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A Good Year To Forget - Fat Wreck Chords
Joey Cape has always been somewhat of a tragic figure in the punk scene. Despite being one of the old guard in the 90’s punk scene, his main gig, Lagwagon, never got the mainstream recognition it deserved, and the band’s more casual following seemed to taper off shortly after the turn of the century. Cape started his solo career alongside his best bud in the scene, Tony Sly, only to lose him while on tour in a tragic and unexpected passing. But despite the dark cloud that looms over Cape’s head, he’s always come out a survivor.
Sadly, this identity took on heightened meaning in 2020. First, Cape went through a divorce with his wife of twenty years – a demoralizing experience devoid of positive spin. Then, he contracted and battled COVID-19 in the heart of the pandemic – another nightmare of uncertainty – and finally, lost his father along the way. Like his new album of the same name, 2020 was A Good Year To Forget for Joey Cape.
Like with most of Cape’s solo work, A Good Year To Forget features Cape at his most stripped down and vulnerable – a fitting backdrop given the emotional grounding. Cape’s fragile falsetto is on full display, ranging from wiry emotional whine to methodical exposition. The opener and title track serve as the first vessel capturing Cape’s quiet anguish. “And now the music’s done / The sound’s rudimentary, unfulfilled, unsung / That tale is over now” sings Cape in a way that sounds more typical of a tragic conclusion than an album’s first song. But Cape starts by baring it all, holding nothing back for his introspection. Song to song the album inches forward and then retreats, healing and breaking like a stubborn wound that refuses to stay closed. The repetitive rhythm guiding “The Poetry In Our Mistakes” undulates with a haunting quality mirrored in Cape’s whispered vocals. “The beautiful flaw of being wrong,” muses Cape as he captures the essence of being flawed in the most poetic of ways. “Imperfect in pitch, civil in song / Fantastical flight, emotive rewrite” he continues, setting a tragic tone that reflects the blameless, complex nature of so many of life’s disappointments.
The album’s acoustic direction shifts between a busker’s sidewalk showcase and some light folk/country swagger for good measure. “Saturday Night Fever” is an uppity indie-esque ditty about killing time during month after month of quarantine nights, while “We Might be Wrong” flirts with twangy reverb and what sounds like an occasional pedal steel that accents the burden of truth in the line, “we are born ignorant, stupid is something we learn.” Others like “Under the Doormat” hop along with an instrumental hope juxtaposed agaist imagery of harsh, declining reality. Meanwhile the lingering echo on “Infirtile Ground” feels like looking down a dark, forgotten well and finally seeing your reflection deep in a distant pit. It’s tough to describe just what the overarching atmosphere feels like, with Joey Cape continually walking the line between crushing heartbreak and deep rooted optimism, navigating difficult topics with a poet’s tongue.
Despite the deeply personal subject matter, A Good Year To Forget is remarkably relatable given our collective emergence from such a shared societal experience. Cape’s past year might have been more concentrated with tragedy than the majority of listeners, but he has penned A Good Year To Forget as an approachable and empathy evoking encounter. That being said, the album is written in and for a very particular moment in history, so it’s tough to tell how well it will age with time. Perhaps its best to think of A Good Year To Forget like an emotional time capsule – like capturing a still frame on a polaroid, or the reel of a VHS residing in a dusty box of family movies. Either way, Joey Cape’s most recent chapter frames him as more of a survivor than ever, making A Good Year To Forget an album more likely to be remembered than forgotten.