There's a thin line between value and listener fatigue in best-of collections, and Unwritten Law crosses it with The Hit List. At 19 tracks and 63-plus minutes, everything starts to sound the same in a hurry.
That said, anyone looking for that song he heard on the radio will certainly find it here. Unwritten Law was among the better pop-punk bands of the '90s, with deeper songwriting, better guitar riffs and catchier vocal harmonies than Green Day or Blink-182 could ever muster.
Though "Save Me" came toward the tail end of the group's career it's the best here, with an intensity unheard in the other, more happy-go-lucky, punk tunes. And "Shoulda Known Better" is a masterpiece of perverse lyrics, most notably "Abortion clinic / Shoulda forced the issue / But she did it with a hanger and some tissue."
"Seein' Red" disrupts the non-stop distortion barrage with quiet verses that build to loud, upbeat choruses, followed by a laid-back bridge. "How Do You Feel" and "Rest of My Life" even break out the acoustic guitars.
But unfortunately, the rest of the disc is crammed with one catchy-but-samey three-minute pop tune after another - the track listing doesn't match the CD's flow, and that doesn't help keep the songs distinct, either. Two loud, fast ones, then a ballad, two loud, fast ones... Fifteen tracks in, and you're wondering when the damn thing will end.
Unwritten Law had talent, but listeners can only take so much sugary-sweet melodic rock at once. Half an hour, great. Forty-five minutes to an hour is a good deal, but pushing it. Breaking the hour mark pretty much dooms a one-sitting listen, especially for pop-punk fans with short attention spans.
Buy it, by all means. But for God's sake, don't listen to it all at once.
Robert VerBruggen ( http://www.therationale.com) is an apprentice editor at The National Interest and an antiMusic contributor.