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Askew Review 15

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- Blaze (Fat Wreck) Denis gave me the Swingin’ Utters’ Dead Flowers, Bottles, Bluegrass and Bones at the same time he gave me this one.  While Lagwagon was for reviewin’, Swingin’ Utters was intended solely for my enjoyment.  I’ll do my best to stick to that mandate, but as I listened to both releases I felt myself naturally gravitating towards the ‘Utters. While both bands stay true to their very specific respective punk sub-genres, I just liked the Swingin’ Utters more, probably because I really love their ‘80s forebears (Pogues, Social Distortion, etc.) a lot more than I like Lagwagon’s California pop-punk brethren (Cunt 182, etc.).  I think the big factor in all of this is, quite simply, singing style.  Shane MacGowan and Mike Ness rule (and so does the guy from the Swingin’ Utters’ imitation of them!).  The typical pop-punk aw-shucks, surfer dude, slightly nerdy style is like nails on a chalkboard to me.  Strike one against ol’ Lagwagon right out of the gate.  
That said, the more I listened to Blaze, the more I was able to get over my preconceived prejudices.   In fact, I really like track five, “Falling Apart.”  Lagwagon takes a playful shot at themselves in this lament about feeling old when you’re not supposed to yet (I can relate- I get that feeling a lot!).  As an added bonus you even get to see the video for this song when you pop this disc into your computer.  “Max Says” is the punchy worldview of a simple child, and it’s a good ‘un.  “The Dancing Collapse” would be perfect for the rockin’ high school/college party scene in an American Pie movie.  Though I should know better, the chords they play in this song give me a little lump in my throat.  I’ve really written way more than I should about this, so I’ll conclude by saying that if you already like Lagwagon and/or the legions of their pop-punk ilk, you can’t go wrong with this disc.  And even if you’re predisposed NOT to like this like I am, you still may be pleasantly surprised with this one. –Ben Hunter



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