Jan
3

Lagwagon – Putting Music In Its Place – Review

By Admin  //  Music Reviews  //  No Comments

There were only a few things that made much of high school remotely bearable. One was getting to third base in an actual dugout, and another was the consistently great releases from the 21+ year old punk band Lagwagon. Being one of the only bands to actually repeatedly turn down major label offers over the years (where peers like Green Day, Blink 182, and Rancid suckled at the mainstream tit) and stay focused on making traditional skate punk for their adoring fan base instead of chasing a possible large payday, always made me not only love the bands efforts such as the stand outs, “Trashed,” “Hoss” and “Blaze” — but also respect Joey Cape and his creative band of ne’er-do-wells. It’s a little weird then that I would praise a band for re-releasing old material, because it’s usually some sort of cash grab for old albums that fans and occasional listens have already forked over money for. This time however, Lagwagon has pulled together their first five releases and remastered them all. Add in about 10 demos, b-sides, and outtake tracks per effort (many unreleased), as well as including an underground Section 8 (pre-Lagwagon) demo, and you have one beautiful, nostalgic collection of tracks from one of the founding members of modern punk.

Being Lagwagon‘s first full-length — one that was recorded hastily in 4 days with the help of Fat Mike — it would then stand to reason that it would be the one in need of the most remastering. Despite the band’s early love for lo-fi skate punk as well as the production limitations all bands have with their original releases, “Duh” takes this glossy polish and runs with it. Including all the fan favorites such as “Bury The Hatchet,” “Beer Goggles,”  and the brief splashes of punk brilliance in “Foiled Again,” “Noble End” – fans and new punk listeners alike will instantly fall in love. The whipped topping and cherry to this delicious musical pie are the select few b-sides and of course the Section 8 “Super Big” demo CD filled to the brim with early era Lagwagon recordings, which every OCD nerdy fan will insist on having despite crying a river over the fact it was finally released in CD form instead of keeping it only as a cassette tape that about 10 people had when it was first self-released by the band. Of course the demo sounds like ass and reminds me of when I tried to record myself playing a guitar and singing a shitty rendition of Millencolin‘s “No Cigar,” but a seasoned listener will love to add the odds-and-ends outtakes and demos attached to “Duh” to their collection.

To celebrate the demise of the bands actual van (which is shown in full glory on the inlay), Lagwagon, pretending to play semi-pro soccer, took a picture in full football attire to act as their new albums art work. They then trashed it believing it sucked (as well as having Chris’ balls constantly falling out of those small shorts),  only to not only include the picture in the cover in the end, but also name the record, “Trashed.” Long considered to be the bands best record to date, it’s not hard to see why. From the beginning of the popular track “Island Of Shame,” the band plays some of their most furious and melodic punk. You can even hear this coaster almost coming off the rails with its high energy, quick fretwork, and streamed basslines — most notable in the coke-induced swiftness on “Stokin’ The Neighbors” and “Goin’ South.” This reissue is similar to “Duh” in that it is loaded with bonus tracks, most being early versions and demos of songs like “Lazy” and “Whipping Boy” with slight song structure differences or altered solos. The soulful riffage of “Jazzy Jeff” and the stripped down presentation of the acoustic version of “Whipping Boy” really stand out. I may remain partial to “Blaze,” but there is no denying how far “Trashed” has taken Lagwagon, and the determination it must have taken to turn down major label offers. We all saw how much better Green Day got.

1995 brought us the bands junior full length, the quizzically titled and themed, “Hoss.” The album was the first to not be produced by Fat Mike (as I’m sure he was trying to get his damn label off) and was instead helmed by the not as well know, Ryan Greene. “Hoss” was the first LW record that hit my ears, and it’s likely that is how the band made full contact with its current base of listeners. This record, with its even-handed catchy singles like “Violins,” “Bombs Away,” and “Rifle” just to name a few, never really took too many new chances, but was such a solid punk effort almost no one noticed the absence of risky songs. This record was so smooth and seamless, however, that the whole record almost feels like it’s one (very long) track — even if it starts to stall near the end. It’s no surprise that many of the songs that Lagwagon play live currently originate from “Hoss,” because of how memorable and skillful most of the songs are. With this album, like the previous reissues, there is a compilations of early demos, as well as b-sides like the bouncy “Wind In Your Sails” and the melodically busy “Drive By” which make listening to the extra bit of music worth more than a single cursory glance. It ends up being one of the bands more middle-of-the-road full-lengths, but also one of the groups most consistent and solid to date.

With the loss of the bands original guitarist Shawn Dewey and drummer Derrick Plourde, Lagwagon recruited musicians, Ken Stringfellow and Dave Raun to fill their places to record the groups latest album featuring a tongue-in-cheek title, “Double Plaidinum.” The band had been burned out from continuous tours and a break up burdened Joey during the writing process, leading to the album becoming more emotional and open to fits of moodiness than previous efforts — which you can clearly make out in the bipolar vocals and lyrics from Joey on “Making Friends” and the off balance riffs featured in songs like “Choke.” The reissues’s acoustic bonus tracks, specifically the piano backed version of “Making Friends,” as well as the stripped-down personal touch that became of “Goodbye,” give “Double Plaidinum” a softer voice to contrast the albums often gloomy songs. In the end the mood was just so lethargic for it to be a Lagwagon record. Everyone has hurt feelings and emotions they need to share, even artists in bands, but it definitely diverted the skate punk flow we had going here. Speaking of feelings.

The last record before Lagwagons first hiatus, “Let’s Talk About Feelings,” was for many the catalyst for the modern writing style and quirkiness of the band. Whether we’re talking about the return of the bands nonstop melodic punk, or the featured elevator music interlude in “Are You My Friend,” or the blisteringly fast 25 second break track “Hurry Up And Wait,” there was a (welcome) change in the bands sound and even maturity that blossomed on this record. The introduction of guitarist Chris Rest was also an overall better fit for the band, leading to more layered guitar work and impressive riffage, ala “May 16th” and a few of the already released b-sides on the reissue. It’s kind of funny that the effort that saw the band rebound so well and progress so much, and then decide to stop and release all of their creative energy on side projects until 2003′s reuniting record, “Blaze.” “Let’s Talk About Feelings” saw the band return to a state of normalcy, with increased quirk and fastidious punk, a trait that was lost on many punk bands during that time.

This wonderfully immersive and notably huge collection is one of the best I have laid my tired eyes on. Growing up on free-flowing and carefree punk the likes of Bodyjar, Millencolin, The Offspring, and Lagwagon, I had always yearned for revisit to those blissful times without the hackneyed retread that record labels and bands often do as cash grabs, and “Putting Music In Its Place” does that perfectly. Offering remastered versions of every song on their first five albums as well as a treasure trove of bonus and unreleased songs and demos (only a few of which are duds) that are sure to excite long time listeners, LW has proudly represented their roots for all those 20-somethings and opened doors to new listeners would have just discovered the precious rebelliousness that punk has inspired for decades. Pick up this undeniably nesseary collection (if you haven’t already), as well as 2003′s “Blaze” and you will have literally hours of music to inspire you.  [Admin]

Score: 4.5 (out of 5)

Release Date: November 22nd, 2011
Record Label: Fat Wreck Chords
Genre: Punk
RIYL: Bad Astronaut, No Use For A Name, Strung Out

Track Listing:
Way Too Many Tracks.

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