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For a band with the history and credibility that Lagwagon boasts, their new album Blaze seems like nothing more than a release by one of the bands of the current pop-punk craze that Lagwagon probably influenced. I suppose there is another way to look at it though. Perhaps Blaze sounds so produced and radio friendly because they think that this punk "revolution" (otherwise known as the 8th coming of punk) might be their chance to break into the mainstream. I completely sympathize with the band if that is the case, but that doesn't mean that they should be cranking out albums that just aren't as good as this band really is.
Case in point: track #5, "Falling Apart," could have actually come off Blink 182's Take Off My Pants and Jacket (or Dude Ranch or Enema of the State for that matter). More than half of the song sounds like Mark Hopus has taken over, and Tom Delong is backing him, but I know I'm listening to Lagwagon. This track just blew my mind in its' similarity to this other, already completely sold out, pop punk band. I thought Lagwagon might have had a little more credibility in this area, but apparently not.
Not every track on this album sounds like another, more well known, and commercially successful punk band, because a lot of the tracks all seem to be influenced from somewhere else. For example, the emergence of emo in the past five years since Lagwagon released Let's Talk About Feelings is evident on a handful of tracks. I know "melodic punk" has always kind of been Lagwagon's thing, and that's kind of where they make it to on this album, not fully plunging into the vast, whiney abyss that is emo. One track in particular stands out above the others in radio friendliness as well as sheer good songness, track number two, "E Dagger," is one of the best sounding tracks on this album, and if it is marketed correctly could be the track for Lagwagon and Fat to push on the mainstream.
I know it sounds like I'm saying Blaze is nothing more than an attempt by an almost 15 year old band to "grow" and "mature" by copying what is being accepted by the mainstream today as their own and run with it. However, Blaze, on the whole, is not a very bad album. Even though you may think that it sounds like some other bands, it does showcase Lagwagon's talents, as well as prove that even punk bands can grow up as time passes. Fans of the band will enjoy most of this album, as well as Lagwagon's endless touring. They're a good band, what can I say, but even good bands occasionally put out albums that could be better if there was just a tablespoonful more punk, and a pinch less of trying to fit in the mainstream.
Jason Cipriano is the Senior Editor. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.