Dag Nasty - Dag with Shawn (Cover Artwork)

Dag Nasty

Dag with Shawn (2010)


A little context: Twenty-six years after its recording, 25 years after its subsequent re-recording with Dave Smalley, and nine years after the remaster of the re-recording was released, Shawn Brown fronting Dag Nasty is officially available for your enjoyment. That's a pretty long time for an album to sit on the shelf, and almost an eternity when considering the lifespan of so many hardcore bands. Considering that these songs first saw the light of day on 1986's Can I Say, a record which is considered by many (myself included) to be a cornerstone of melodic hardcore, usurping Dave's singing/yelping approach with Shawn's more aggressive barking delivery might be considered redundant to some. But, let's face it, the lyrics of Can I Say are crucial no matter who is on the mic, and the songs are still fast, catchy, and inspirational. It's just really, really hard to listen to Dag with Shawn without Dag with Dave lingering in your thoughts. As the ancient proverb goes, "If your auntie had balls, she'd be your uncle."

So what's good? The band absolutely tears through "One to Two", which is the last out of the nine songs and made me lose my shit the first time I heard it. The production is missing some of the high end clarity from Can I Say and this is definitely a plus point on this particular song. The vocals are frantic and strained, but the song remains uplifting despite the critical self-analysis of the lyrics. It's all Shawn, no harmonies or gang parts, and the stripped-down feel of the song adds to the overall power. It's a great ender, and a big reason why I usually listen through a few times in one session. That and the songs fly by in around 20 minutes.

Not so good? "Circles", being a slower melody-driven song on its Can I Say incarnation, loses out by not having more guitar tracks or the amazing backup vocals of the original. It's still a great song, but the pop sensibilities and crafty "whoa-oh"s of the Can I Say version are conspicuous by their absence. It's kind of interesting that the Swiz song "Sorry", which borrows the chorus hook from "Circles", adds in some classy background vocal melodies as well. Punks are smart and their songs are short, so of course they are going to add to and improve them. In the case of Dag, dropping a little hook in here or there was never going to be some kind of blasphemy, considering they were creeping towards writing songs for the radio. Unfortunately, there is bugger all information about the song "Sorry" on the Swiz discography CD inlay.

It seems pretty obvious that the arrival of Dave brought a more melodic consideration to Dag Nasty, both vocally and musically. Dag with Shawn is quality hardcore punk in its own right, but maybe Dag wouldn't be so revered as melodic hardcore pioneers if this was the album that was released in '86. That is the nature of this beast: different vocalist, stripped-down production, but essentially the same songs a bunch of people (like me) have been in love with for a quarter of a century. As a curious stepping-stone on the path to a classic punk album, or a stand-alone new-arsehole-tearing hardcore typhoon, it's well worth your money.