A solid and very unique punk record that falters on a few different occasions
Prolific punk rocker Joey Cape has been in the game since the late ’80s, and while he remains most well-known for his work as the frontman of the essential California punk rock band Lagwagon, his solo career has blossomed into a new and beautiful chapter in his music career. Let Me Know When You Give Up, his fifth solo studio album, continues his streak of solid solo work and demonstrates Cape’s ability to craft a uniquely diverse, yet still smooth full-length project.
Cape starts the album with the title track, and this decision couldn’t have been more perfect. Not only is the song absolutely fantastic, but it also exemplifies a lot of the qualities of an excellent album intro track; it introduces the overall sound of the album, the concept and the stylistic quirks Cape uses most often. The explosion of passion and intensity when Cape first sings, “let me know when you give up,” is unforgettable, and made even stronger by the previous two minutes of weighty acoustic guitar ruminations that are practically throbbing with Cape’s pain and internal struggle. The next two tracks, “Daylight” and “I Know How To Run” continue the streak of good-to-great songs, and conclude what feels like the first section of the album. Cape ratchets up the intensity a few notches with “Fighting Atrophy,” a track that’s much closer to the indie punk sound for which Lagwagon was known. The darker and more abstract lyrical style combined with a still melodic and very catchy chorus makes for another interesting, albeit very stylistically different track.
“Below My Heart Attack” remains in a similar vein in terms of sound, but returns to a lyrical style much like the first few tracks. This might’ve been to its detriment, as this feels like the most uninspired track up to this point in the album. “Possession” represents another major change in style, and might be Cape’s most successful bit of experimentation on the album. This darker style (sparse and soft drums, suspicious acoustic plucking, and his deeper and more purposeful vocal style) works incredibly well, and the burst of energy at the end of the song makes for a great arc and satisfying conclusion to this distinct midpoint of the album. Unfortunately, the second half of the project feels less consistently great. Cape’s lovely vocals and can’t save the otherwise boring “Andalusia” and “You Should Always,” and “The Love of My Life” just feels out of place on this half of the album. However, the second half is not all bad. Cape delivers a truly epic indie punk banger (and an equally epic chorus) in “Fall Down”, and successfully closes out the album on the brief “The Last Word”.
Cape clearly knows how to structure and produce a great album. If you can’t see it in this album, you can look to the rest of his long career as both a member of Lagwagon and as a solo artist for more evidence. Despite all this experience though, Let Me Know When You Give Up is a few flaws away from being a truly great album, with the primary flaw being consistency. After starting with an insanely strong opener, the album really starts to stumble just a few songs. It will be interesting to see if Cape can come through with a more consistent project when his sixth solo album comes out.