Lagwagon is one of those bands that is always there but never in the forefront like many of the other punk veterans of their era. They have made some memorable albums and still find long time label Fat Wreck Chords home. Their 2005 release “Resolve” is still a favorite in the minds of their fans and probably the bands largest album to date.
Lagwagon’s new record, “Hang”, is reflective of this stop and go activity of the band’s last several years. It has a very unforced feel, very natural and, for lack of a better adjective, very Lagwagon. It starts with the combined tracks (and second “single”) “Burden of Proof/Reign,” which exemplify the textbook sound of the band. “Burden of Proof” serves as the acoustic intro, launching into the blistering “Reign,” with it’s bouncing melody; it’s Cape’s trademark vocals at their finest. If you were to play a song to a friend to describe the band, this one would serve just as well as a dozen others from their catalog.
Longtime fans of the band will relish a seamless blend of Lagwagon’s unique sound and the inclusion or return of some heavier riffs. “Cog In The Machine” displays the shredding best, and with the pulsing rhythm section, the buildup to every chorus is like an explosion. “Western Settlements” also puts you on notice, this is a heavier record, but still very clearly encompassing their trademark melodies. The breakdown choruses bounce in and out of blistering riffage. Joey’s lyrics are as sharp and poignant as ever, and the entire record unfolds like an unpretentious concept album.
The standout of the album, “Obsolete Absolute,” clocking in at a lengthy 6:12, is a bit of a mini-opus for Lagwagon. With varying melodies and tempos it is exactly what you’d hope for with a band as tenured and familiar with their sound. Hang is not the same record as Resolve, and that’s not necessarily a bad thing. Where the latter was a combination of raw emotion and somewhat reactionary, Hang is the product of a very experienced and talented band carefully crafting a set of songs. Add in the amazing production from Bill Stevenson and the Blasting Room and the final product is what any fan of the band will immediately love. If you disagree, take a few more listens, you’ll come around.
Lagwagon will be hitting the road in support of the album. “This is the first record we’ve made in the history of the band that we wholeheartedly agree that we want to play every single song on the record live,” says frontman Joey Cape. Fat Wreck Chords described “Hang” this way, “Hang” is concoction of Hoss, Trashed, and Blaze, seasoned with Duh’s metallic overtones and Let’s Talk About Feelings’ strong sense of melody, and finished off with a progressive character as yet unseen on any previous release. Lyrically it’s a stunningly substantive commentary on the modern world, written through the lens of a lifetime of visceral experience.