Lagwagon - Putting Music In Its Place
Record Label - Fat Wreck Chords
Release Date - November 22, 2011
How do you review a collection of tracks by a band that has been around since you were still in grade school? That is the question I asked myself when I took on the daunting task of Lagwagon, a band synonymous with royalty when it comes to punk rock. Looking at a collection as massive as Putting Music In Its Place is quite the task to say the least. Five records, something like 140 songs. This is not your begrudging record label trying to make a few extra bucks re-issue. I might even go as far as saying this isn’t your average box set considering the ridiculous amount of extra music squeezed into this baby. While I may not be the reigning expert on anything Lagwagon, I can tell you that the appreciation for progression and revisiting the past is by all means worth delving into this monster – though anyone besides the serious Lagwagon fan might be hard pressed to agree with that statement and drop the money for the entirety of this collection. But from the rougher, energetic cuts of Duh to the melodically-charged tracks of Let's Talk About Feelings, this box set easily documents the ups and downs of a band that has stood as a monument to punk rock for the twenty years since their first proper full-length.
Putting Music In Its Place spans roughly six years worth of Lagwagon releases, from their 1992 debut Duh to the band’s fifth LP Let’s Talk About Feelings (1998) – the last pre-hiatus album from the band. A number of these tracks made their way unto the compilation disc Let’s Talk About Leftovers, but since that was put out in 2000 and Lagwagon has plans for touring this year, it seems like now is the time to re-ignite the passion for a band who made a huge mark on the punk rock scene. Each disc gets the re-issue treatment, including added bonus tracks and additional liner notes. From the first disc of the set, Duh, we can easily see the expansive nature of this collection. Jumping to 38 tracks from the original 14, this highly influential punk record sounds just as raw and relentless as before – with acoustic, demo and outtake versions thrown into the back-end of the disc. Hearing super rough versions of tracks like “Beer Goggles” and “Noble End” sounds like you were standing outside of a poorly sound-proofed studio, also known as standing outside your friend’s house, while the band was rehearsing these tracks. While Duh is the most expansive of the five, as the re-issue includes two complete demo collections the band wrote when Lagwagon went by the name Section 8, the rest of the collection doesn’t skimp on the extras when it comes to the tracks themselves. Whether it be the demo-heavy Trashed or the acoustic b-sides of Let’s Talk About Feelings, there is enough here to make this a needed addition to any serious Lagwagon fan, as well as those who might be interested in delving deeper into individual records themselves. Remastering the records has a slight difference to the records as well, although the earlier work probably has the more noticeable tweaks made to them as opposed to Let's Talk About Feelings. It's not a huge jump as remixing would have been, but it was enough to take the time to redo dozens of tracks that it makes it at least respectable to know they took the time to do it.
The ups and downs of Lagwagon's musical output are also apparent here, as the debate as to what album stands atop the mountain is certainly up for argument. While the classic feel of Duh is apparent from opener of "Tragic Vision" and Feelings' "Leave the Light On" is textbook melodic punk-rock, Hoss more often than not seems to be the most enjoyable of the bunch for me – even if the vocal department is not as strong in spots and the cover of the album could be one of the more recognizable in all of modern punk rock. That is if we can consider an album from 1995 modern. I can even hear bits of future Blink 182 songs spliced throughout these records (Hoss'"Bombs Away"), even more proof of the influence this band on the later creations of the genre.
As far as the non-musical side of things, it is certainly interesting to look at what the band had to say in the expanded liner notes for each release. If there is anything to say about them as a whole, it is that while being more than reflective at points, it would be just as easy to point out the humor-riddled nature of Lagwagon. There’s the story behind the cover of Trashed, complete with Chris Flippin’s reason for displeasure for having to wear a soccer uniform and why the band was even taking a picture as a soccer, er football, team in the first place. Then there’s Flippin attempting to make an offer to get the band’s old banner back in the notes for Hoss. But between stories of member switching, misfortunes at Warped Tour and failed titles for what would end up being Double Plaidinum, we get viewpoints from members past and present that tie up the Lagwagon story with some nice anecdotes and a small dose of deadpan humor.
But in the retrospective purpose of Putting Music In Its Place, we can get a feel for what Lagwagon meant to a scene that has seemingly stayed strong despite many of its more classic records being made over a decade ago. You can hear how bands like Green Day and Blink 182 would eventually spawn out of a movement like this, especially with the melodically upbeat leaning tracks Lagwagon would start to hover towards as time went on. Yet, even ten plus years after the final chapter of this collection, the gritty, crunchy tracks of Lagwagon still ring with urgency and energy – a true testament to how important this band was and still is to the punk rock movement.
I can’t say that everyone should take the time and money to get their hands on Putting Music In Its Place, which from front to back is Lagwagon's chapter on a retrospective look into a past of passionate, angst-tinged punk rock. But if you’re even considering it, let me tell you the music itself is completely worth your time and/or money. Hell, it might even refuel your once dissipating enjoyment for Lagwagon. Consider this your opportunity to revisit more recent history, as the musical progression and personal reflections make this box set a true experience for even the most casual of Lagwagon fans.
*Please note that I did not have the physical box set in front of me, however there are plenty of places where you can find out about the extras contained therein. Please also note that my scores for this are reflective of the box set as a whole and not necessarily reflective of any one particular album or song.
this is well worth $40. You're getting 6 CDs and a DVD for $40. 140 songs and a DVD for $40. So the value shouldn't even be in question.
Lagwagon are one of my favorite punk bands of all time. I think their nuanced style of "skate punk" is much more interesting than, say, Pennywise or other, on the surface, like-sounding bands. At first, a casual listener will find little that distinguishes Lagwagon from their contemporaries (NOFX, No Use For A Name, Pennywise, etc.). They did the melodic-hardcore, super-fast, skate-pop-punk thing, and they did it well.
but once you get past surface comparisons and hear their nuance, you truly appreciate what was different about them. Musically, they were like the prog-rock of skate-punk. the transitions can be jarring, the tecnical aspect of the music so impressive, rediculous drum fills, odd time breakdowns, etc.
I always found them great vocally as well, with Joey sounding like a less obnoxious Fat Mike, or a less nasally Jordan Pundik.
also, Joey Cape's lyrics are intensely contemplative and personal. Sure their early albums had some goofy lyrics, songs liek Beer Googles, Goin South, Lazy, Stokin' the Neighbors...but it was always tempered with more serious material, from the social-commentary of songs like "island of shame" (about homophobia), "give it back" (about abuse) and so on.
And of course the breakup/relationship songs....SOOO much better than the typical pop-punk breakup lyrics....the imagery in songs like "violins" or "27th street" are pure poetry, and evoke a more emotional response from the listener than, say, a Blink 182 breakup song. Even their early breakup material like "whipping boy" is solid.
And the songs about loss are incredible. It's another topic Joey has always seems to draw a lot of inspriation from. Songs like "leave the light on".
Anyone looking to get their hands on a big piece of enjoyable 90s punk should get this, however, the re-issues are also available ala cart, so if you don't want to spring for it, I would suggest getting the highlights of their career, first and foremost, "Hoss", their seminal 1995 album. Half the songs are setlist staples to this day and the other half are just as good. they hit their peak on that album and really found their sound.
the more experimntal sound of "double plaidinum" is also great, as is the cohesive experience of "lets talk about feelings", which is as good of a way to spend 30 minutes of your listening time as any.
"duh" pales in comparison to their later material, although it shows you the foundation of where they started and it is a classic in its own right...we're talking 1992 here, and their sound at that time was superior to mid-late 80s punk in the similar style of theirs, and it paved the way for the decade of quality albums they would put out after "duh". I believe "duh" was the first album Fat Wreck Chords ever released, and Lagwagon was Fat Mikes first signing. "Trashed' really showed how much they grew.
lastly, the remastering process makes these albums sound fresh again, and they sonically stand up to anything being put out today. "Trashed" and "Hoss" seem to have benefited the most from the remastering process. Also, bonus-track wise, "Hoss" and "let's talk about feelings" are your best value, as the 5 b-sides from the HOss sessions are unsurprisingly as solid as the 14 songs that made the cut for the original album, and "let's talk about feelings" had almost as many quality b-sides as there were songs on the album.
For your average music fan, an 85% makes sense. But if you're a big Lagwagon fan this is pretty much a must-own.
The remastering is solid--freshening the sound while doing justice to the originals. And the b-sides are loaded. Quality b-sides, not-as-good-as-the-original-but-still-interesting demos, beautiful acoustic cuts...Pretty much everything a fan could want.
If you're a huge Lagwagon fan? Buy this immediately. If you like the Swellers? Pick up Hoss to see where that band came from, and buy this after you're in love.