Cap’n Jazz

Whether you adored them to tears or they annoyed the hell out of you, there’s no denying their impact on the emo/indie world. Me? I got a copy of their album taped for me by a kind soul named James, who deemed it absolutely necessary for me to have my very own copy.

Over time it got copied for others, worn out, and finally baked in my car. It was remembered as most perfect for road trips and loud singing along.

So yes, I’m one of those who find them brilliant songcrafters. They had a penchant for trying odd things within their songs and making them work wonderfully. Lyrics were filled with smart wordplay, and their songs were just plain great. Energy, wonder, and noisy melody combined with diverse structures, strange approaches, and a dash of pop catchiness here and there. Vocals sing, yell, strain, and break over music that sometimes drifts, sometimes explodes, but almost always rocks. Even now I’m nodding my head, almost singing along.

Being such an amazing band, they broke up. Members went on to the Promise Ring and Joan of Arc, who are also both amazing. Secrets got out, and more people discovered the well of Cap’n Jazz. Bomb threats ensued (well, not quite), and Jade Tree buckled under the pressure, finally releasing this double CD compilation of everything imaginable Cap’n Jazz, including the album, seven inches, comp tracks, and some live and 8-track stuff. And yes, there’s unreleased stuff, so even you need this, Mister Collector.

Jade Tree, 2310 Kennwynn Rd., Wilmington, DE 19810

CaP’n Jazz

The punctuation in caP’n Jazz is correct, as is the obnoxious title. This band, surprisingly enough, has come to be known as one of the founders of midwestern emo rock. With former members of Joan of Arc (yep, the Kinsella trademark wincingly painful vocals are here) and the Promise Ring, caP’n Jazz influenced many other popular emo-rock bands today, including the aforementioned bands, Mid Carson July, Jazz June, the Get Up Kids, and others. This is their anthology, every song ever recorded by the band is here, including some painful covers, a terrible rendition of White Christmas, and plenty of heartfelt, loving, beautiful rocking songs. This may be a bit painful to listen to now, for these guys were just kids then. But listen to it and hear what started the sound, and hear moments of genius among these songs.

Cap’n Jazz [I]Analphabetapolothology[/I] Review

Wow, I hope my first band has a comprehensive, multi-CD retrospective out before I’m 30! We should all be so lucky as Tim Kinsella. Tim has gone on to both beguile and frustrate indie elitists everywhere with Joan Of Arc, but back in the day, Tim, his brother Michael, and this other guy Davey (who now thrills the masses in The Promise Ring) used to have a pretty good band called Cap’n Jazz.
The Cap’n sound is pretty simple to describe — deft, thick guitars charge, the rhythm section keeps things moving along briskly, and Tim alternately babbles and shouts. Kinsella’s vocals were constantly derided once he began fronting a more "mature" band, but in Cap’n Jazz, his hoarseness is actually an advantage. Most of the time you can’t make out what he’s yowling about, but he sure does seem to care deeply, and isn’t that what hardcore is all about?
The first disc of Analphabetapolothology, composed of the band’s only LP, some live tracks, and some demos, is much more consistent than the patchy second disc, which features less well-recorded outtakes, singles, and comp tracks. However, Jade Tree have quite kindly priced the thing as a single CD, so you don’t have to worry about this decrease in quality. Good thing, too, as many of the tunes on the first disc deserve to be heard — there’s the strange eastern-ish "Bluegrassish," the band’s rather surprisingly straighforward take on the A-Ha standard "Take On Me," and the relentless anthem "Ooh Do I Love You," among others. Sure, Kinsella’s lyrics can be pretty silly, and the band’s guitar charge sounds best taken in small doses, but no one’s stopping you from operating the "skip" or "stop" buttons when necessary.
Even if you can’t stand Joan Of Arc, I recommend you give Analphabetapolothology a try. There’s plenty of good pop hooks on here, and Kinsella’s impassioned shouting is no more irritating than say, Ian McKaye’s or Peter Searcy’s. Besides, isn’t it worth owning the complete works of a group christened by Ben Weasel as "the cruddiest and most pretentious band in Chicago?"

Cap’n Jazz [I]Analphabetapolothology[/I] Review

Every generation of indie kids has their own musical Holy Grail. Like Slint’s Spiderland or Rodan’s Rusty, it’s usually a bold, epic, almost revolutionary statement created by a band that has long since broken up and spawned other excellent bands, despite their never managing to escape the shadow of that one incredible album. Cap’n Jazz, a young, volatile Chicago band that broke up in 1995, fits this description perfectly; their only full- length release Shmap’n Shmazz (also known by another title too long to bother writing out fully) is their Holy Grail to the post- emo indie- rock world. The mythos surrounding this way- out- of- print and impossible- to- find album has only increased with time, until Jade Tree Records recently decided to re- release it as part of a compilation of all Cap’n Jazz’s recorded material. If Analphabetapolothology partially demystifies Cap’n Jazz by making their music more accessible, it makes up for it by proving that the music is well worth all the fuss.

Analphabetapolothology is a document of a band whose unabashed enthusiasm is their greatest charm. Even the title betrays Cap’n Jazz’s need to say everything at once; their songs careen at breakneck speeds with ragged guitars falling all over each other in a race to the finish. But it’s Tim Kinsella’s voice– a screechy, hoarse thing– which makes Cap’n Jazz so special. Kinsella’s lyrics spill out of his mouth faster than he can pronounce them, all blending together in a wild, unschooled yowl. He may not be quite on pitch all the time, but his energy is so infectious it doesn’t matter. The first half of Analphabetapolothology, which is Shmap’n Shmazz in its entirety, is the distilled experience of life in all its messy glory; it makes you want to to laugh, cry and scream all at once along with the band.

Being a two- disc set, Analphabetapolothology is a treasure for completists, while rubbernecking passerbys may balk at its length. Truth be told, there’s a lot of material which could have been mercifully cut; after Shmap’n Shmazz’s tracks, the uneven collection of seven- inch releases are a bit of a comedown, although covers of A-ha’s "Take On Me" and the Beverly Hills 90210 theme (remade as a Pavement-y amble) are mildly amusing. In this case, you gotta take the good with the not- so- good; getting a chance to own Cap’n Jazz’s first album in any form is well worth the cost.