In his various roles as underground hardcore legend (Coalesce), emo icon (the Get Up Kids), sideman to the stars (My Chemical Romance, New Found Glory) or as ringleader of Reggie And The Full Effect, it’s all good for James Dewees, even when it’s crap. Consider Last Stop: Crappy Town, a sonic diary detailing Dewees’ travails between marriages, touring gigs, rounds of drinks, lines of Bolivian marching powder and personal redemption. The synthesizer-based pop of previous Full Effect discs has been replaced with raging guitars played through amp stacks larger than Jared Leto’s ego, resulting in charging riffage that complements Dewees lyrics of fucking things up and getting on “the right track.” Literally: All of the songs are named after the various train lines he took to get to his rehab meetings. Although there’s plenty of Slipknot-covering-Nirvana thrashing angst going on, “Smith & 9th” is a textured pop gem that wouldn’t offend indie-tronica snobs; “R” sounds like a second cousin to MCR’s “Helena”; “V” is Dewees’ take on the Muse songbook; and the stark, atmospheric respites (“3rd Ave,” “Lorimer St,” “36th St”) give the proceedings a needed rest from the action. It’s a quantum (and clever) leap for Dewees, but it’s also the most satisfying record in the Full Effect canon.
Nirvana’s In Utero
Coalesce’s 0:12 Revolution In Just Listening
IN-STORE SESSION WITH JAMES DEWEES
Wasn’t this supposed to be two separate records, one pop and one heavier?
That was the talk two years ago. I let Vagrant sort out what they wanted to do and went out on tour with My Chem. I’d be online once a month and send them an e-mail saying, “Whatever, I’m in no rush.” I recorded more poppier songs in Kansas City. They turned out good, but by the time I stopped adding stuff, you couldn’t hear the vocals or the drums were gone, and I couldn’t figure out what I did. [Laughs.]
You live in Long Island. You’ve remarried. You’ve been around the world with My Chem. So what the hell do you have to feel crappy about?
The album was originally written and recorded in 2006. I put myself in a pretty dark place [back then]; I didn’t feel particularly funny at all when I recorded it. I had a hard time adjusting to New York. You can have a month’s worth of fun in a night. I turned 30, and I’m like, “I feel young! I can still go out and do this!” [Laughs.] Finally, my wife broke it down for me: “You’ve done all this before. Why don’t you open a new chapter and start doing things you didn’t do when you were in your 20s?” She meant both in my music and life, and she was totally right. I checked myself into a rehab clinic down by Coney Island. That’s the premise of the subway theme on the record-that’s my trip to rehab and back. I started on the G train, stopped at 6th and 9th and transferred to the F. I got to thinking how subway cars are kind of metaphor for what you do in life. Every decision you make-getting on a train to go somewhere-and in order to get to where you need to go, you make all these transfers. To me, [the album] was a reflection of all these decisions.
So Crappytown equals rehab.
Totally. I’d be sitting in a room full of 40-year-old Hispanic and Afro-Americans and I’m hearing stories from dudes who slit people’s throats over two grand in drug money. Stories about the 10th time Carlos threw his wife down the stairs. There was another dude who was there listening to these stories just for fun because he had nothing better to do. I didn’t talk too much when I was there; there were dudes handcuffed to chairs and shit. [Laughs.] That’s where the darkness comes from in the album-the fact that I was on my way to being a statistic.
Are you afraid that Crappytown’s abject heaviness is gonna put some fans off?
If I’m given the chance to explain the record, I’m sure kids will understand. I’m 32 years old; I can’t be writing synthy, hokey pop songs forever. That’s a living hell. It’s like writing joke songs about Snickers bars; if I had to do that forever, I’d feel like I did horrible things in my life and that is what Satan wants me to do. [Adopts tyrannical bellow.] “More songs about Snickers! Not enough!”