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Wil Wagner - Laika (1st Pressing, Black, /???) | Poison City

Wil Wagner - Laika (1st Pressing, Milky Clear, /???) | Poison City - Unplayed

Wil Wagner - Laika (1st Pressing, White and Yellow, /???) | Poison City - Unplayed

Wil Wagner/Lizzie Wagner - Laika (Picture Book) #13/100


Wil Wagner’s latest release is nothing short of amazing. It is one of those records where you struggle to find your favourite song. Keeping his unique and personal story-telling style throughout the 12”, Wagner flips between songs relating the good times, the bad times and historical dogs.

Starting of with ‘Eviction Notices’, Wagner reminisces on his life and various personal tales, as is typical of his previous releases as a solo artist and with The Smith Street Band. The markedly slower ‘How They Made Us’ is universally relatable, whilst bringing in some socio-political commentaries, most noticeably the line “so angry they forgot what they were angry about”. This can be seen interspersed throughout Wagner’s work. Unlike  many previous works, ‘How They Made Us’ doesn’t build up to a point of intensity, instead remaining slow and raw. 

Then the title track opens. This track is, in my opinion, very unlike anything else ever produced by Wagner. Maybe not completely different to his musical style, but the subject theme - Laika, the first Soviet dog sent to the moon who was treated horribly and killed injustly - is a big step towards maturity for Wagner, the fun-loving and cuddly 20-something. If you don’t love this song the second you hear it, then you have no soul. Just wait until you hear it live. I don’t think there are many people who can hear it without shedding a tear. The emotion and passion that manifests inside Wagner can be felt full throttle in this track, as he sings from the perspective of the innocent Laika.

'More Like Signals Midbest' is a track that does, however, build-up from the introduction, relating a life dedicated to touring and gigging. The track leads into 'Malt Memories', a not-so-typical break-up song that is as personal as any of Wagner's works, which opens one's eyes to the normality of the man behind the record. 'Fuck You Jackie' is again, a very personal tale about addiction and the first time Wagner “dragged on a cigarette”. The song ends with the repeated “I just gotta get my shit together”, which is sure to become a crowd favourite line for future shows.

'I'm Not Going To Lie To You' is a great track, but it is a harder listen compared to the ease of the rest of the 12”. The chorus will again be very relatable to scores of fans, particularly “I'm not going to lie to you, lately I've been thinking of giving up” and “And I haven't properly since 2006, but I've had some of the most, glorious moments of happiness”. The record finishes with 'Song About Why I Suck', a reminiscent track regarding Wagner's life, emphasising his faults. As mentioned before, this track also shows the 'humanness' of Wagner, and acts a very sobering way to end the album. Additional vocals and harmonica come from Lincoln le Fevre, which only adds to the track's sobering nature. The lyrics to this track in particular are absolutely faultless, and very obviously from the heart.

In short, this record is Wagner’s most polished release to date, and although sometimes lacking the ‘raw’ feel of his older material, it has just as much (if not more) passion, emotion and honesty to share with listeners. This man is Australia’s musical gem.

Great music by an amazing person who I am lucky enough to call my friend (I hope he thinks so too).

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