When most people, including myself, think of Long Island, NY, we think of screamo, emocore, L.I. hardcore… lame-core. I can almost always tell if a band is from Long Island. They just have that distinctive quality that makes me not like them. For example; I saw The Sleeping in November 2005 and knew right away they were from Long Island — with their faux-hawks, absurdly tight pants, and unoriginal sing/scream sound. There are exceptions to the cardinal “Strong Island” rule though, and one of those exceptions is Small Arms Dealer.
Small Arms Dealer’s A Single Unifying Theory is a great modern punk rock debut. With the opening riffs of “A Fire In The Mine” to the bass-heavy ”Things Explode For No Reason,” this album is chock full of great punk hooks and a cigarette-scarred vocals. Even the softest song, “My Headlocks Are (Crazy),” which is filled with female backing vocals and acoustic guitar, has an undeniable punk rock vibe to it.
One good Long Island trait that Small Arms Dealer shares with their fellow island-castaways is their “unity” (ha ha, get it?). Bands from the Longest of Islands have been known to share lyrics, help each other book shows, and lend each other band mates- and Small Arms Dealer is no different there. Members of such bands as On The Might Of Princes, The Devil Himself, Fellow Project, Contra, and Explosivo! bring their instruments and silly names (c’mon, one guys name is Guitarbeard) to A Single Unifying Theory, which was recorded, mixed, and mastered by Phil Douglas of the band, and label mate, Latterman.
There are more than one, single unifying theories on this album. One of them is that the word ‘fuck’ is used in seven different songs. Another is the overall gloomy nature of this upbeat sounding album. Lubrano (vocals) must live a week under a black cloud that rains constantly, where he gets drunk three times a week, gets betrayed on two days, and by Saturday and Sunday he’s able to stand united with his friends and believe in himself. I guess every rain HAS to let up at some time.
For the most part though, A Single Unifying Theory is dark in nature. I know it sounds cliché, but it sounds as if Lubrano has accepted the fact that he will die someday, and he is totally fine with it, as can be heard on the albums opener. Lubrano huffs ‘no one escapes/ no one makes it out alive/ just like a fire in the mine.’ A theme of death drifts over all 12 of these tracks.
Even the positive “Tonight… On A Very Special Episode,” is so depressing. He sings about suicide, and giving life another try despite all the failures one might experience — but his use of words make this song sound somewhat autobiographical. Like this thought had run through his own mind, and his conscious was the one being positive about life — meanwhile in the song he is the one singing ‘I’m not the boss of you/ (not me) you can give in if you want to/ (not me) razor blades and running water/ (not me) but hey, I’m no messiah’ to someone contemplating suicide. This song reminds me A LOT of “Driving Home” by Hot Water Music. The similar “Perpendicular Cross-Talk” repeats ‘life’s not fair and it’s a bumpy ride/ so keep your chin up motherfucker/ have some pride.’
But like I said, the sun shines on the weekends only for Lubrano, and the previous 5 days are hell. Any sense of positivity you may have taken away from the former mentioned tracks will be shot right down by A Single Unifying Theory’s closing three tracks. “Galactus: Devourer Of Worlds” sounds like the theme song to why people go to Alcoholic’s Anonymous: ‘a tear rolls down my cheek, and off my chin/ it burns like hell, and it tastes like gin/ I’m a mess and it scares the shit outta me.’ “What Would Bruce Campbell Do?” is no better, with its most emo lyrics stating ‘I make a point to disappoint/ I wrote the book on self defeat.’ You would think that admitting to alcoholism and self-defeat would be a great way to end a downer of an album — but think again. “Things Explode For No Reason” closes the almost 33 minute long debut, and has it’s most brutal and blunt lyrics about deception- ‘(one of us) got kicked in the face by trust/ (and one of us) is getting away with it.” Damn, this is one bitter young man.
Personally, these last three tracks are my favorites because of their straight-from-my-journal, heart-on-my-sleeve lyricism. This album might appeal to fans of Smoke Or Fire, Latterman, Kid Dynamite, Strike Anywhere, Hot Water Music, Against Me! or Alkaline Trio. This appealed to me because it was released on one of the most reliable record labels in the business, Deep Elm.