Black-eyeshadowed dudes from the suburbs whipped pop-punk like a dead pony during the late '90s. But if Joey Cape has any say, that horse will ride again. He plays guitar in the world's foremost punk covers band, San Francisco's Me First and the Gimme Gimmes, as well as premier pop-punk vets Lagwagon. Cape's latest effort for his longtime label, SF-based Fat Wreck Chords, is Bad Astronaut's third and final release from a septet initially conceived as a studio-only indie-rock side project. The album's title was fortuitously chosen by drummer Derrick Plourde, who succumbed to drug addiction a year before recording was completed. Cape soldiered on to create some of his most serious work yet; witness a timbale-laced ballad ("San Francisco Serenade") and an eight-minute denouement ("The 'F' Word"). These songs are decent, but the album's highlights are straight-ahead rockers nearer to Lagwagon territory. Twelve Steps inadvertently asserts that no matter how many Hot Topics there are in the world, something in pop-punk remains worth saving.
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