Written by: PP on 23/12/2019 22:27:36

Lagwagon couldn't have picked better artwork for "Railer" if they tried: an older cap-wearing dude with jean shorts on a rail with inline rollerblades seemingly having the time of his life with earbuds probably blasting skate punk in the background. There's even a couple of skateboards on the cover, depicting exactly what this record is all about: a no-bullshit, straight-up return to 90s skate punk with no excuses. Just tight, ripping guitars with furious solos and technical leads, coupled with Joey Cape's dark, brooding off-tune croons and mouthwatering melodies to boot.

But let's take a step back for a second. Many attest that Lagwagon's heyday was back in the 90s and name-drop "Trashed", "Hoss" or maybe even "Let's Talk About Feelings" as their best material. And sure enough, these are genre classics if not outright masterpieces. But for me, the best Lagwagon came later - much later in fact - with the tragic suicide of original drummer Derrick Plourde in 2005. Although he didn't play with Lagwagon since 1995, his death had a devastating impact on the band members, resulting in their career masterpiece "Resolve" in 2005.

This is where Lagwagon steered away from the cheerful skate punk melodies to a darker - much darker - place indeed. "Hang" followed up nine years later, and continue along the lines of "Resolve": dark riffage, murky but crisp production, and Joey Cape sounding angrier than ever before. The instrumentals were more intricate aside from usual the breakneck speed skate punk riffage, resulting in another masterpiece...

...which brings me back to "Railer", their first release in five years, and what a goddamn great record it is. Some of the all-time best material Lagwagon has written is on this album, no exaggeration. Is "Jini" not one of the greatest Lagwagon songs ever written? 27 years after their debut no less. What about the dark twists of "Dangerous Animal"? Or the choral melodies used in both as well as "Stealing Light"? We haven't heard a darkstyle Lagwagon this good since "Resolve" material.

It's as if Lagwagon knew exactly what we wanted - delivering their fan goods of signature style, inimitable skate punk while innovating slightly and expanding their soundscape to a wholly new level to keep their expression fresh and relevant. And does Joey Cape not feel like fine wine - getting only better as he matures and grows older? "Dark Matter", for instance? What a banger of a track with a spectacular vocal melody. I bet you didn't expect the band to be capable of writing songs this brilliant so late into their career.

"Railer" shreds, rips and tears all the way through. There isn't a single song on the record that shouldn't be there, and I haven't even namedropped the sociopolitical critique "Pray Away" yet and its magnificent gun control rhetoric sandwiched between its infectiously catchy melody and chorus. Which basically captures "Railer" in a nutshell: instantly memorable hooks drive home skate punk songs for the ages. This, my friends, is how a genre masterpiece and a new benchmark sounds like. Could "Railer" even be crowned as the best Lagwagon album to date as we start looking back at this release in a couple of years? After spinning it for a good couple of months and having been a fan of the band since the early 2000s, I'm inclined to say yes. Yes, it fucking is. A near-perfect glimpse into how godlike skate punk sounds like.

Download: Jini, Dangerous Animal, Stealing Light, Dark Matter, Bubble
For the fans of: NOFX, Bad Religion, No Use For A Name
Listen: Facebook

Release date 04.10.2019
Fat Wreck Chords

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