Joey Cape needs no introduction around these parts. Countless tours, eight Lagwagon albums and contributions to groups like Me First and the Gimme Gimmes and Scorpios have secured Cape’s permanent position as punk rock royalty. Those more familiar with his Lagwagon credentials may be off-put by the raw, largely acoustic sound of his newest solo album, Stitch Puppy, which also happens to be the most brooding of his career. It’s personal, emotional and the perfect record to usher in the unforgiving bite of the post-summer months.
Taking a cue from his One Week record label, whose groups record their albums in seven days, Cape and frequent collaborator Brian Wahlstrom recorded Stitch Puppy over the course of two weeks. Cape stated on our podcast that he wanted to write and record without being “precious” about the end product, inherently leading to the minimalist sound echoed across the album. Cape is an exceptional lyricist and Stitch Puppy contains some of his finest, and darkest, work to date. Touching on topics ranging from murder to the loss of an old friend to suicide, there are few moments of hope or happiness to be found here.
Opener “Me the Witness” sets the somber mood as Cape intones, “All that I know is the sense of a gun in my face.” From there the album traverses his feelings on society, life and friendship, occasionally picking up the tempo or incorporating piano yet always relying on the foundation of Cape’s acoustic guitar and pointed lyrics. The songs flow so well that it’s difficult to define standout moments, though upbeat tracks “This Life is Strange,” “Cope” and “Spill My Guts” (the latter of which features guest vocals from The Flatliner’s Chris Cresswell) provide a welcome sonic dichotomy to their brooding lyricism, while “Gone Baby Gone” offers the catchiest chorus found on the album. Ultimately, the poignancy is brought to a head on closer “Tracks” with Cape repeating the line, “He would lay down on tracks for you,” softly strumming his guitar, until the scene fades to black.
As Cape noted while discussing Stitch Puppy, “the train of despair doesn’t seem to stop rolling through my life.” The record in turn serves as the perfect vessel for channeling those complex, and often painful, moments in his life. It’s not an easy or fun listen, but Stitch Puppy will make you think and it will make you feel. It’s hard to ask for much more from an album.
4.5 / 5 – Listen below.