Dag Nasty - Minority Of One (Cover Artwork)

Dag Nasty

Minority Of One (2002)


Dag Nasty emerged on the DC scene in ‘85, combing the ferocity of earlier DC hardcore bands with a more melodic sound, unique guitar textures and powerful and person lyrics. In their short three years together, the band went through numerous line-up changes and released three records, Can I Say (1986), Wig Out at Denko's (1987) and Field Day (1988) before calling it quits in ‘88. All three albums were extremely influential and, in my opinion, some of the best punk records of all time. Even fifteen years later, they sound as fresh as they did the day they were released. An early years album (entitled 85-86) was released in ‘91. In ‘92, Dave Smalley and Brian Baker found themselves in the same room, and Brian played Dave some new guitar riffs he had. Dave started singing vocal melodies over the riffs and the two decided to reunite the first album line-up of Dag Nasty to record the new songs. Unlike most reunion albums, there were no plans to tour or promote the album to cash in on prior successes. The album was just being made because they wanted to release the songs. Unfortunately, Brett Gurewitz's production made it sounds like...well, more like a generic Epitaph band and less like Dag Nasty. The album (Four On the Floor) just didn't live up to the Dag name. This year, the band decided to reunite to try it one more time.

I'm normally pretty skeptical about reunion albums. They're usually cash-ins, and, with a few exceptions (The Descendents come to mind), are never as good as the band's original albums. With Dag it's a bit different. They're not trying to cash in, they're not trying to be a popular band again, they just want to put out some songs they wrote. Still, the band's last reunion album wasn't so hot, so I was a little apprehensive when I heard they would be trying it again. But when Dag released the song Incinerate on a compilation CD, I was very impressed. While not quite as good as the band's original material (though what is?), it's still a hell of a lot better than most bands playing today. Plus the album was said to be produced by Steve Hansgen (Minor Threat) and recorded at the legendary Inner Ear Studios (where most of the classic Discord albums were recorded). And with the classic first-album line-up of Dave Smalley (vocals-previously of DYS and ALL, currently of Down by Law and the Sharpshooters), Brian Baker (guitar-previously of Minor Threat, Government Issue, the Meatmen and Junkyard, currently of Bad Religion), Roger Marbury (bass-previously of Bloody Mannequin Orchestra and Los Vampiros) and Colin Sears (drums-previously of Bloody Mannequin Orchestra, Down by Law and was allegedly the original drummer of Fugazi), it sounded like this album was going to be pretty solid. Damned if I wasn't right.

I really enjoy this album. I wasn't expecting anything earth shattering or the "best Dag record" as the band claimed it would be. When the band broke up, that was the end up of DN in my book. Reunion albums are just a nice footnote. And as far as footnotes go, this is a good one. Brian's guitar work is stellar. Almost all the songs have some kind of cool twist or effect. We're not talking just straightforward power chords here, kids. There's a lot more going on here than it might seem at first glance (check out Ghosts and Broken Days if you don't believe me). And even the most straightforward riffs kick fucking ass. These songs are incredibly catchy. Try as I might not to, I find myself singing at least one of them over the course of my day. The production is stellar. Everything comes across at just the right volume and with the right intensity. Roger and Colin provide a very solid rhythm section, if a bit unspectacular.

The only real weak spot here is Dave Smalley. On the one Dag album he sang on (Can I Say), Brian Baker wrote most of the lyrics. However, Dave writes all the lyrics here, and they're a lot different than those on the classic Dag albums. At times they can be good, but at times they just seem cheesy (the title track being the most obvious example). Dave's voice isn't as good either. His vocals on Can I Say were maybe my favorite on any punk album (except for anything Chad Price does). They were so intense and so urgent, it really felt like he was exorcizing some demons and that his head was going to explode if he didn't get them out right then and there. But sometime between the time he quit ALL and the first DBL album, his voice changed. Now it's just a very high singsongy voice. Most of the time it works (thought it gets a tad grating at times), but it just doesn't compare to what he did on Can I Say. Still, he does some extremely catchy vocal melodies and harmonies on here.

Overall, it's good. Like I said, it's not earth-shattering but it's a solid collection of extremely catchy and well written punk songs, despite a couple somewhat mediocre tracks (Twisted Again, Average Man). I've been hearing people comparing the album to Bad Religion and Down by Law, but that just doesn't fly with me. Dag's sound on this album is far enough removed from both of those bands to not deserve those comparisons. It just seems like lazy reviewers don't want to formulate their own opinion of the album, so they compare it to the members' other bands. I wouldn't suggest anyone buy this album until they own the classic three Dag albums (Can I Say, Wig Out at Denko's and Field Day), but it's definitely worth getting if you're already a fan. When I got the last reunion album, I spun it a couple times and then never really listened to it again. This one, however, has spent quite a lot of time in rotation. Even the straight-ahead cover of Generation X's 100 Punks is a lot of fun. It's for fans only, but it's easily worth the $12 I spent.