BRENDAN KELLY & JOE McMAHANON: Wasted Potential: CD

Acoustic stuff is tricky work, especially in a setting like this: two frontmen of two popular bands (Lawrence Arms and Smoke Or Fire) rendering acoustic versions of their songs. To their credit, I’d say that Wasted Potential is reasonably successful. I’ve heard Smoke Or Fire on a handful of comp songs over the years and never really found them that memorable. Unfortunately, Joe McMahon’s solo outings seem to yield the same results: his voice comes across as a bit too high-pitched to compliment the git-fiddle in his hands, and the songs themselves tend to blend together. Brendan Kelly’s material fares better, if only for the fact that his bandmate Chris McCaughan sings on half of his songs, lending a bit of variety. The bias is obvious: I’ve enjoyed the Lawrence Arms for years, and hearing these songs was a treat. Granted, it’s certainly not the best venue to be introduced to the songs, but hearing the solemnity of “Necrotism”—somewhat buried in the original, electric version—and the subdued, yearning rendition of Jawbreaker’s “Kiss the Bottle” was pretty awesome. I’d say Wasted Potential is mostly for hardcore fans of either band, but Kelly’s side (though why McCaughan isn’t credited for any of the vocal work here is beyond me) carries the bulk of the weight. Fun record.

 –keith (Red Scare)