Lagwagon - Double Plaidinum (Cover Artwork)
Staff Review


Double Plaidinum (1997)

Fat Wreck Chords

In a year that found a lot of early/mid-90’s punk bands starting to transition their styles, we have to remember that Lagwagon already had a notable stylistic change in 1995’s Hoss. A change which eschewed a more skate/thrash style for a leaner melodic punk.

So when 1997’s Double Plaidinum found them with a new guitarist and, more importantly for a band whose musical identity depended heavily on it, a new drummer, what was it that made this album different? Is it the new band members that make Double Plaidinum? Joey Cape’s already evolving sing-writing? Or a combination of both? Aside from the ill-advised I Think My Older Brother Used to Listen to Lagwagon EP, Double Plaidinum serves as the biggest outlier of Lagwagon music, not including their b-sides and rarities compilation.

Let’s begin by clearing the elephant from the room- Derrick Plourde was a phenomenal drummer. His style defined early Lagwagon. You’d have to respect anyone who would agree to come in and fill those shoes. The Dave Raun of 1997, while a respected veteran punk drummer at the time, wasn’t as refined and skilled as he is today. Thankfully, he didn’t try to be Plourde (nor ever has). He played this album under his terms and, while many Lagwagon fans couldn’t accept the change, what Raun helped lay down here with his style of percussion was the foundation of a new stage for Lagwagon, one that has lasted longer than likely could have been possible under the stresses of the old line-up. Add in Kenneth Stringfellow of decidedly non-punk act The Posies, replacing Shawn Dewey, and everything was in place for Lagwagon’s leading force, Joey Cape, to find a new direction for the band.

And boy did he.

While album launcher “Alien 8” starts slow before tearing into an up-tempo sound, follow-up “Making Friends” immediately slows it all with a hard but down-tempo beat. Whereas earlier Lagwagon exemplified thrash characteristics, and Hoss was all about melodic punk, DP explores more styles than usual, including a ska part in “Today” which, while not entirely out of place as Lagwagon has been known to play around a bit, still seemed a bit different than what fans were used to.

In interviews since, Cape has admitted that this album serves as a testimony of his relationship with a single person (rumors abound, I still haven’t heard a convincing theory as to who it is). Front to back, DP does work as a concept album on that point but, overall, it suffers a bit because of the three aforementioned points: new drummer, new guitarist, new direction. Somehow, as cohesive as this album is thematically, it just never fits together stylistically.

I think that, as a whole, this is because the band took such a hit both in body, and mind, with the loss of Plourde and Dewey. Contemporary interviews show that the band was on the verge of breaking up (or had done so, albeit briefly), and that continuing on was an uncertain prospect. Some people may lay it on as unfamiliarity with new band members, but I have always felt that DP was likely the most unenthusiastic of Lagwagon’s albums. There seems to be a lack of energy throughout which I’ve always attributed to exhaustion more than anything.

That’s not to say that these songs aren’t good. As anyone who has seen the band live after the addition of Chris Rest knows, the tracks from Double Plaidinum feel much more energetic in the hands of a band that actually seems whole. Even the departure of long-time bassist Jesse Buglione in 2012 didn’t hit them as hard, as Joe Raposo rolled in with an energy that suits them well (also lending more credence to the humorous nickname “RKLagwagon”).

So does that make this album an outlier, a turning point, or something else? I’m of the opinion that it definitely helped Joey Cape begin to discern between his Lagwagon work and other projects which, in turn, led to Lagwagon returning their focus on Lagwagon-esque style music on their later releases (once again, I Think My Older Brother… notwithstanding). It still stands the test of time and, if anything, has aged well. I liked it a lot when it came out, and have enjoyed it ever since. Is it perfect? Hell no. But few Lagwagon albums are. Is it enjoyable? 100% yes.