Review Summary: With the death of Bad Astronaut drummer Derrick Plourde changing the lives of everyone around him, front man Joey Cape decided to take action and throw his emotions on the table. The result is a heartbreaking elegy feauturing Plourde's posthumous work.
The story behind this album could have been first read in a dramatic movie script, or on the wall of a bathroom stall. These stories often develop unheard until it’s too late. Suicide is the last resort plea that allows others to recognize how much one needed assistance in their toughest times. The late drummer of Bad Astronaut, Derrick Plourde, took his life in March of 2005 before the official release of “Twelve Steps, One Giant Disappointment,” to the shock of the punk community and those who knew of Derek. Once an experienced drummer and band mate of Lagwagon and Bad Astronaut frontman Joey Cape, Plourde’s actions reverberated through Cape, Plourde’s family and friends. Cape has since dedicated Lagwagon’s latest album “Resolve” to Plourde, and its content conveys the intense internal struggles that everyone has when a very close friend leaves them forever. Though Plourde had left Lagwagon, he was a member of Cape’s side project Bad Astronaut until his death. “Twelve Steps” is Derrick’s album, demonstrating Bad Astronaut’s finest song construction to date with frustration, desperation, and the haunting element of posthumous musicianship.
The musical progression of Bad Astronaut was obviously influenced by Plourde, but what is most distinct is Plourde’s drum work on the album. “Twelve Steps, One Giant Disappointment” includes Plourde’s compositions while crashing behind Cape’s urgent tone, often filled with denial or scorn. Cape questions and mourns throughout the entire album, “How am I supposed to feel? / I thought we had an agreement / and real or not, I believed it…and you wanted out / yeah you got out.” Later in “Twelve Steps,” a taste of a personal session between Cape and Plourde engages the listener to understand the scope of the album. It quickly becomes clear after a first listen how significant their relationship was.
Each song plays off of the mood of the last, with a deteriorating energy transitioning into a somber lament. To achieve this feel the album contains its collection of keyboard work and synthesizers to continue a listener’s adventure through Bad Astronauts’ space atmosphere, whether layered over a modest rock beat on “San Francisco Serenade” or a slowly timed acoustic guitar introduction on “Minus.” This distinguishable sound is perpetual, with Joey Cape’s naïve and boyish tone, ensuring the album’s originality and emotional authenticity. Unfortunately (yet appropriately), this is Bad Astronaut’s last album.
As a listener, you may feel as if you’re flipping through the pages of Plourde’s photo album, with each page interactively revealing his troubles and his triumphs. When it ends, the memories are lasting. The listener is not only able to sympathize with Cape, but go further and hear Plourde’s cries as well. And that’s what he wanted all along.