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LEGAL WEAPON (Buy CDs by this artist)
No Sorrow EP (Arsenal) 1981 (Triple X) 1991
Death of Innocence (Arsenal) 1982 (Triple X) 1991
Your Weapon (Arsenal) 1982 (Triple X) 1991
Interior Hearts (Arsenal) 1986 (Triple X) 1991
Life Sentence to Love (MCA) 1988

Five slices of catchy rock in an early X/Avengers mode, No Sorrow documents the earliest version of this Southern California punk outfit — when it contained bassist Patricia Morrison, late of the Bags. With Morrison headed off to a more visible career with Gun Club and Sisters of Mercy, however, Death of Innocence catapulted Legal Weapon into greatness, and is one of the last decade's most underrated punk albums. From start to finish it goes all-out, song after darkly astringent song. Brian Hansen's loud, Ramones-meet-Stones guitar riffs mesh with dynamic rhythm playing; Kat Arthur possesses a wonderfully sensual whiskey voice, like a hardcore Janis Joplin. From galvanizing rockers like "Daddy's Gone Mad," "Waiting in Line," "War Babies" and a redone "No Sorrow" to the anti-incest drama of "Don't Pretend" and the superb, disillusioned title track, the material is tightly arranged and powerful, replete with gritty hooks and complex, semi-metallic twists. Members of the Adolescents help out on bass and rhythm guitar.

Wasting no time, Legal Weapon quickly whipped out the nearly-as-amazing Your Weapon, packaged in an elaborate fold-out poster. While not quite as consistent, it has basically the same sound as its predecessor, but with meatier production and a solid, fulltime rhythm section. Arthur once again pushes the material — especially the epic ballad "Only Lost Today" and the bluesy-punk anthem, "Equalizer" — to compelling heights. On "The Stare," the raw mix of lust and vulnerability in her voice is a revelation.

Legal Weapon signed to a major label around 1984 and began recording an album. But the project fizzled and Interior Hearts — a likable but disappointing LP, with thin sound and more of a country/blues flavor (again, like then-current X) — appeared on their own label instead.

That record is a gem compared to Life Sentence to Love, which totally blows. Having finally done the big time deal, Legal Weapon serve up a keyboard-laden cross between Heart and the Cult over which Arthur tries to emote. Re-recorded versions of "Interior Hearts" and "Tears of Steel" from the previous album are not improvements; the old spark and power are nowhere to be found. A life sentence to oblivion is more like it.

[Greg Fasolino]
   See also Sisters of Mercy