Recently there’s been plenty of 90’s rock-and-roll to go around: Pavement and Soundgarden reunions, Nirvana and Pearl Jam reissues, Green Day’s released the same album like five times now. But one of that generation’s truly underrated bandleaders, Joey Cape (of Lagwagon and Bad Astronaut), has also unleashed two solid projects this year: an acoustic solo album, Doesn’t Play Well with Others, and a new band, the Bad Loud.
DPWWO is the follow-up to 2008’s Bridge—with Cape again producing and playing everything, but this time self-releasing. Those album titles reinforce the fact that Cape’s solo ventures don’t fit-in perfectly with traditional acoustic projects of buddies like Jon Snodgrass and Chad Price. Cape isn’t country—he’s pure Paul Simon, pop-cum-rock, don’t give a shit what instruments are in front of you, play your songs because they’re yours and yours only. That’s a strategy that pays off because nobody writes exactly like Cape and, sure as hell, nobody sings like him. However, at the same time, it often feels like Cape’s songs don’t even fit-in within themselves—he’s had some trouble on Bridge and his collaborations with Tony Sly with putting those songs and that voice to music that nails all the potential. This year, he’s hit that sound on the head twice over (I’ll get to the Bad Loud soon). DPWWO stands out in his catalogue because it finds great, subtle, musical textures to support the words and voice. Characteristically, Cape writes about aging, anxieties, relationships, responsibilities—but he throws in a few caustic-but-catchy numbers about white entitlement (“It’s Always Sunny”) and the American war addiction (“Uniform”). The emotional load is lightened by the loving “Montreal” which features soft horns, accordion, and a French interlude a la The Band’s “Acadian Driftwood.”
These poignant lines from the opener “Going for the Bronze” kick the album out of the gate:
“I’ll take what I can get at the finish line / Drafting the pack in the blind / All thoroughbreds in their prime / Bound to show / Running down this lonely road / Forgoing the gold / I’m going for the bronze”
Cape does play well with a couple of others—the album features guest spots by Snodgrass on “I’m Not Gonna Save You” (which appeared on the Cape/Snodgrass split 7″) and Joey’s daughter Violet on “It’s Always Sunny.”
Then Joey Cape formed another band! The Bad Loud is Cape on guitar along with Carl Raether on bass and Asher Simon on drums. There’s also a fair share of Brian Wahlstom’s keys in there. Last Spring, they took a trip to the Blasting Room in Fort Collins, Colorado, where Bill Stevenson & Co. recorded full-band versions of many DPWWO songs, as well as a few from Bridge. Cape put these sessions up on the Bad Loud bandcamp on a pay-what-you-want system to raise money for the band to record their first album of original songs. These sessions are well worth your donation. You should open up a new tab and start listening to them now. The Bad Loud takes these songs up to Bad Astronaut levels (represented by the formula: infinity times awesome) and beyond. What constitutes “beyond,” you ask? That’s a good question, you’re not some blind Bed, Bath, and Beyond customer who accepts mystery when the answer in that case is clear: Beyond = Kitchen. In Joey Cape’s Bad Loud, Beyond = Guitar Solos. Really good guitar solos, matched by Simon’s drumming, Snodgrass and Price backing vocals, and another Violet Cape appearance, this time on “Okay.”
“Doesn’t Play Well with Others” is his best solo album and the Bad Loud is the best rock since Bad Astronaut. They’re mostly the same songs, but you can’t go wrong with getting either or both versions. You should get both. Listen to DPWWO for breakfast and Bad Loud for lunch then DPWWO again for dinner and Bad Loud before going out to see a Bad Astronaut reunion show.