Lagwagon - Blaze (Cover Artwork)
Staff Pick


Blaze (2003)

Fat Wreck Chords

Finally… it's the new Lagwagon album. Joey has been busy with the Gimmes and Bad Astronaut the past few years, and he has come back to the ‘wagon with a fresh outlook. Right off the bat in the first track you can hear the Bad Astronaut coming through in "Burn," with its laid-back tempo and mellow arpeggiated chords in the guitars. Other songs have similar moments, and other tracks blur the lines between slow Lagwagon and fast Bad Astronaut. But never fear old time Lagwagon fans, they always burst back into the break-neck double time beats and ultra fast riffs. These guys may be getting old, but they aren't letting up on the energy.

They give us a bit more than usual this time around: 14 tracks, the most they've put on an album since "Duh", and 41 minutes of music, which is really long considering their previous CD "Let's talk about Feelings" was a mere 25 minutes. They better give us more after waiting four years!

One of my favorites is "Billy Club," an awesome moderate tempo rocker with an Angus Cooke cello intro, and a sweet n' simple vocal melody with a slight distortion effect over it. "Burn," the opener I mentioned earlier, is another favorite. With its multiple tempo changes, it covers some less familiar ground for the band, while still touching on the recognizable hyperactive punk tempos, topped off with a metal guitar solo. "Max Says" appears to be straight-ahead classic Lagwagon with a blistering tempo and great vocal harmonies, but this track injects a little something you don't hear much from these guys with the breakdown full of meter changes that settles into 4/4 to build into the last chorus.

Joey Cape's lyrics are still top-notch, and he handles serious and not-so-serious subject matters perfectly. "Never Stops" starts with an acoustic guitar intro, and quickly bursts into a fast-paced song condemning the massive patriotism that stemmed from 9/11. "Fanatics on their knees pray for swift and just revenge / Become what they condemn / Mirror image men / Hands across America, let's catch contact hysteria" is a great one, and I love the lines "Colors of democracy / fly from every SUV / The misspelled bumper sticker's here / Where did all the honor students go?" On lighter notes, in "I Must Be Hateful" Lagwagon pays homage to Jawbreaker, one of their favorite bands, and "Falling Apart" contains funny yet telling lyrics like: "Blue hair, brown teeth / Failing livers, defeat / Maybe we will try to pull it off / For another year." Take this clue and go see Lagwagon while you can.

"Blaze" was worth the wait, but not quite up to par with "Trashed" for diversity (though Trashed is diverse in different ways, ie: metal) and not quite up to "Hoss" in terms of overall quality, those being their two classic albums. However, it does delve into some unfamiliar areas for the band, while still keeping their edge and trademark sound. It keeps the great lyrics and melodies you can expect from the band, as well as the high energy. It's a solid album worth a listen, and a must for fans since it may be their last.