Dealing with the loss of a loved one is difficult, regardless of who you are, what you do, or how it happened. When Derrick Plourde, former drummer of Lagwagon, and at the time drummer for Bad Astronaut, decided to take his own life, it impacted an entire community.
One of the most impacted, at least verbally, would be Joey Cape, the man behind Lagwagon and Bad Astronaut, and longtime friend of Derrick. In dealing with the loss, Joey wrote and released the most heartfelt and direct Lagwagon album to date, Resolve. Then, with some of the soon-to-be final Bad Astronaut album completed, Joey wrestled with the idea of whether to complete the album without Derrick, or just let it go. He opted to push forward. To complete the project he and his friend started, and put it to rest. Twelve Small Steps, One Giant Disappointment is what came forward, the final chapter of Bad Astronaut.
Though I own their first album, and have heard the second, I've never been much more than a casual listener. But much like I found with Resolve, sometimes the most unfortunate experiences in life draw out the best in us. To me, Resolve is the best Lagwagon album to date, and Twelve Small Steps, One Giant Disappointment is the best Bad Astronaut album of their short history.
What we end up listening to is essentially two different albums in one. "Ghostwrite" is a very heavily rock-based tune, similar to Lagwagon's material, and basic in style, compared to previous BA material. The higher energy, uptempo tracks like "Go Humans," "Autocare," and opener "Good Morning Night" provide a diverse comparison to some of the album's darker and more personal reflections. "Stillwater, California," with its very relaxed tone, makes reference to Derrick's death (yet apparently the vocals and other instruments were laid over drum tracks performed by him), and represents one of the album's more chilling moments. The lighter acoustic guitar infused "One Giant Disappointment" also transfers similar emotions with Joey singing:
I saw more than hands with splinters from sticks,While Bad Astronaut has always been a vehicle for experimentation in the sometimes jaded and stagnant world of punk rock, the basic display of genuine feelings found in Twelve Small Steps, One Giant Disappointment is hard to look beyond. I don't generally find myself very emotional over records, but to look beyond what is presented here would be absurd. An obvious struggle is seen between two very different feelings, and the end result is an album, though deep in production value, is very raw with personal feeling. Though I can certainly understand the reluctance to finalize it, I'm glad we were able to witness a project being appropriately put to rest, the last goodbye from one friend to another. Joey really put it best, with the song "Beat:"
It made me sick
And I still haven't fully comprehended it...
Today, I finished what we started,
Today, I thought you might be proud,
We have recorded your defeat
An album always incomplete