01.Burden of Proof
03.Made of Broken Parts
04.The Cog in the Machine
05.Poison in the Well
08.Burning Out in Style
09.One More Song
11.You Know Me
12.In Your Wake
Released date: October 28, 2014
Label: Fat Wreck Chords
Format: CD, LP
Format: CD, LP
Reviewed by Chad JensenIt’s been 9 years since Lagwagon put out a new record. 2008’s E.P. “I Think My Older Brother Used To Listen To Lagwagon”, a self deprecating title, doesn’t count, because it was only 7 tracks. During this 9-years hiatus, lead singer, Joey Cape, focused primarily on his solo acoustic career. Some people dig his acoustic stuff, but as much as I love Cape’s songwriting prowess, I’ve never been able to get into his acoustic stuff. His music is best expressed through a full-band. Plugged in and fully rocking. In other words, when it comes to Joey Cape music, give me Lagwagon all day long.
“Hang”. That’s the title of Lagwagon’s new record that just dropped on October 28th via Fat Wreck Chords. And let me tell you; as much as it sucked not having any new Lagwagon material since 2008, if going 6 years in between new material will produce a record as good as “Hang”, then I’m happy to wait another 6 years. “Hang” is a masterpiece. Although Lagwagon has never put out a bad record, it’s my personal opinion that they peaked with their 2nd album, “Trashed” in 1994.
“Hoss”, “Double Pladinum”, “Let’s Talk About Feelings” and “Blaze”, are all good records in their own right, but they pale in comparison to the riffy, fast-paced, technically melodic twin albums, “Duh” and “Trashed”. “Duh” and “Trashed” are two of the best punk rock records of the ‘90s and served to launch the Fat-Sound that revolutionized punk rock. Lagwagon’s dark, cathartic album “Resolve”, released in 2005, is excellent, but it’s not one I can listen to often, just because it’s so heavy and topic specific. Heavy from an emotional standpoint. It was written and recorded as a tribute to their founding drummer, Derrick Plourde, who died from a self-inflicted gunshot wound, after years of battling drug addiction.
Most of my friends will disagree with me, when it comes to Lagwagon’s back catalogue. They love “Hoss” through “Blaze”, just as much as “Duh” or “Trashed”. I do not. And if you’re like me, then you’re going to absolutely love “Hang”. The new album begins with “Burden of Proof”, an acoustic number that harkens back to “Alien8”. A stripped down, poppy intro to what will lead to a blistering series of songs.
“Burden of Proof” leads into “Reign” and to be honest, it’s hard to tell where one song ends and the other begins. This song is great and reminiscent of something off of “Double Pladinum”. The subject matter in these songs, and throughout the album, deals with a older man’s seasoned view of the modern world and how he and his family, fit in. At 48 years old, Cape’s subject matter on “Hang’’ is often a scathing indictment of the advancement of modern technology and how it’s served to render many things that used to be normal, obsolete. And nullified so much of the human connection.
The song that introduced most people to “Hang” is “Cog in the Machine”, the 4th song on the album. It begins with a riffy guitar lick and pounding drums that immediately gets your blood pumping. Speaking of drums, Dave Raun’s drums sound so good and so precise on this album. It’s definitely his best effort as the drummer for Lagwagon. The production on this record, done by the Blasting Room’s Bill Stevenson, is slick, it’s big and it will blow you away. Production-wise, it sounds much more powerful than any other Lagwagon record you’ve ever heard.
Following “Cog in the Machine’’, Lagwagon churns through a series of 3 songs in “Poison the Well”, “Obsolete Absolute” and “Western Settlement”, that have struck me on an emotional level, unlike anything since “Trashed”. Like Cape, and as a parent of young children, I also wonder how they will fit into this modern world with all of its problems. Cape dwells on these issues in poetic detail and it will touch your soul.
Joey Cape was with Tony Sly right before he died. He was there as Tony worked on what Cape has described as a beautiful song that will never see the light of day. They became close friends. And Cape pays great homage to Sly in “One More Song”. For fans of No Use For A Name, you’ll love that the band also covers No Use’s “Exit” from “Leche Con Carne” on the deluxe version of “Hang”. I recommend buying that version of this album.
I think my favorite song on the record is “Drag”. A song that deals with the subject matter of quitting smoking and the psychological trips that nicotine addiction plays on the mind. Cape’s voice on this song, and throughout the record, is strikingly powerful, even more so than his vocal efforts on “Duh” and “Trashed”, when he was a young man, full of piss and vinegar.
This entire album is perfect. There is not one track on the record that you could possibly skip over. Each and every song stands strong on a foundation built on emotional lyrics, melody, powerfully technical drumming and riffy, layered guitars. The bass work by newcomer and former RKL bassist, Joe Riposo, is phenomenal. He adds his own personality on this record.
Joey Cape recently said in an interview that “Hang” is Lagwagon’s most collaborative record ever. For most Lagwagon albums, Cape would write a bunch of songs and when he felt like there were enough for a record, the band would get together and he’d teach them to the guys. There wasn’t much difference between the songs he conceived at home and the way they turned out on the records.
This time was different. Everyone contributed to the songwriting, says Cape. And the result is the best melodic punk record to come out since Ignite’s “Our Darkest Days”. Pennywise’s “All or Nothing” and Bad Religion’s “True North” are both excellent albums. But none of them are as original and emotive and virulent as “Hang”. This album will burrow into the deepest recesses of your lizard brain and leave you wanting more. I give it 4 stars out of 4. If I could give it 5 stars out 4, I would. It’s that good.