Since their start in the early 1990s, Santa Barbara-based skate-punk rascals Lagwagon have penned tons of great tracks: "Razor Burn" (the best song ever written about looking like a member of ZZ Top), "After You My Friend" (the best song featuring an elevator music interlude), "Leave the Light On" (the best song with Jacob's Ladder dialogue), and "May 16" (the best song from a Tony Hawk game--well, that's one harder to decide). As they've crafted their hook-heavy discography, Lagwagon have also done a bunch of covers along the way. In celebration of the band's date this Saturday at House of Blues in Anaheim with Cobra Skulls and Nothington, let's revisit and rate every cover Lagwagon has committed to record. Don't worry, there are only nine of 'em.
(Oh, and a quick note as we start: For years, a skate-punk version of Kim Wilde's "Kids in America" has been mistakenly attributed to, among others, Lagwagon, Pennywise, NOFX, and MxPx, probably because someone misnamed a file on Napster or Kazaa way back when. It belongs to none of those groups. Instead, it was recorded by Fourth Grade Nothing and appeared on the Bio-Dome soundtrack. Why can't the world afford Pauly Shore/Stephen Baldwin collaborations the respect they deserve?)
"Brown Eyed Girl" (from Trashed)
Van Morrison's folky earworm is a frequent cover favorite. Jimmy Buffett, U2, and Bruce Springsteen have given it a go, and on the punkier end, Weezer, Green Day, and Reel Big Fish have done it, too. In a sly touch, Lagwagon's version starts out with the same placid intro as the original. Then, to remind you that this ain't Van you're listening to, the band launches all their instruments off at the same time, creating a great little fireworks display that continues through the rest of the track. There's something immensely satisfying about the "Sha-la-la-la-la-la-la-la-la-la-la-dee-dah" that rests as the song's chewy, sweet center, and Lagwagon wisely capitalize on it.
"No One Like You" (From Let's Talk About Leftovers)
Oh, this is where things get good. Really, it's best to imagine Lagwagon's version of Scorpions' "No One Like You" being recited in the deadened, murderous monotone of American Psycho's Patrick Bateman. Yeah, Bateman wasn't a pedophile, but if he was, he'd probably talk just like the creep in this song, dropping would-be come-ons like "I've been wanting your 12 year-old love" and "I've been watching you since you were four." Whoever the vocalist of this track is (choruses aside, it isn't Cape), he does a hell of a job by making the phrases "Word up," "Kick it," and "Killer pussy" sound unnervingly sinister. The music itself has real force, too, allowing this to transcend from mere cover to an insidious piss-take on an overbearing, corny song. Plus, when you consider that the writers of "No One Like You" once put a naked prepubscent girl on their record cover, this cover somehow grows even smarter and more subversive. Rating: 4/4
"Back One Out" (from Trashed)
Non-hip-hop groups doing covers of hip-hop songs usually make for awful listens. They're almost always designed as wink-wink jokes that exist for the sake of absurdity and irony. (Look! It's white people who probably don't listen to this predominantly black genre doing songs that purposely defy the subject matter they usually write about! Haha! Lame.) Lagwagon's take on LL Cool J's "Mama Said Knock You Out" doesn't do much to buck that trend, as it condenses the song's gist and changes the lyrics to make it about taking a shit. Lagwagon are usually way wittier than lousy bathroom humor, so this one's a disappointment. When it comes to rock versions of "Mama," Street Sweeper Social Club have Lagwagon beat. However, kudos to "Back One Out" for starting with quippy dialogue from the under-loved 1994 Bruce Willis flickThe Last Boy Scout
Milo: You think you're so fuckin' cool, don't you? You think you're so fuckin' cool. Well just once, I would like to hear you scream--in pain.
Joe Hallenbeck: Play some rap music.
"Bring on the Dancing Horses" (from Let's Talk About Leftovers)
Of all the songs on this list, Echo & The Bunnymen's synth-inflected '80s song requires the most care and precision to get it right. It's a very melancholy, tranquil song. Lagwagon don't do anything to spice it up and just treat it with sincerity and earnestness. It hardly produces as much impact as the Echo version, but it's still immensely listenable. Since the 'wagon cover isn't on YouTube, bum yourself out to the original instead.
"No One Like You" (From Let's Talk About Leftovers)
Oh, this is where things get good. Really, it's best to imagine Lagwagon's version of Scorpions' "No One Like You" being recited in the deadened, murderous monotone of American Psycho's Patrick Bateman. Yeah, Bateman wasn't a pedophile, but if he was, he'd probably talk just like the creep in this song, dropping would-be come-ons like "I've been wanting your 12 year-old love" and "I've been watching you since you were four." Whoever the vocalist of this track is (choruses aside, it isn't Cape), he does a hell of a job by making the phrases "Word up," "Kick it," and "Killer pussy" sound unnervingly sinister. The music itself has real force, too, allowing this to transcend from mere cover to an insidious piss-take on an overbearing, corny song. Plus, when you consider that the writers of "No One Like You" once put a naked prepubscent girl on their record cover, this cover somehow grows even smarter and more subversive.Rating
"Everything Turns Grey" (from Let's Talk About Feelings)
Lagwagon's recreation of this Agent Orange track is straightforward and dull. This is just a '90s punk band taking an '80s punk track and modifying it just slightly. In Lagwagon's hands, "Everything" feels lightweight, losing some of the searing cool contained in the original's surf punk, even though the slowing of the tempo pre-chorus (at "This is it, the darkness") is a nice touch. What's most surprising about Lagwagon covering Agent Orange is that they didn't do "Bloodstains," which has been the go-to choice for The Offspring, L7, and several others.Rating
"Freedom of Choice" (From Let's Talk About Leftovers)
Devo's "Freedom of Choice" is a half-cartoony commentary on consumerism that doesn't quite go entirely over the top. Lagwagon revs it up, tears off the goofy veneer, and makes it sound like it would go really well on the soundtrack of a mid-'90s teen movie. It's a competent and fun cover, even if it doesn't take any real risks.
"Want" (from Let's Talk About Leftovers)
Even though they dissolved without achieving huge success, Jawbreaker are one of punk rock's most of immensely coverable bands. Fall Out Boy, Face to Face, and Lucero are three of the dozens of acts who have gleefully revived the carefully constructed work of Blake Schwarzenbach and friends. "Want" is one of Jawbreaker's cheerier, more optimistic songs, and Lagwagon very much focus on the positivity. The great thing about Schwarzenbach's singing was the way he added raw, burning inflections to his voice when delivering a lyric he really, truly felt. On Lagwagon's "Want," Cape, however, sounds like he's trying to lighthearted and adorable, which slices away all the original's layers of tortured power. Jawbreaker's intro also rides in with this decisive, demanding energy, whereas the Lagwagon take feels slightly looser, which doesn't do it any favors.
"Losing Everyone" (from Let's Talk About Leftovers)
If you'd like to imagine a mosh pit in the confines of your skull for a minute and 50 seconds, throw on Lagwagon's incarnation of "Losing Everyone." This take on Drag the River is a feisty, accelerated contrast to the low-key, alt-country original, and it gets the job done with little hassle. Solid work.
"Bad Moon Rising" (from Duh)
Lagwagon's incarnation of Creedence Clearwater Revival's "Bad Moon Rising" stands apart from the rest of their covers. Led by an amiable country-fied guitar, its pace is mostly lackadiscal, only ever speeding up at the chorus. But in this case, the understated vibe works very, very well. Since this came from Lagwagon's first record, the group sounds like a high school band doing CCR for shits and giggles, but it sounds fantastic. The chorus alone is great fun.
If you like this story, consider signing up for our email newsletters.
SHOW ME HOW
You have successfully signed up for your selected newsletter(s) - please keep an eye on your mailbox, we're movin' in!
To cap this guide off (Did we forget any?), let's look at two covers of Lagwagon songs by other bands. Watch Yellowcard do "Violins" and The Swellers' version of the brilliant "May 16."