Lagwagon - Railer (Cover Artwork)


Railer (2019)

Fat Wreck Chords

Lagwagon fans eagerly awaiting a follow-up to 2014's Hang are in for a treat with their new album , Railer. The twelve song LP, produced by Cameron Webb (Alkaline Trio, Motörhead,) was admittedly written in a much shorter amount of time than the majority of the band's more recent discography, and the result is fresh, invigorating, thrashers; successfully tapping into their earlier sound while remaining tethered to the experience and methodical growth that has kept them relevant for over three decades.

Railer immediately hooks the listener with the thoughtful slow building starter "Stealing Light," showcasing the strengths of every instrumental member of the group in the first thirty seconds. The intro melts into fast double-time drums under Joey Cape's veteran vocals and songwriting, ultimately coming to a close with welcoming gang vocals. The opener jumps into "Surviving California," filled with pitted technical drums and guitars leads reminiscent of early 90's albums "Trashed" or "Duh." This album also, perhaps under the quick writing process, is sprinkled with more of a live-band dynamic, inviting, until now irregular, exchanged lead vocal spots from guitarist Chris Rest and bassist Joe Raposo.

"Jini" provides possibly the most timeless representation of what makes a good Lagwagon song, from the overall energy level, to the band's signature skate-punk sound, all orbiting around Cape's honest and quaking vocals. Joey has always been able to emote the most tragic deliveries of lyrics while still offering an open hand of hope. The positive glimmer, however, is cut short into "Parable," handing a bleak vocal intro to Cape's daughter Violet before shredding into another 120 seconds of angry punk rock. "Dangerous Animal" is a huge standout among the record, grinding more vintage 90's thrash, complete with more traded lead vocals.

"Bubble" dictates a thesis to the entire album; an aging punk band past their "hay day," continuing to do what they love while struggling to connect their completed paths with the lures that brought them there. The result is an up-tempo, bittersweet masterpiece riddled with nostalgia. "The Suffering" completely shifts the mood, with an ambient instrumental under spoken word, similar to the opening moments of Hang's "Obsolete Absolute." The longest song of the album quickly tears into heavy riffs, lightning fast drumming, and fantastic bass work from Joe Raposo. The intensity doesn't wane as drummer Dave Raun steers the band through the very quick "Dark Matter," the album as a whole proving once again that he remains at the top with drummers in the genre in regards to creativity, cleanliness, and stamina.

"Fan Fiction" totally resets the clock at a great moment in the record, bringing a completely different tempo, and introducing grungy guitars and giant choruses. The total banger resolves with enough residual energy to welcome the much more somber "Pray For Them." The three minute anthem referencing the general dispute of "thoughts and prayers" is loaded with nods to No Use For A Name's songwriting structure, from single guitar leads over quick snare/kick syncopation, to rolling verses over double-time drums. Intentionally inspired or not, it is fantastic to connect Cape's lyrics and the band's instrumentals to Tony Sly at any capacity, and the song is certainly one of the (many) high points of the album.

"Auf Widersehen" is a terrific invitation towards the completion of Railer. It carries a lot of the fundamentals of a classic Lagwagon song, a traditional half-time intro into quick verses, an empty bridge to send Cape's vocal point home into gnarly guitar solos, and succeeding with the task of following historic formulas in the band's repertoire without the song sounding rehashed or phoned in, which is sadly what has become of a lot of newer material from punk veterans that are still pumping out records these days.

Not Lagwagon, not even close. They've handed us a full length of refreshing A-plus thrashers and even finished the record with a top notch punk standard of Journey's "Faithfully." The tune, written about Steve Perry's bouts of loneliness on tour away from his family, even meets the central theme of Railer. This record is killer. Buy it.