Dag Nasty

Field Day

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For album number three, the band headed to Los Angeles, switched drummers along the way (with Scott Garrett taking over on the skins), and created a thoroughly and totally lost rock classic -- not just punk, but something more than that. Armed with all the fire and fervor of the music the members grew up with, but not content to simply do that over again, Dag Nasty at this point even moved beyond their earlier work for something at once more mature, gripping, and energetic. Easily the equal of the Replacements at their best -- and as much a forebear of the Goo Goo Dolls' eventual success as a Minneapolis quartet -- Field Day is just that for the group. Peter Cortner's singing in a mere year's time has moved from the edgy, high-pitched rasp of Wig Out to include a ruminative, gently expressing tone, with more vocal control and a sweet edge than one will find in most of the band's peers. As for his lyrics, besides the analysis of personal interaction that defined earlier Dag Nasty material, Cortner addresses everything from being in a band and wanting to write "songs, powerful songs" to reflections on death, loss, and separation. The tone is pretty much of the guy Cortner found himself to be -- a transplant in LA, finding new haunts (the at once funny and touching "La Penita"), new friends, but also new challenges. As a result, "Dear Mrs. Touma" might be the band's high-water mark, and one for punk in general, retelling a scenario of accidental death, faith, and hypocrisy with cutting, affecting depth. Brian Baker, meanwhile, can still create the basic three-chord chargers, but the earlier signs that he wanted to try more with his work get full flower here. Still thankfully avoiding his soon-to-come descent into metal hash, everything from post-Byrds shimmer and gentle fingerpicking (even acoustic flamenco!) to big, heroic leads gets an airing. Two fine covers -- the Ruts' "Staring at the Rude Boys" and Wire's "12XU," doubtless an echo of Baker's previous take with Minor Threat -- and a good version of the first album effort "Under Your Influence" help fill out this unfairly forgotten record.

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