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Lawrence Arms 

Oh! Calcutta! (Fat Wreck Chords)

This Windy City trio likes to lambaste pop-culture targets -- especially the Warped Tour world it gets lumped into. Blame the clipped bubblegum pop-punk drum sound and tempos the group has employed since its formation in '99. But then the band members lay on slashing riffs and gruff vocals that separate them from the half-pipe pack. And on this, their fourth long-player, they even separate from themselves a bit.

On their best songs ("Recovering the Opposable Thumb," "Key to the City," "Beyond the Embarrassing Style"), Lawrence Arms display midwestern punk that recalls a screws-tightened thrashing of the Magnolias and Soul Asylum, six-pack paladins of late-'80s Minneapolis.

The titles, lyrics, and nifty production tricks (faraway vocal openings, odd stopgaps) in songs like "Great Lakes/Great Escapes," "Old Dogs Never Die," and "Jumping the Shark" show a wish to move away from the group's accustomed genre while retaining bottomless tanks of energy that impel them on.

More by Eric Davidson

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