The slightly-snotty vocals of The Lawrence Arms work well in the restrained-punk of “Cocktails & Dreams”. What really exists as a Social Distortion-lite is a radio-friendly type of emo-influenced punk that comes through during tracks like “Quincentuple Your Money”. Each of the tracks on “Cocktails & Dreams” has that same wall of sound that really allows the smoothness of the vocals to shine; the disjointed compilation of the tracks on this disc (for it is a collection of B-sides) really do not provide a problem for the immensely coherent sound of “Cocktails & Dreams”. Tracks like “Hey, What Time..” seems to be destined for a collection like this; while the vocals and bass have the same luster as their album tracks, The Lawrence Arms seem to fall into a rut during this track that ensures that the track is repetitive and should have been stopped at about the three-minute mark.
However, this rut really is conquered during the spastic “Presenting: Dancing Machine Overheated”, which uses double-bass drums and early Goo Goo Dolls-sounding vocals to make for a memorable track. The slightly Axl Rose-quality to the vocals during the majority of “Necrotism” only is enlightened further by the quiet and affecting multi-part chorus, which is no more loud than a whisper. “A Boring Story” is particularly exciting during the context of this CD as it is a complete re-tooling of the bass sound of “Dude Ranch”-era Blink 182 into something both technically and aurally fulfilling. “Cocktails & Dreams” is different from Fountains of Wayne’s own b-side collection “Out-of-State Plates” in the fact that it seems that throughout The Lawrence Arms’ history, they have had considerably better methods of recording than Fountains of Wayne.
The only exception to this rule would have to be the last few tracks on the disc, Hell, even the recording of the hidden tracks on this disc (Old Mexico Way, Purple Haze, Heaven Help Me) are better than the vast majority of bands that cut albums. The inclusion of the re-tooling of older songs and the one new track ensure that fans should buy this album; the skillful compilation of this CD shows that a cohesion can be made between tracks of a band even if they are over six years’ difference of creation date. “Cocktails & Dreams” ensures that there will be big buys of the band’s next new album, whenever the band finishes it up.
Top Tracks: Quincentuple Your Money, Necrotism: Decanting The Insalubrious
The Lawrence Arms – Cocktails & Dreams / 2005 Deep Elm / 16 Tracks / http://www.thelawrencearms.net / http://www.asianmanrecords.com / Reviewed 08 June 2005