In a nutshell, Bored & Dangerous says; “I have no idea how consistent their output stayed over the years, but Can I Say makes me really interested to find out.”
In the early, early 80s, Brian Baker was a founding member of hardcore, punk rock legends, Minor Threat. Since the mid 90s, Brian Baker has been a core member of one of my favourite bands of all time, and by far my absolute favourite punk rock band of all time, Bad Religion. I may have listened to Bad Religion more than any other band in the last 15 or so years (I even stole the name for this site by bastardising one of their song titles), and Baker’s blistering guitar work is a big reason why. Which was I was stoked to discover that he had another band in between his two higher profile genre definers. A band called Dag Nasty, which released an album called Can I Say.
Straight away, Values Here makes me think Dag Nasty must have had a big influence on Pennywise. The making the best of the limited vocals approach of Dag Nasty’s Dave Smalley can definitely be heard in the voice of Jim Lindberg from Pennywise. While Baker’s octave spanning, riff heavy guitar work makes this single guitar band so much bigger. A tactic employed by guitarist Fletcher Dragge in pretty much every Pennywise song worth your time.
Three piece, or single guitar punk bands always put a little more pressure on their bass player. When you have two guitars, one can play around with riffs and harmonies, while the other holds down the fort with crunched, palm muted power chords. Leaving the bass player to kick back, aping those rhythm guitar arrangements. But when it’s one guitar and one bass, things get pretty boring pretty quick if they’re playing the same thing.
Sure, recording in the studio means Baker could lay down a couple of guitar tracks for a song like Circles and noodle until his heart was content, but here, and all over this album, Roger Marbury makes sure his bass supplies plenty of melody and groove as well.
Justification and What Now?? both showcase a great skill of this band, Dag Nasty manage to deliver really urgent, immediate energy, while (despite my earlier comments re. Smalley’s limited vocals) still bringing plenty of pop catchiness. Even at its screamiest, Can I Say never comes off as pointlessly angry or dismissive of the craft of song writing. That can be a problem with a lot of punk bands, especially hardcore punk bands. But passion and angst aren’t enough, you also have to understand how song structure works. And this is even more evident on the precise poppiness, with a punk rock edge, that is Under Your Influence.
I love the more disciplined, polished sound that Baker delivers these days, and has done for the last two decades in Bad Religion. Even live, when the songs get a whole lot faster than the studio versions, he can shred break neck punk better than anyone. But it was amazing to hear a slightly younger, hungrier, less studio polished version of him here. It was also great to hear Dag Nasty for the first time. Can I Say was there first of six LPs recorded over a quarter of a century. With so many years and a few line up changes along the way, I have no idea how consistent their output stayed over that time, but Can I Say makes me really interested to find out.