Any and all recommendations are appreciated, but when it’s a band that I don’t know anything about, it’s a fun challenge for me. Since there truly isn’t a genre of music I won’t listen to, I usually find something about a new band that I’ll like. Let’s dive into today’s suggestion and see if they’re for you, too!
Drummer Wade Youman takes credit for forming a band in 1990 in Poway, California. If like me, you have no clue where that is, it’s just northeast of San Diego. He was joined by vocalist Chris Mussey, guitarist Matt Rathje, and bassist Craig Winters. They went through dozens of front men until landing on vocalist Scott Russo. Going by the band name Unwritten Law, they struggled to find any real footing in the business. By 1992, all those guys above except for Russo were replaced. Unwritten Law’s first cassette demo came out that same year, six tracks deep. It didn’t catch fire (the lineup changed yet again) and by 1993, they were getting noticed in the San Diego music scene. Since bands like Blink 182 were big in that area, Unwritten Law had some coattails to ride.
The band’s San Diego success led to a debut record coming out in 1994 on a local label called Red Eye Records. While sales were modest at best, it established their sound as fast-paced punk, which was kind of counterculture during those days because they weren’t all grunge and angst—unlike what was on the radio in ’94. Unwritten Law started to develop a loyal fanbase, and a few of those early tracks are still staples on their shows today. Still, the band needed a big break, and that came in 1996 when Epic Records signed them to a deal. Even though their music was arguably a tier below what was popular in those days, they started to get some respect on major tours like Warped and were getting noticed in several countries. Everyone started to have real expectations for Unwritten Law albums and that pressure was felt by the group. They spent a year formulating a plan for their 2002 release Elva—which had a noted style change from punk to a more pop-punk hybrid.
The album had two commercially released singles, but “Seein’ Red” ended up being the one that put the band on the map. It got the album to hit No. 69 on the Billboard 200, which they hadn’t cracked before in their history. One interesting tidbit from the album is the number of collaborators. Several tunes feature appearances from members of big named bands like No Doubt, Sublime and, yes, Blink 182.
I was going to offer up comparisons to this album, but I can’t because it has the same issue I personally have with much of the “punk” or “alt-punk” of the era: it all sort of sounds the same to me. It’s not to take anything away from Unwritten Law or any other monster selling band of the early 2000’s—the style has merit. But, since I can’t readily identify their singles vs anything from Fall Out Boy, or Taking Back Sunday, or a myriad of other groups, it slides down a half peg in my book. That said, fans of that signature 2000’s punk sound will certainly love this one.
Russo is still belting out tunes for the band, and oddly, Wade Youman rejoined the group in 2021. They’re still out touring and just dropped a new album titled “The Hum” just a couple of weeks ago. I’m not sure I’ll get to that anytime soon but check this one out today.
Top 3 Tracks:
- Seein’ Red
- Up All Night
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