One would be hard-pressed to find another singer-songwriter as prolific as Joey Cape. Already under his belt are eight Lagwagon albums, three Bad Astronaut albums, LPs by The Playing Favorites, Scorpios, and Joey Cape’s Bad Loud, not to mention his role in a whole bunch of Me First and the Gimme Gimmes releases, as well as countless seven-inch and compilation appearances.
And here’s another. Joey Cape’s One Week Record, on his own label, One Week Records, kicks off the same way Lagwagon kicked off Hang, with the one-minute acoustic “Burden of Proof” introducing “Reign”. The two albums begin similarly enough that at the conclusion of “Burden” the listener isn’t positive which album he’s listening to until it either takes off at blistering speeds, as with Hang, or, as is the case here, continues as if performed by a guy on a street corner wearing a “Joey Cape is Bullshit” t-shirt with his guitar case opened to invite coins.
The idea of One Week Records is to produce ten songs in seven days, all within the comfort of Cape’s home. The limited schedule is designed to eliminate the temptation to overproduce and let the songs “give an honest representation of the artist’s creativity.” Membership to One Week Records is available, making it feel more like a club than a typical record label. Cape had previously recorded five songs, available as a bonus only to those with membership to the label. He has since expanded his five-song One Weekend Record to a full ten-song album. Because it is his label, his studio, and his house, one can’t help assuming Joey cheated a little and spent more than seven days recording it – evidenced by guest appearances by One Week artists Walt Hamburger, Yotam Ben Horin, Brian Wahlstrom, and Laura Mardone, all of whom have recorded albums with Cape – but when you’re the owner, you can do what you want.
Without liner notes accompanying the digital download it’s difficult to know for sure who is doing what, though sometimes it’s obvious: that’s Laura Mardone’s sweet voice lending some interest to an otherwise boring arrangement of Lagwagon’s post-hiatus favorite “E Dagger.” Brian Wahlstrom, Cape’s Scorpios bandmate and frequent guest keyboardist on punk albums, is heard tinkling the ivories on nearly every track, most prominently in “Laymens Terms”, what with his instrumental introduction and, later in the same track, some pretty nifty harmonies. Too, Joey opts to leave the guitar out entirely during the first minute-plus of “Sick” with only Wahlstrom’s keys accompanying his voice until the downbeat of the first chorus.
We may still call him “Joey”, but Joey Cape is getting old – he just turned 50, for crying out loud! Needless to say, he’s not singing about girls too often these days. Instead, his friends are dying. “Days of New” is a tribute to Bad Astronaut and original Lagwagon drummer Derrick Plourde, and “One Last Song” features a shout out to Cape’s best bud, the late great Tony Sly. Joey clearly misses them both dearly, but, rather than somber funereal ballads, both tunes are upbeat to better convey celebrations of their lives, and their impact on Cape’s own.
No new songs here, this is an album of Cape-fronted band covers: one Bad Astronaut song (opener from Twelve Small Steps, 2006) and another from Joey’s least talked about side project, the Playing Favorites (“Waiting”, from I Remember When I was Pretty, 2007). The remaining eight were all originally Lagwagon songs, including three from Lagwagon’s latest full-length, Hang. “Obsolete Absolute” is a rare example of a fast punk song being longer in duration than its slow acoustic version, and is one of the strongest tracks on each album. Cape softly plucks the strings of his acoustic guitar, outlining the opening chords, providing the impression that the guitar is in the background even as the only sound present, before his voice presents the opening melody. A piano is added halfway through the first verse, and then light gang vocals and vocal harmonies to embellish the chorus. Fan-tastic.
These One Week and One Weekend records are digital releases, though PEARS’ Zach Quinn’s One Week Record was given a limited vinyl pressing through Fat Wreck Chords, so perhaps something similar will happen with Cape’s album.
Find another example of a songwriter providing so many alternate versions to previously recorded songs; not live recordings from acoustic sets, but – between two split albums with Tony Sly, a split album with Jon Snodgrass, six songs between Cape’s first two solo albums, Bridge and Doesn’t Play Well With Others, as well as numerous standalone tracks scattered here and there – actual studio recordings. I can’t think of anyone, at least not in the punk world, the only sect of pop music I feel qualified to discuss. Any punk fan ought to appreciate what Joey Cape has brought to the genre, and most would enjoy this album. Joey Cape’s One Week Record is not as polished as the splits with Tony Sly, nor do I think is it as strong. For a Lagwagon fan, however, it’s a must-have.