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August 18, 2002

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Even though their discography came out in 1998, Cap'n Jazz, being one of the most influential chicago bands in the 90's punk scene, should be reviewed if only to introduce one new listener to their roots. Cap'n Jazz essentially consisted of the current Owls lineup plus Davey VonBohlen later of Promise Ring fame. Members would later participate in bands such as Joan of Arc, American Football, Owen, and Sky Corvair.
Cap'n Jazz dominated the Chicago indie scene of the early nineties with Tim Kinsella's little kid voice, confusing word play, and rambling storytelling lyrics. Guitar and bass work was at times complex but often sounded sloppy on purpose, a rushed sense of urgency is conveyed to the listener. Drum work by Mike Kinsella keeps the chaos together and restrains the vocals and guitars from a life of their own. Cap'n Jazz as a whole is a sound that could never be replicated to the same success even later by four of the members together in the Owls. This sound at first seems inaccessible and too broad to enjoy, but after a few listens anyone will begin to feel pumped up by rockin tracks like "Oh Messy Life."
The most interesting aspect of Cap'n Jazz is probably Tim Kinsella's word play. Few songs have obvious logic or themes to them. Many include various plays on word aspects such as the rambling Flashpoint: Catheter's "I know you know traps ease. I know no trapeze." over and over again. Some songs tell stories that seem to have no point and seem almost improvised if not for how well they flow with the music. Kinsella's childish voice and occasional cracking screams add to the chaotic temperment of the band.
Jade Tree compiled one of the most satisfying and complete discography that has ever existed. The 2 CD set contains not only every song written by the band including unreleased demos but also a selection of songs from their final live performance and three covers of varying quality.
The first CD is much more listenable than the second and the first 12 tracks compromise the only full length release of the band's career. "Little League," "Oh Messy Life," "Basil's Kite," and "In The Clear" will remain four of my favorite songs of all time. The whole compilation is worth these twelve tracks alone. The first CD ends with three unreleased songs and two live tracks taken from their final show at the Fireside Bowl. These final tracks include a rockin cover of A-Ha's "Take On Me" and "Tokyo" a song that comes across almost as a spoken word session by Tim Kinsella.
The second CD of the set includes a large collection of songs off collections and split CDs many not including all members of the group. This set is hard to listen to and doesn't flow well but is a treasure for collectors and any true fans. It includes strange variations on covers of "90210" and "Winter Wonderland." Still this second CD contains some gems of pure Cap'n Jazz genius. Highlights include songs such as "AOK," "Rocky Rococo," and "Ooh Do I Love You."
Jade Tree should be mentioned for their quality good work in the collection of information and songs. The CD cover contains an opening from the band concerning their time together. Also complete lyrics and explanation of original releases of the songs are included alongside interesting cover art.
This album should belong to any fan of indie rock, emo, noise rock, or punk rock, and any independent music fan ought to at least listen to Cap'n Jazz. It is defintely one of my top five albums of all time if not my favorite album ever released.

Handcarved Magazine