Lagwagon was one of my first punk bands, thanks to Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater. In the span of a few months I’d discovered them and Blink 182 and set down this path of music. For as much as they influenced and inspired me, I haven’t listened to them in several years, mostly because I got caught up in keeping up with new releases and groups. The release of Hang, their first release in nine years came out of nowhere for me; I just realized it was on its way a couple of weeks ago. I was interested in hearing it, but wasn’t dying for it.
What a foolish boy I am.
Hang is an album that feels like it is already a classic. This is a Lagwagon that is set in their element and making a stand for the music that has made them legendary over their twenty-four year career. The guitars are raging, smashing through riffs against nonstop chaotic drumming. Joey Cape’s lazy vocals provide the perfect agent for the lyrics, singing unlike anything else in the scene. Thirty seconds into the second track, “Reign”, a flood of nostalgia and love overcome me: Why the fuck haven’t I listened to them in so long?!
Guitarists Chris Flippin and Chris Rest are absolute monsters, ravaging through heavily fuzzed riffs and slides before breaking into a dreadnought solo, song after song. Joe Raposo’s bass is muted slightly by the guitars, but damn his melodies are good. They pop and race through the songs with more depth than the guitars’ fuzzed sound. Dave Raun’s drumming is hypnotic and heavy, the epitome of a punk drummer.
The songs sound like they’re from an age that no current band can imitate. “Drag” starts off with raging guitars that plunge through the chorus, leading into a breakdown before a twin guitar solo. The solo is simple and sweet; it sounds brutal without being overbearing and launches right back into the chugging guitars. The guitar work and riffs can sound simple at times, and then completely sucker punch you with an incredibly intense line or solo.
“Obsolete Absolute” might be one of their most impressive feats, starting off with a crisp 30 second bass line that leads into a mesmerizing six minute inferno of blazing guitars. Each instrument has its’ time to shine. The riffs sound simple, but to the point – it dares you not to bob your head and tap along to the drumming before picking up the tempo at the two and a half minute mark as Joey Cape’s vocals finally appear.
Joey Cape’s vocals have rarely sounded better. If you’ve heard a Lagwagon song before, you know what to expect. Cape’s vocals are deep and sluggish, playing counterbalance to the quick pace of the music and tracing a familiar vocal range. No one is complaining; this is how Joey Cape should sound.
The first two songs on the album, “Burden of Proof” and “Reign” share a line in their chorus that more or less sum up the lyrical content, “It’s a Sonnet, but there’s no way to put a ribbon on it”. The lyrics are optimistically rebellious and pure punk. “Poison The Well” has Cape exclaiming, “Do you recall your first bee sting / How you learned to feel pain… Judge a kneecap, broke in half, dressed up in broken English/ Poison in the quill, poison in the quill”.
“Drag” is one of the more intriguing songs, as it’s the story of Cape’s struggle with cigarettes. “I quit when I was 30 / I quit when my baby girl was born / Quit again at 40 bells, new year farewells”. The song’s middle is a brutal bridge as he sings, “I’ve got a feeling Colorado’s air is not worth breathing / Drag, drag, drag…”.
It took nearly a decade for the band to release a proper full length, and those who waited it out weren’t in vain. Hang is a lesson in expert craftsmanship and songwriting by one of the best bands in the business. It expresses the high points from Lagwagon’s entire career and sounds fresh and timeless, as though it was ripped out of any point in the last twenty years.
Hang is simple, catchy and absolutely relentless. With so few bands from that era of punk still around, it’s unlike anything else released this year and a reminder of why those who paved the way for today’s punk are so respected.
by Kyle Schultz
Kyle Schultz is the Senior Editor at It’s All Dead and has worked as a gaming journalist at Structure Gaming. He lives in Chicago and one time, on a lark and to be an ass, accidentally threw a burnt copy of Lagwagon’s Hoss out a car window, mistaking it for something else. The car’s driver was not pleased.