Can I Say


“You’ll never know the sorrow I felt / Or the hours I’ve laid awake / Thinking about just what you said,” Dave Smalley shouts on “One to Two,” a track from Dag Nasty’s beloved debut, his voice conveying a wounded soul search that, after earlier efforts by Rites of Spring and Embrace, marks a clear turn away from the vociferousness of D.C. hardcore’s first wave. The guileless delivery of Smalley — then a budding punk lifer, who had fronted Boston straight-edge outfit DYS and would go on to post-Descendents project All, Down by Law and more — is an ideal vehicle for the songs’ clear-eyed reckoning with the painful transition from adolescence to adulthood, while the finely honed melodic riffing of Minor Threat alum and future Bad Religion guitarist Brian Baker drives home their poignancy. The rage of first-wave hardcore still lingers here (as on the searing “What have we become?” anthem “Justification”), but what comes through more on classic tracks like “Never Go Back” and “Circles” is regret over the mistakes of the past, and the resolve to keep trying to outrun them.

Hank Shteamer

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