Lagwagon - Let's Talk About Feelings (Cover Artwork)


Let's Talk About Feelings (1998)


By 1998, the melodic/skate punk boom that was ushered into the mainstream, with the help of “Dookie” and “Smash”, was starting to wane. Lagwagon had released arguably one of the best of the bunch with Hoss in 1994 and followed it up with another melodic punk rock gem, “Double Plaidinum” in ‘97. The bands that had were leading the pack were starting to mature and expand their sound for better or for worse. (See, Bad Religion’s "No Substance" or NOFX's "Heavy Petting Zoo"). Singer Joey Cape himself was starting to reinvent himself as a songwriter and was looking to shed the "silly pop punk persona" the band seemed to have. While the music on “Let’s Talk About Feelings” leaned towards a more pop punk sound than previous efforts, the song writing structure took on a more complex and serious nature.

Much more melodic and varied than anything the band had released yet, this record was filled with metal riffing, pop song structures, strings, piano and some of the best songs they'd recorded. In short, the song writing on this record was the most mature and experimental of Cape's, then still young, career.

Of course everyone knows Lagwagon’s bonafide punk rock hit “May 16” about Cape not being invited to his friends wedding. Within the context of the rest of this record though it flows perfectly, especially when introduced by “The Kids Are All Wrong”. This acoustic half song builds up anticipation for the blisteringly fast, outrageously catchy “May 16”. Of course, “Owen Meany”, the album closer, is a slice of pure pop punk perfection. The cello dominated intro is something Lagwagon had yet to explore in their sound. Based on a novel by John Irving titled “A Prayer For Owen Meany”, Cape turns the pop punk song writing formula on it’s head with a song about a novel that tells the story of a boy who believes he is an instrument of God.

Elsewhere, Lagwagon uses sound clips from movies, such as “Jacob’s Ladder” on the song “Leave The Light On”, which only serves to underscore the poignancy of Cape’s lyrics about a lost love. Immediately following is an amusing clip from “Welcome To The Dollhouse” and the more upbeat, musically speaking at least, “Change Despair”. Pop punk isn’t known for having the deepest or most intelligent lyrics but Lagwagon have always risen above with Cape’s song writing. “Love Story” could be about a girlfriend or that annoying friend that just doesn’t see what everyone else does in their relationship. It’s this open to interpretation style that keeps the listener thinking once the song has ended.

Even the b-sides from this album shine. “Alison’s Disease”, which originally appeared on Fat Wreck’s 5th Fat compilation, is a nice little power pop song with a musical breakdown that makes you wonder how the song could have been left off the finished record in the first place.

From this record, Cape chose to throw the pop and alternative rock inspiration he was feeling into the newly formed Bad Astronaut to great effect, while Lagwagon languished on hiatus for five years. Once the band came back together they released the more straightforward punk record “Blaze”, followed by the dark “Resolve” and heavier “Hang”. No where in the following years has the band touched the pop punk sound that they visited on this album.

“Let’s Talk About Feelings” will hold up as not only one of Lagwagon’s best records but one of the best pop punk albums of all time. It’s a perfect mix of punk rock, pop sensibility and melody by a band at the top of their game at the top of the heap of bands all clamoring to write a record like this but failing.