[28 October 2007]
Even if you’d never heard of A.R.E. Weapons, you didn’t know that Sonic Youth’s Thurston Moore championed them all the way to a record deal, and you had never heard the band’s paean to Times Square, there’s a good chance you’d have pegged them as a New York City band. Like a cross between The Ramones and Sonic Youth’s less noisy side, A.R.E. Weapons’ fourth full-length Modern Mayhem just sounds like something that would come from New York. Their songs place more emphasis on swagger than songcraft, but the attitude they ooze takes them far. A song like “F What You Like” (whose refrain is far less discrete than the title) is perfect anti-pretty-much-everything fodder, complete with eminently singable profanity, and the one-minute punk blast “I Don’t Care” is the perfect way to open the album. A.R.E. Weapons even displays an occasionally deft hand when branching out, as the vaguely classic rock/R&B leanings of “Dreamers” work quite well with the band’s gritty idealist musings, and “Heartbeat” even flirts with hip-hop. What A.R.E. Weapons can’t convey so well is tenderness. “Do You Wanna Hang Around” starts like a late ‘80s ballad with lots of pulsing synths and trite melodies and doesn’t get much better as it goes along. Still, despite the occasional venture into territory that they should go nowhere near, A.R.E. Weapons is still getting by on charisma, and doing just fine at that.