Monday, May 7, 2012

Dag Nasty - Field Day

The Worst From The Best
by Greg Polard
Dag Nasty - Field Day
Released - 1988

Editor's note: Since this is an album on a major label, there is no download link available. 

Story by Greg Polard.

Hi everybody!  It's been a while.  Welcome back to the second installment of "The Worst From The Best".  For my first piece I decided to write on a record that I'd never really heard before apart from a few tracks.  This time I'm mixing it up and I'm going to be writing about a record that I know inside and out, as I've been listening to it pretty steadily for the past 14 or so years.  That brings us to:

Dag Nasty's Field Day.  As you the reader may or may not know...I am huge Dag Nasty fan.  I easily can place them in my top ten hardcore bands of all time.  Since I  wrote about Minor Threat Out Of Step for this blog previously this should probably come as no surprise.  Despite getting into a lot of the Dischord stuff in my formative hardcore years around age 12, it wasn't until I was 15 that I first heard Dag Nasty.  I knew that Brian Baker was in the band so that was an added bonus, and finally got a copy of the CD that Dischord used to have in print with both Can I Say and Wig Out At Denko's on it.  I played the hell out of that thing.  So many melodic hardcore classics on there: "Values Here", "Under Your Influence", "Trying"...despite each album having a different vocalist and pretty different sounds I can still listen to all 20 tracks as one long LP and be completely satisfied. 

I had always heard that they had one more record after Wig Out before breaking up but had heard so many people tell me it was horrible so I put it out of my mind and just concentrated on the first two LP's (and the Shawn Brown demos on '85'-'86).  But one day, around 1998 I was at a show at the Church in Philly and Jamie from Double Decker had his distro table there.  As I'm looking over all of the stuff he had for sale I noticed a copy of Field Day on CD and thought to myself "why not?".  

Final rating (3.8 out of 5)
That night I got home and put it on my stereo and immediately I noticed the huge change during the first song, "Trouble Is".  Put this opening track up against "Values Here" from the first LP just two years earlier and it's night and day.  No more chunky power chords or yelled vocals.  Despite this...right away I feel like I "got it".  It was still catchy and still had elements of punk rock, just a lot different than the other hardcore bands I was listening to at the time.  In fact, I'll say the first three tracks on Field Day are perfect. After "Trouble Is" we get the title track, which never fails to make me want Mexican food and hang out on the beach (listen to it, you'll see).  The third song, "Things That Make No Sense" will get stuck in your head for days.  Especially in these three tracks I hear a lot of ALL era Descendents. 

It isn't until the fourth track "The Ambulance Song" that things take a turn.  This song has a straight clean guitar sound and a blues sounding solo that wouldn't be out of place on something my dad would be listening to while hanging outside at his grill in the summer time drinking beer.  To me this song is definitely a low point on the record and although I may not skip it, it's not a highlight.  (Sidenote: a friend and I would often challenge each other not to laugh during the over the top guitar solo.  Most times neither of us would win).

Moving on, after a nice cover of "Staring At The Rude Boys" and a few other tracks comes another album highlight with the song "Dear Mrs. Touma".  One of the more emotional tracks on the album with some really dark, weird lyrics that are actually based on some true events (discussed in this awesome interview on by my good friend Matthew Berlyant : )

The mood then lightens a bit (a lot actually) with the song "Matt" which is super catchy and I always find the "what am I doing here?" hook in my head at random points.  It's the next two tracks where people really seem to get divided (and rightfully so).  The "I've Heard" / "Under Your Influence" medley or whatever you want to call it.  Both of these songs originally appear (in far superior versions) on the first LP.  For some reason they made "I've Heard" a 12 second track where the band is listening to the "Can I Say" version and essentially mocking former vocalist Dave Smalley over top.  While they drastically cut the time down for this track, for "Under Your Influence" they added a full minute to the end where the song goes off into a stoner rock type dirge or something.  While I'm not a huge fan of re-recordings to begin with, the actual music for the most part is not bad.  But the part about "40 ounces of courage and I'm feeling fine"?  C'mon.  But I guess in context of everything that was going on at the time with hardcore and straight edge (it was 1988 after all) I can see how they'd probably want to ruffle a few feathers. 

And just like that, in a few more tracks the album is done, but not without another pretty funny guitar solo on "Here's To You" (see the above linked interview with Peter Cortner for more on that).  After listening for the first time I remember thinking "this IS Dag Nasty but at the same time it ISN'T."  I mean really, when listening to the previous year's Wig Out At Denko's LP  it shouldn't come as THAT much of a surprise that they went in this direction.  On songs like "The Godfather" and "When I Move" you can see the band had the desire to branch out beyond the confines of the hardcore scene at the time, for sure. Sometimes they were successful (first three songs, "Dear Mrs. Touma", etc) but there are definitely points on this album where they are not as successful ("Ambulance Song", "La Penita").  

One of the other things apart from a few of the weirder songs that does detract from this record is the production.  I've often wondered what a different producer or even a remix could have done for the album.  The closest we have is the far superior 12" remix of "Trouble Is" (download it and you'll see) that Ed Stasium (Ramones, Biohazard) remixed.  If the whole record sounded like that who knows, maybe people would talk about it in the same breath as other melodic hardcore/punk touchstones.  We'll never know though, will we?

Final rating is 3.85 out of 5

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