The latest release by Lagwagon is tough to critique. Resolve is a bitter pill full of emotional lows and musical highs. Skate punk’s ebullience meets real world tragedy. This isn’t just about crashing at the bottom of the vertical in a snake run bowl session. It’s a thematic and dramatic meditation on the suicide of Lagwagon’s original drummer Derrick Plourde. That it doesn’t resort to Afterschool Special crassness or devolve into mere exploitation is a credit to Lagwagon, but Resolve’s biggest hurdle in listening enjoyment is that the final work of art becomes very hard to separate from the final act that was its inspiration. As the name of the lead off track says, this is “Heartbreaking Music.”
A line like “But I wish I were as smart as you I could have changed your mind” is as blunt as it can be and the musical juxtaposition becomes even more forceful accompanied by backing that wouldn’t have been out of place on an early All album. “Automatic” manages to be uplifting with its defense of the mundane sharpened by Joey’s vocal on the verses, which recall the clipped anguish of Kurt Cobain either by coincidence or on purpose. Despair and love run circles throughout the album. The wondering, the questioning and the eulogizing are not held back. There’s straight up melodic punk like “Runs In The Family” to the impetuous thrash of “Rager” to the dynamic groove of “Infectious” all encapsulated by the same grieving spark.
Resolve might be tough for the millions who love Lagwagon to take. Joey even eludes to this on the last song “Days Of New” where he mentions “the mushy shit that people sing” knowing that one man’s catharsis is another’s sentimental wail, but most will surely not resist such a sincere coming to grips. It’s a tribute both to the departed and to the present.