Unwritten Law

Josh Bell

Unwritten Law (2 stars)

Here's to the Mourning

On their fifth studio album, Here's to the Mourning, San Diego quintet Unwritten Law complete their transformation from pop-friendly punk band to angry hard- rockers, and the result is neither pretty nor particularly fun to listen to. Unwritten Law was never a groundbreaking band, but the self-titled 1998 album that brought them to mainstream attention was breezy, catchy and energetic, an excellent distillation of the SoCal punk aesthetic.

On 2002's Elva, the band was all over the map, experimenting with many genres but mastering none. Here's to the Mourning is more focused but has none of the upbeat exuberance of the band's early work. Working with producers Sean Beavan and Josh Abraham, who've produced some of the most popular hard-rock bands of the last few years, Unwritten Law succeed in making themselves sound like a perfect snapshot of mainstream hard rock, circa early 2005: a little emo, a little metal, a little electronic and a whole lot boring.

Even recruiting songwriting sensation Linda Perry to collaborate on lead single "Save Me" does little to alleviate the blunt, oppressive tone of the record, and the guitars and singer Scott Russo's voice are so loud and unsubtle that by the end of the album you've got a full-on headache. There wasn't anything great about Unwritten Law when they were unpretentious pop-punkers, but at least they had a sense of fun and excitement. Now that they're trying to be rock stars, they've lost even that.

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