by Hobey Echlin
ARE Weapons is a band from New York's Lower East Side that spent its first incarnation channeling '70s synth-punkers Suicide in much the same way the Strokes channeled Television. Trouble was, early A-dubs found them wearing their New York pedigree so heavily on their sleeves that they couldn't reach around their influences.
With Modern Mayhem, however, the trio is striving to mature — or at least grow — into a proper rock band, adding former manager and suit-DJ Paul Sevigny on keyboards and trading its drum machine for a real kit. The band's biggest fault is still trying too hard to be a grimy manifesto representing a city where grime and porno manifests have long since been broomed away for NYU dorms, Euro-trash co-ops and Baby Gaps. Songs like "We Don't Care" and "Let's Go to Times Square" (to what, see The Lion King?) do have that Ramones-y so-dumb-it's-smart straightforwardness to them. But the best song on Modern Mayhem is also the most straight-ahead rocker: "Weird Wild Free" ditches the queasy keys for a good 'ol fashioned anthem.
At 15 songs long, however, the album wants to present more than just a new direction; it wants to be a statement. Songs like "I Just Can't Get Started," "Have You Ever?" and "Dreamers" are a little melodramatic, sure, but they do show singer Brian McPeck trying to write bigger than the "I wanna..." Ramones stuff. Hell, he's even written a "Sweet Jesus" that sounds like a hipster trying to update his view of religion following Catholic school upbringing. Now if the band could just update their sound from New York 1977, they'd really be onto something.