Dag Nasty – Dag With Shawn

Dag Nasty - Dag With Shawn

Way back in 1985 (with their way having already been paved by such D.C. punk/hardcore luminaries as S.O.A., Bad Brains, Government Issue, Teen Idles, et al.), after only a few months of playing live, a young band called Dag Nasty entered the studio to lay down 9 blistering, emotionally charged, powerful tracks that have since become legendary. I’m talking about the Halloween Day 1985 sessions with Shawn Brown singing (soon after replaced by Dave Smalley) that would introduce Dag Nasty to the world outside the D.C. underground scene. Or, so it was thought…

After the recording session, but before the 4 song EP that these (9) tracks were recorded for was released, Shawn Brown left Dag Nasty. This caused Ian MacKaye (Teen Idles, Minor Threat, Fugazi, etc.) and Dischord Records to shelve the tracks and, thus, these particular recordings of early Dag Nasty material have never (officially) seen the light of day as a whole album. Until now.

The songs on Dag With Shawn have been released as partial out takes, as well as unauthorized bootlegs, over the years. Though, with the re-recording of the entirety of the tracks (and the addition of one more) with new vocalist Dave Smalley in early 1986 to produce the first official Dag Nasty release Can I Say, I’d be inclined to say that most who have heard the music of Dag Nasty are much more familiar with these songs as sung by Smalley, not Brown.

Which is a crying shame. Not that Smalley’s work on Can I Say (as well as other Dag Nasty works) doesn’t get the job done; it’s just that his vocal delivery has neither the grit nor urgency that Shawn Brown seems to possess on Dag With Shawn (see Shawn Brown’s other projects – Swiz, Jesuseater – for a further demonstration of his vocal stylings).

The nine songs on Dag With Shawn have a classic mid-eighties D.C. Hardcore vibe in lyrical content and spirit, but it’s melded with a melodic sensibility rarely seen or heard in music from Dag Nasty’s contemporaries. Not that Dag Nasty was solely responsible for the musical shift that seemed to have overtaken and, in the ensuing years, marked the “D.C. sound”, but they were largely influential as a part of the second wave of punk/hardcore music that flourished in D.C. in the mid/late eighties. Not to mention the obvious influence of D.N. and similar acts on the post-hardcore and emo-core scenes of today. Seemingly run-of-the-mill punk chord progressions were transformed by the nimble fingers and seemingly differently attuned ear of guitarist (and only non-changingĀ  member of the band since the outset) Brian Baker. Backing Baker on Dag With Shawn are bassist Roger Marbury and drummer Colin Sears. Marbury’s solid and speedy bouncing bass along with Sears’ upbeat tempos and rhythmic patterning are a perfect compliment to the more melodically dynamic style of hardcore guitar that Baker employs. Such a tight and melodic delivery is only enhanced by Brown’s throaty and emotionally powerful vocal efforts. Raw, emotional, and unapologetic; embodying the spirit of a scene screaming to be heard with an urgency of knowing that if it wasn’t heard then, it may never have been at all.

Dag With Shawn is a great example of what was happening, as far as the hardcore scene goes, in D.C. in the mid-eighties. If you have a hankering to listen to an early melodic hardcore landmark album, look no further – this is it. Remastered and finally given the proper packaging, treatment and, ultimately, the release it deserved 25 years ago, Dischord Records gives Dag With Shawn to the world. Finally.

Dischord Records