Lagwagon – ‘Hang’ track by track
Lagwagon released Hang, their first full-lengh in nine years, late last month via Fat Wreck Chords. We've paired up with frontman Joey Cape to guide you guys through the 12-track concept record, both musically and lyrically.
Photo Credit: Lisa Johnson
“Burden Of Proof/Reign”
Music: I see this as a throwback to our earlier years. In fact, the working title was “Typical Joey Song.”
Lyrics: I find the lack of accountability people of faith are willing to have disturbing. We all create our problems, but they can forego guilt. Faith absolves us of any responsibility for our actions or lack thereof. Grand design can be a grand excuse. Whatever tragedies we incur can be seen as God’s will. Many people find comfort in the belief that we are here temporarily and have some place to go in the afterlife. They believe there are larger forces than nature. Too many see a reward in following the party line or chosen doctrine in unwavering faith without questioning the repercussions. So many believe they cannot have happiness or even compassion and practice good deeds without help from their faith. I rarely see evidence of the modern good Samaritan. It is less and less important for us to coexist and have empathy. Especially if the faithful believe there will be salvation for their dedication alone. In their lifetime and of course their offspring’s lives, diminishing land and resources will bring more conflict and sadly, the worse things get, the more the faithful will see a confirmation of their God’s will and they may be righteously justified in their fears and for their actions. They may find apathy rather than empathy. They may react with worship rather than goodwill. It’s a conflict of interest and a complete disregard for our children, other species and our planet’s future. There is an arrogance and condemnation built in to the belief that you will be saved. Any true believer knows how others can save themselves and believes they are doomed or at least wrong otherwise. So why should they care? Any argument or debate seems futile when it ends with the burden of proof. Science and history give us more tangible facts to consider and learn from and ultimately more compassion.
“Made Of Broken Parts”
Music: It’s a song I feel really fits the Lagwagon mold. It is built on a riff I’ve been carrying for 30 years. I think it finally found the right home.
Lyrics: Addresses the development and detriment of the modern citizen: the fear, mundane routine and resulting complacency, the loss of innate beauty and ultimately mechanical metamorphosis, both physically and mentally, that we all seem to undergo. Inevitably, we seem to be evolving into societies of obsolete machines.
“The Cog In The Machine”
Music: I think "The Cog In The Machine" is the core sound of Lagwagon in our current state. It was the most collaborative of the new songs. Everyone in Lagwagon brought something to the table. For this reason, I think it best represents the new album and might be our best effort of late.
Lyrics: Corporate control is overwhelming. We want to hold them accountable, but acceptance and conformity is an effortless shortcut. Most see action or protest as too daunting, or even futile. But I wanted to point out that abstinence has a powerful voice too. Information regarding the corporate giants, their behavior and their effect on our planet, is not fairly depicted by mainstream media but still easily obtained with a few keystrokes. A brief search can reveal companies we should not support and alternatives. The cynic would say this is an idealist, not a realist point of view, that the behavior will not change just because we shift support but powerful corporations ultimately survive on our monetary support. The trend in behavior can and has changed in the name of tiny increments of loss and profit. It is an ongoing struggle but all we have to do is care enough to keep watching and remember we are the “invisible hand” of the market.
“Poison In The Well”
Music: Bad Religion will always get a musical nod from Lagwagon. At some point, chord progressions are in your musical DNA. “Poison” reminds me that I am, always was, and always will be a huge BR fan and the style will reoccur in my songwriting like Beatles chords.
Lyrics: My observation, and daily diet of disappointment in younger people as I grow older. This is a long time refined, “bitter old man” rant. I have been sharing it in pieces for years with close friends in empty pubs in the wee hours of the midweek. Again, it’s a rant, and slightly embellished, but it feels this way. Like it’s a world of idiotic narcissists, in shallow pursuit, marching in vain to take control the world. Or zombies. Either way. They seem to lack empathy and compassion and any desire for information beyond their immediate misguided needs. Sometimes my daughter and I can barely understand them when they speak, not because of a foreign accent. It is a proud announcement of the dumbing-down of their language. They litter in front of anyone and then look around as if to seek approval for this incredibly brave thing they have done. “Look at me, I don’t give a shit about anyone or anything.” Xenophobia, desensitization and hate are badges of strength. It scares me because my daughter is forced to endure and coexist with these budding sociopaths. They are suffering and sensitive, but have found the way out; ignorance, pride and unkindness are the new encouraged inherited traits. Dopamine is a text message away as everyone looks down at a device because they wouldn’t want to acknowledge anyone or anything else. If you happen to cross eye paths with someone, you might receive a homicidal glare for your mistake. I fantasize that I will grab my daughter and flee from the grid, possibly forage for food, or simply let go, roam and live on the streets, bickering with myself under my breath. Blah, blah, blah. I know it is a moment’s fantasy, but it is cathartic and helps me remain sane to judge. Of course, I am a hypocrite. I do not have any delusions. I am party to this decline, as well. There is poison in the well and I don’t have the antidote.
Music: This was a combination of many riffs I wrote that seem to work together. I wanted this to be the epic of the record. It was originally over seven minutes long but after some consideration Lagwagon trimmed the fat. I really believed this would be the album’s opener. This is why it has the typewriter in the intro. I always wanted to open a record with random typing that eventually conforms to a rhythm. Sometimes the sequence changes for better flow and “Obsolete Absolute” landed where it did in the final sequence.
Lyrics: Refer to the inevitable obsolescence that comes to all machines, traditions, language and living creatures with age. The typewriter being a prime example. The voiceover listing things that are arguably obsolete is by our guitar player Chris Flippin. He is a giant and has the voice for the job.
Music: I think it is a dark “rock” song. It almost reminds me of a Dave Grohl song. That was not intentional, but okay with me.
Lyrics: It is inspired by the history of legal tender, trade and the rise of our debt system through credit and spending beyond one’s means. The title is a double-entendre, I suppose. Settlements as in a stake or claim as well as a compromised debt or lesser settlement. This is the only song that has a character that delivers the lyric. I originally planned to write many narrators into Hang, some reoccurring, but found early on I would need years to manage this. The narrator is a sort of traditional reaper character, death or debt and his scythe. I chose to think of him as Mr. Debt telling his tale. I didn’t actually use the alliteration in the lyrics but this is how I imagined the narrative.
“Burning Out In Style”
Music: In my opinion, this is the only mid-tempo pop-punk song on the record. I have had the song for a while and if I didn’t like it so much, I don’t think I would have brought it to the table. It’s a nice rest musically where it sits in the sequence.
Lyrics: “Burning Out” is about vanity and conformity and how those pursuits are short lived and inevitably unfulfilling.
“One More Song”
Music: Reminds me of Let’s Talk About Feelings-era Lagwagon. It’s fast but has a pop sensibility in its melody. A lot of that album sounded that way. This one is tricky, though. In some ways this is the most progressive arrangement on the record.
Lyrics: This is the sole dedication to Tony Sly and his family on Hang. The song is predominately about loss, grief and the guilt that often follows. We always feel a sense of what we could have done to change the outcome when we lose someone. It’s part of the grieving process, I suppose. I had not planned to write a song for him or his family. Words and music sometimes don’t seem enough. But this song came out of me one day and I could not deny it. Tony was working on a song in Brooklyn in a hotel we shared. That was on the tour the week before he passed. I refer to that work in progress in great disappointment and regret. Yes, I was lucky to hear it, but we will never hear it again as it will never be fully realized or recorded. “One more song” was a chant at the end of Tony’s song “Liver Let Die.” It made sense to me to use it as an idea that one more song could have meant one or more days he was alive to finish the song he was working on. It’s not the importance of the song that is intended to resonate. It is the fact that it could have afforded us one more chance to see him and talk to him.
Music: This is the other song that I had written previously, long before the Hang demo sessions began. “Drag” was on my acoustic record Doesn’t Play Well With Others. It was originally recorded for a project I called Bad Loud, but never released. When Bad Loud made a record years later, I had forgotten about “Drag.” I recently came across the demo and immediately saw that it could be reworked if presented to Lagwagon. I think it works well for Lagwagon and is further proof they should always get first crack at any song I write.
Lyrics: The song speaks to my longtime addiction to nicotine. I began smoking when I was 13 and didn’t quit until I was 45. Like most addictions, it’s a lifelong issue. I will always be a smoker. It is far stranger to not smoke than it is to smoke. I’ll say this: I personally have found many other things much easier to quit then the smokes.
“You Know Me”
Music: This one is a bit of an anomaly when compared to the rest of the record. It is based around a repeating guitar lick that was originally fingerpicked. I think this would have made a good acoustic song. I may record a stripped-down version some day.
Lyrics: Refer to social media and devices and the obvious anti-social consequence and sculpted false identities they bring to the world. The implication being that friends made in cyberspace are not real, but are alluring because your true self and feelings are sheltered and safe. We really don’t have to know each other anymore.
“In Your Wake”
Music: There are moments of Bad Religion again in the verses here. Again, that is a part of me. What’s more interesting is the pre-chorus reminded me so much of a Good Riddance melody that I threw some text painting in the line “We say good riddance to their kind.” It’s not something I would expect Russ and the boys to catch, but it felt good to be transparent.
Lyrics: “In Your Wake” once again tackles the idea of accountability. This is the summation of the record for me musically and lyrically. Being sensitive is painful. There is a guilt that those who feel carry, but it requires acknowledgement of our actions. “It only hurts when your heart beats.” It is easy to live in denial and not face the tension and strife in our world. Those feelings will resurface until they are contemplated. Life is a brutal teacher and you live with the lessons. A sensitive reaction is always the right one, especially when it is coupled with compassion and empathy. It should hurt. Pain is what teaches us what not to do. We learn from our mistakes and the repercussions guide us and mold us into wise people, the people we should become.