Lagwagon - I Think My Older Brother Used to Listen to Lagwagon
Record Label: Fat Wreck Chords
Release Date: August 19, 2008
MTV Cribs needs to do me a solid: go to some of my favorite musicians' homes and let me see what well-to-do, middle-of-the-road guys I grew up listening to have parked in their driveways and proceed to point me to the direction of where the "magic" happens. Butch Walker, Chris Demakes ... they may not be as popular as, say, a Jonas Brother or some no-name tattooed skater, but frankly, I'm much more interested in admiring their collection of "whips" and concert t-shirts than I am in seeing a backyard full of friends thinking they are important for knowing someone who thinks they are important, too.
One musical idol whose bedroom I'd loo-oo-ove to get a glimpse inside (hey now, get your mind outta the gutter, skippy!) would be Joey Cape, lead vocalist of Lagwagon, who must have a vast collection of hats considering he wears so many when it comes to his career choice. Hey - what better way to do what you love and make a decent living off it? Cape has been the face and the voice of the long-running California pop-punk band since its inception in 1988, and after being the first band NOFX frontman Fat Mike signed to his Fat Wreck label, the band continues to be going strong, releasing their twelfth total release (and third EP overall), I Think My Older Brother Used to Listen to Lagwagon. The tongue-in-cheek title is fitting for the seven-song disc, with the band continuing to make new strides in their rooted sound, perhaps hoping to re-establish a new audience with a younger set considering a majority of their longtime fans are all starting careers and families.
Lagwagon has been one of the few bands on the Fat Wreck label that continues to adapt and mature as time goes on. Their last two releases, Blaze and Resolve, are widely regarded by many fans to be two of their best and Cape's songwriting never manages to weaken; for a guy who writes as much as he does, he's nearing that upper-echelon status of becoming the Kerouac of those who are transforming from skater-to-adulthood. The difference between Lagwagon and other bands of the like is, simply put, the lyrical coverage. The songs are testimonials about everyday life, no hidden political messages or religious strongholds; Cape wants to talk to you as another dude, eye to eye - not from atop a soapbox.
"Errands" is an old-school mash-up of Cape's sincerity and hard-wired instrumental work. Showstopper "Memoirs and Landmines" is a pop-punk scorcher, yet again displaying the combination of wit and sincerity Cape is famous for: "End it in a text message / I'm just so fucking sensitive / And away you go." "No Little Pill" is a blistering indictment on the media-obsessed culture we live in, with Cape refraining in the chorus, "Think about it, the world defines you ... and no little pill will make any difference." "Live It Down," a slow-building reggae-resembling number, obliterates all left in its wake; the tune is an excellent piece of cohesive creativity, with all sights on Cape's manic tone-shifting delivery.
The other band members do their thing well, too. Guitarist Chris Flippin has always been an important part to Cape's songwriting, providing the energy and soaring melodic dynamic to Cape's distinctive chops (opening cut "B Side" demonstrates this wonderfully); Flippin and second-guitarist Chris Rest give Lagwagon its soil, and Cape waters it and watches it grow. Dave Raun might be one of the most underrated drummers in the game right now - while not technically overzealous, his simplicity in making sure the balance is never too short or too off-key matches his bandmates' playing to a T (check him out on "Live It Down" for further evidence). Lest we forget the rhythmic backbone to the band in Jesse Buglione, who keeps things slow and steady, winning the race in the end by exploring the groove-oriented side to the band; he's brilliant, especially on "Errands".
Coming in at just under 20 minutes total, the EP is short and sweet, a nice holdover for a future full-length and Cape's solo album, scheduled to come out in late September. The only complaints that could likely be drawn from the album are its melancholy discussion and short length which doesn't provide enough for the casual or new fan to truly get what makes Lagwagon worth hearing. Not like any Caper fans could ever be short of material to choose from - it's always a treat to hear one of the great bands from the 1990's punk scene continue to develop and make tunes that never sound tired, uninspired and half-hearted; you know they are played with all the intensity they were giving it when their breakthrough Hoss was first released, and hopefully, your little brother will understand that (get him hooked on their material starting at Hoss and beyond as far as introductory works are concerned).
"Mission unaccomplished / Still out here," Cape woefully sings in the final act. It's what I see as a good omen to not only Cape's individual talents, but the entire the band, as well. Lagwagon is 20 years old, sure ... but they have plenty of time left to leave more of an imprint on brothers both young and old.
Can't wait to get this. Cape does no wrong...well, except maybe The Playing Favorites. Lagwagon has been one of my favorite bands since I started listening to punk back in the '80s. Keep up the great work!