Words by Sean Moeller, Illustration by Johnnie Cluney, Recording engineered by Shawn Biggs
It's really quite funny about those California pop-punkers that everyone saw as big kids back in the days when Fat Wreck Chords and Lookout! were blowing up in the early-to-mid-1990s. They were seen as total goofballs. They were snotty and dying their hair all sorts of fluorescent colors. They made a ton of dick and masturbation jokes. They were the smart asses and the dumb asses, the soccer players and the skateboarders. They were the punks that were too nerdy to be punks, in some ways, so they compensated and came up with something that suited them better, something that allowed them to go around the world, fucking around with their bros, wearing baggy tee-shirts, shorts longer than Chris Webber, Julian Howard and Jalen Rose were wearing and playing these breakneck-styled odes to the woes of their lives. The thing about it all was that they were seen as these super fun bands, dudes just being dudes, devil may caring it all over the place, ready to fart on the first guy who falls asleep's head. They were bands who were always making silly faces in their promo shots, or posing with their pants down in their liner notes as Santa Barbara/Goleta, California's Lagwagon did. They were a band that put people like Dan Blocker/Hoss Cartwright from the television western "Bonanza" on their cover without asking permission first and who thought about naming their subsequent album, "Booger Wookie Suger Cookie," with a picture of Chewie picking his nose and holding a sugar cookie.
For the amount of entertainment the band enticed the lads and lasses (those who were also living in their swim trunks and Vans, skipping class and smoking their first weed) to have - even the amount that they demanded of themselves, it's impossible now, in looking back, not to see so much of the behavior and look as a façade. These dudes were bright as hell and they were up to their ears in constant concerns, deep thoughts and problems that break a spirit pretty damned quickly and easily. Lead singer, Joey Cape, was practically bleeding out his guts in these songs that they put onto albums with juvenile titles and imagery. He was writing songs about excruciating situations, tough times where, even as a young, punk kid, he was preparing any girl who was with him for what was going to be gunning for her down the road. Soon enough, she was going to discover what he really was - a fool and a bitter old man who was never going to be happy or less bitter. He was warning her early to get out while the getting out was good, while she had the chances and the good years left.
Lagwagon posed all of these questions, not necessarily about mortality, but they were the precursor questions that would eventually lead to those questions about life and death and what the hell was any of this good for. One would almost like to think that the speedy guitars and the rabid drumming were a way of signifying this need to make everything count. So much of what Cape sings about and the way he says it - being sick and tired of humoring an asshole or a shitty person or constantly referring to being an old man - seems to be touching on that thought that so much of this is a race. You can be a jack-off and do dumb things when you want to, dye your hair and get piercings and tattoos wherever you'd like, but there's a lot of reality out there to deal with and it's coming to get you. Your sunset is approaching, so don't be too dumb.