In 2003 the music world was shocked and awed by the self-titled debut release by A.R.E. Weapons. Having been discovered by Pulp’s Jarvis Cocker, A.R.E. Weapons made one of the greatest albums of that year that remained under the radar for the most part. The album was loud, noisy, grimy, and confrontational, held together by a fiery blend of raucous electro and abrasive punk mannerisms. The band suffered a devastating blow the following year when guitarist Ryan Noel died from a heroin overdose and their synth man Tom split. He was then replaced by actress Chloe Sevigny’s brother Paul, who was also the bands manager. However, this time around on their second album, A.R.E. Weapons have taken a dive so deep that would earn them gold medals if they were Olympic uhhh…divers. Free in the Streets is an album that one would be hard pressed to give away free in the streets.
“These Tears” is not all that it could be, due to the fact that it is like eating a Big Mac without the special sauce. And we all know that the special sauce is what makes a Big Mac. The album does briefly, and I emphasize briefly, rise to the occasion on “Doghouse” with its Einsturzende Neubaten-like industrial churning. After that the listener’s expectation of being captivated is sunk as the group chokes with “Push `Em Back,” a track that sounds like something Ian Astbury would have scrapped back in the eighties from notions of deep regret.
“Hardcase” is a train wreck as is the cold shoulder disco in “Weakest Ones” and the sorry stab that A.R.E. Weapons takes at Krautrock on “Last Cigarette.” “Reggie” and “Who Rules the Waterfront” are palatable as they evoke the old Suicide atmosphere that A.R.E. Weapons fueled on their previous release but once again a speck of hope is crushed on the Oi-punk driven “F.K.F.” and with “In the Night,” which shows Brian McPeck ranting like a derelict on a downtown street corner at 3AM.
Free in the Streets is more of a disappointment than it is an atrocity, because A.R.E. Weapons’ eponymous debut showed them as having the potential to bloom into a truly awesome band. It leaves the listener scratching his head, asking himself “What the fuck happened?” Free in the Streets etches a huge question mark upon the prospects that this once up-and-coming band had for the future.
Albums to get instead:
Big Black – Songs About Fucking
Controlled Bleeding – Hog Floor
Icarus Line – Penance Soiree