Skyscraper Magazine » Dag Nasty
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Dag With Shawn
Format: CD / LP / MP3
Release Date: October 19, 2010
By Dave Cantor May 27, 2011

On the heels of Skyscraper’s relaunch, we’ve been reviewing a number of records from mid-to-late 2010 that we missed out on covering during our semi-hiatus. Sort of a “what we missed” series of reviews, emphasizing both some of the best releases of 2010 and some of the year’s most interesting but overlooked records. This is one of those.

There are a lot of parallels to draw here. Dag Nasty’s shifting foundation included a number of different singers – enough to make some joke about Chavo-era Black Flag being better than all that emotional anguish we heard with Rollins fronting the band. But those are West Coast concerns. In DC, it was Bad Brains and Minor Threat ranking as the scene’s impromptu organizers.

Dag Nasty’s always been linked to the Dischord Records crew – Brian Baker being a good reason why. As a founding bassist in Ian MacKaye’s sXe forebears, Baker helped along an oddly melodic approach to thrashy tempos, allowing Minor Threat to move into Nuggets territory with its cover of the Standell’s classic “Sometimes Good Guys Don’t Wear White.” Taking the approach to even poppier heights, Dag Nasty emerged during the mid-1980s, preceding most ensembles who could be saddled with being emo templates. If Can I Say (Dischord, 1986) or even Field Day (Giant, 1988) rightly define the band, getting an earful of Dag’s first singer, Shawn Brown, who was with the group for something like six months, should be revelatory.

Dag With Shawn compiles nine songs Dag Nasty recorded with Brown on vocals in 1985, but which were never released. Dischord finally issuing Dag With Shawn says a lot about the recordings’ quality, even if these songs would be reworked a few months later with Dave Smalley on the mic, resulting in Can I Say. Quickly contrasting the Brown and Smalley versions of “Under the Influence” or “Justification” reveals little musical differentiation. The singers even come off relatively similar. But where Can I Say veers off into pop-punk and harmonies, Brown does his best MacKaye impression the entire way through, making verses on stuff like “Thin Line” significantly more engaging. Brown losing his nut, apart from appealing more to early 1980s hardcore fans, seems to urge on Baker and his cohort. The music isn’t actually faster or tougher. It just sounds that way with a more convincing singer, one who doesn’t sound like he kept a journal. Dear diary, this shit rules.

Visit: Dag Nasty | Dischord
Purchase: Insound | eMusic