Lagwagon – Railer (Fat Wreck)

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Some bands leave an indelible stamp on your soul.  Whether you know it or not, they leave their mark on you and become part of everything that you were, are and will be; and that’s  exactly what Lagwagon did to me. Having first crossed paths with them when they were touring ‘Trashed’ and played TJ’s, to a club “filled” with maybe thirty people, less than two years later my then band supported them when they played the same club on the ‘Hoss’ tour to a packed  beyond capacity crowd.  It’s fair to say that Lagwagon and yours truly have shared some history, and while the band almost certainly don’t know me from Adam, I know them and that’s all that matters to me.

Musically, we haven’t always seen eye to eye and I’m not the biggest fan of some of their records, but their good has always outweighed their bad and even though I don’t really appreciate certain chapters in their back catalogue, I’ve always understood where Lagwagon were coming from, because their music always came from the heart. That’s just who they are. They don’t know any other way to do what they do. It’s all or nothing with Lagwagon, and that more than anything else is what makes them special. They’ve always done things their way and they always will.

That said, Railer is easily one of the highlights of their near thirty year existence and the moment the opening riff to Stealing Light kicked in, I was catapulted straight back to the late nineties. Railer isn’t just a Lagwagon record, it’s an album that sums up an era and coalesces everything that was and wraps it lovingly in the warm embrace of everything that is.  As a band, they haven’t sounded this tight or energised since Trashed and Hoss and there isn’t a single song on this record that you won’t be singing along with until your lungs burst or suffer an embolism mid chorus. I defy anyone not to completely lose their mind to, and go gaga for, Jini, Bubble or Surviving California. It’s absolutely true, absence really does make the heart grow fonder and Railer has made me fall head over heels in love with Lagwagon all over again…  Tim Cundle

Writing a review for a band you have a deep personal affection for, it turns out, is a lot harder than you would think. Especially when its for an album of the calibre of Railer, Lagwagon’s ninth studio album. Not only were Lagwagon my first live band, they were my ‘gateway’ band into Punk. As a lank and greasy nineteen-year-old Death Metal fan, seeing Lagwagon on the Hoss tour in Birmingham in the mid-nineties was an eye opener. The energy, the passion, the humour, the intelligence and the cynicism were all intoxicating and that’s exactly how I’ve felt again today listening to their latest release some twenty-three years later.

Stealing Light opens setting both the tone and pace for Railer and makes you sit up and take notice.  Joey Cape’s lyrics have always been the dark lure of Lagwagon’s poppy melodies and sing-along choruses and Surviving California’s musical sunshine soon clouds over when you listen to what you are being told and the chorus of Jini, possibly one of the catchiest ever, is just a little bit heart-breaking.

Parable’s hauntingly beautiful opening catches you by surprise but works incredibly well and Dangerous Animal hooks you in with Raposo’s Bass and never lets go. Bubble and The Suffering both carry thought provoking themes and Dark Matter is one I relate to very deeply, with some simple yet stunning lyrical imagery.

Fan Fiction is a sleazy riffing joy and Pray For Them has a melancholic, almost epic feel to it, given urgency by Cape’s singing of the chorus. Auf Wiedersehen opens expansively before tightening down and frantically sending its message which does almost feel like the goodbye the name implies. The most Lagwagonny cover of Faithfully by Journeycloses the album, because damn, Lagwagon do a mighty fine cover.

It’s safe to say Railer is nothing short of spectacular. This is the band pulling out all the stops and giving us the full benefit of their 29 year existence. The crisp production allows all the band to shine, be it the distinct dual guitars of the Chris’s, Flippin and Rest, that give Lagwagon that distinct melodic energy, or the wandering, deep bass lines of Joe Raposo. Dave Raun keeps driving them all forward together with drumming that blows your mind but never shows off. Over it all we have Joey Cape of course, that distinctive voice that says just as much as his lyrics at times. It’s not often you listen to albums and don’t want to skip tracks, but this is like a best of, it has it all. For many, many reasons Railer may well be my album of the year. Take a bow gentlemen, you deserve it and then some. Jeff Goddard

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