Lagwagon - Hoss (Cover Artwork)
Staff Pick


Hoss (1995)

Fat Wreck Chords

Hoss is where Lagwagon locked in their sound and achieved skatepunk perfection.

Like I said in my review of Trashed last year, Lagwagon was besting NOFX at their own game. They were faster and more technical, with better lyrics and melodies. And while their would be plenty of high points to come in their career, Hoss is them at their apex.

Let’s try something different: let’s kick off the review talking about THE DRUMS. Holy shit. Derrick Plourde, on his final album for the band before being let go due to his drug problems, took skatepunk drumming to places it has never been before. I laugh at the thought of 14-year-old me putting on headphones and attempting to drum along with this -- it must have been horrific. I even took the album in to show my drum lesson teacher, who was impressed by Plourde’s intricate double-stroke rolls. He even notated out “Rifle” for me, a song with an intro that stands as one of the greatest documents of drumming prowess in punk history.

Every single song on Hoss is a keeper. “Violins” showed a poppy side of the band that surfaced on Trashed songs like “Know It All.” “Sleep” was on Survival of the Fattest early the next year, and introduced another slew of kids to the band. It bounces along with clean guitars in the verses, building to a faster chorus with hooks abound. “Move the Car” shows their tech in the verses, eschewing the backbeat with a unique feel with more great drumming and bass runs by Jesse Buglione. “Name Dropping” gets a bit silly and showcases back and forth vocals between Joey Cape and guitarist Shawn Dewey, another member who departed after the album. “Razor Burn” takes a lighthearted look at a breakup, with Joey growing a “beard of shame” and busting into “O, Come All Ye Faithful” at the end for some reason.

But the album isn’t all a pop-fest. They came up as a bunch of metalheads and still excel in the dark and minor-key. “Weak” is a perfect example, with palm-muted buildups and a couple quick breakdowns. “Ride the Snake,” about a friend’s struggle with heroin, is the feature in that department with guitarist Chris Flippin riding the wah pedal through the slow groove of the verses.

Hoss got more play than any other album during my high school years, and rightfully so. Lagwagon was my favorite band, and on this album they mixed serious with funny, dark with poppy, and was firing on all cylinders with each member at the top of their game.