped  Swan, their sixth studio album on Breaksilence Recordings/Suburban Noize Records.

“Starships and Apocalypse” started off the 11-track album with a more rock driven feel with Russo in singing about some Gucci knock-off glasses wearing woman who clearly is out of this world.  “Nevermind” followed with a more Killers synthesizer sound going on in the background.  “Dark Dayz” slightly hinted to older sounding Unwritten Law making for a good track to listen to.  I love the way how Russo can still tell a story while singing.

Out of nowhere came “Sing” an acoustic song that just put the breaks on the entire album.  For those of you that have heard Music In High Places you can agree with me that UL plays great acoustical songs.  Gentle and just beautiful to listen to, this was one of my favorite cuts on the album.

“Let You Go” was more of a ballad than a song.  The track lead up to an explosion of group vocals that laid behind Russo’s vocals.  Just by listening to it you can tell there was a lot of effort put into it.  I loved the change up when the bass took over only for it to build up again.

“Chicken (Ready To Go)” featured hip-hop god Del Tha Funkee Homosapien.  The first time I listened to this song I just shook my head and wondered why in the hell did there have to be a hip-hop/rock song on this album.  The truth is, the track is actually kind of catchy.  I loved Del’s raps (as always) and  really got a kick about half way though the song when Del steps back and lets Russo do his thing for the chorus.

“Love Love Love” was a touching track that I am positive will land on a mix for that next special someone out there that steals my heart.  It was a ballad by a punk rock back with a lot of heart and a ton of talent.

Unwritten Law leans more towards a rock act these days, but still they have not completely lost that punk rock edge I adored the first time I heard them.  A lot can happen in fifteen years and this band is proof of that.  From playing side stages to headlining their own shows, Unwritten Law has paved their way to rock-stardom their own way.  Swan is continued proof that this foursome still has what it takes to make it in the music world.

2 thoughts on “Album Review: Unwritten Law – Swan

  1. I remember being there with you at those first two mid-90s shows. Ah, memories. These guys never completely did for me. HOWEVER, I still have an old faded Unwritten Law shirt that I got at that Warped Tour.

    You scarfed down a hamburger on camera, and it made your mom sad.

  2. Oh yes, the camera/hamburger incident. Momma was proud.

    I also broke up a fight in the pit with Russo at that Warped Tour. Crazy times as a youth.

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