The Broadways - Broken Van / The Lawrence Arms - Ghost Stories
Asian Man Records

Every once in a while, a band comes along that changes the way people look 
at music within their genre.  In the early nineties, a band known as 
Slapstick formed in Chicago.  They put out a few 7"s, some compilation 
tracks, and one full-length CD, and abruptly broke up as they seemed to be 
reaching the peak of their success.  They then reunited on a cold November 
day in 1996 for one show, and the kids turned out in droves.  I was not 
there, but many friends told me how the tiny Fireside Bowl was about ready 
to explode, and observer estimates have put the crowd between 800-1000 
people.  For those of you who have not ever had the pleasure of being to a 
Fireside Bowl show, this is a *lot* of people.  Slapstick's legacy seemed 
to grow exponentially from their break-up to their one-night-only 
reunion.  People realized that not since Operation Ivy had such a potent 
combination of ska-punk mayhem, well-played instruments and excellent 
lyricism been existent in any band.  Slapstick had turned into local 
legends of sorts, spreading their sound across many a state and influencing 
countless imitators.  So what does any of this have to do with the 
Broadways and the Lawrence Arms?  I'm getting to that.

The Broadways were one of a handful of bands that formed out of the ashes of Slapstick, along with bands like Tuesday, and later the Alkaline Trio, The Lawrence Arms, and The Honor System. They were immediately tagged with the "ex-Slapstick" moniker, but at that time, who wouldn't want that? Even though the Broadways and Tuesday did not necessarily sound like Slapstick [especially Tuesday], old Slapstick fans turned out in droves to see what their favorite musicians were up to nowadays. The Broadways were in no way a bad band. They had the "punk rock" ferocity, and Brendan sang, giving it that throaty, shouted quality which was part of Slapstick's uniqueness. But, conversely, the Broadways were never a really good band. I mean, I own their complete discography, but it's not like they were amazing. This makes one wonder -- do we really need a full album of rarities and unreleased tracks? Well, if you're a fan, you'll enjoy this. It is as classic as Broadways material can get, and it shows that they could have kept the band going for at least a little bit longer producing the same material that they had been producing. But if you are just a casual listener, there is no real need to own this. The Broadways were not around long enough to really produce a legacy that needs carrying on. So that is where the Lawrence Arms come in.

The Lawrence Arms have only been around a little more than a year, but "Ghost Stories" is already their second full length album. This band really seems to be more of a refined Broadways, since it contains Chris and Brendan from the aforementioned group. Since Brendan sings and writes the majority of the songs, it's hard to distinguish between bands, except for the drumming provided by ex-Baxter drummer Neil. He is more than a step up from the Broadways' Rob, as he really adds a deeper dimension to the band by providing more than just bass/snare-bass/snare beats. The Lawrence Arms seem to have what it takes to last for a while and build the reputation that the Broadways worked for and that Slapstick gained post-mortum. The only problem is that nasty "ex-Slapstick" term.

The "ex-Slapstick" title is still thrown at bands now, like The Honor System and The Lawrence Arms, either by kids trying to promote an otherwise lackluster show or the band's label, desperate for more sales. Some bands, like the Alkaline Trio, have produced consistently well-done music to outgrow their previous endeavors and develop a very strong name for themselves. Others, like The Honor System, need it to help them get off the ground and get their proverbial foot into the listener's door, even if they sound nothing like Slapstick and frankly are not all that good anyways. The Broadways and the Lawrence Arms fall somewhere in between. The Broadways, being direct descendents to the Slapstick name, deserved to wear it as a badge of honor and to let kids know that there is a life after a successful band. The Lawrence Arms seem to be trying to move on past Slapstick [and Baxter, for that matter] by cranking out a glut of well-done material to make people take notice. The final choice comes down to the listener: do you want to forever refer to Slapstick for what is okay to listen to?
...scott heisel...

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