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Capgun Coup “Maudlin” Review

capgun coup maudlin

Most musicians I’ve known in life really enjoy the opportunity to sit around in a room and hold a jam session with their like-minded friends. No, I’m not talking about plinking out covers of their favorite songs (though that can be an pleasant exercise as well); I’m referring to doing a bit of song-trading, the chance to help friends flesh out the songs that music that’s been floating through each other’s respective heads. The result is typically beneficial—a bunch of buddies who all like each other and respect each other’s musical acumen are assembled together, and you then sit back and watch the magic happen.

That’s kinda the feel I get from Maudlin, the sophomore release from Omaha, NE residents Capgun Coup, and it’s one the band was intentionally looking to achieve. Recorded by the quintet live, all collected together in one room in the (in)famous Hotel Frank, what emerges from these sessions is a ramshackle, rambunctious, rollicking record comprised of various strains of lo-fi indie-folk. Granted, Team Love, the brainchild of Conor Oberst and friends, has a profound penchant for acts of this nature (Tilly & The Wall anyone?), but these guys manage to do justice to the freewheeling spirit necessary to create an album in such an environment.

Whether it’s a bellow, howl, shriek, bleat, or whine, the vocals, as you might expect, are a cross-section of the sort utilized by Oberst, Bob Dylan, and Jeff Mangum. But instead of making the band sound like hackneyed ne’er-do-wells, they complement the ragged, harsh production techniques employed on the record to great effect. Throw in some plinking pianos, strident drumming, and tempestuous, slightly under-skilled guitar work and you’ve got an engaging DIY-sounding effort.

Where the album threatens to break apart at the seams is when the confluence of various genres becomes a bit too distracting for my tastes. At any given time and in any given song, aspects of indie rock, folk, country, punk, or surf could come bursting out of the speakers. Admittedly, this is the seedy underbelly of writing-via-jamming method—without anyone serving as leader and/or grand arbiter of stylistic flow, what emits from such sessions can appear bloated and over-ambitious, lacking in focus and clarity.

What inevitably serves as the glue that binds Maudlin together is that its emotional tone, for all of its overt “these friends are having fun playing music together” vibe, is rather, well, maudlin at root. The majority of the tracks are comprised of depressing descriptions of modern life, whether it’s the ubiquity of dehumanizing technology or feeling pitiful because you’re feeling pitiful. And for some reason, the melancholy, bereft-of-hope sentiments (as heard on key tracks like “Sitting On The Sidewalk,” “Got A Lot Of Gull,” “Only The Times Are Changing,” and “When I’m Gone”), when intertwined with the aforementioned raggedy production aesthetic, create an affair that possesses an overarching thematic consistency that I find appealing.

[Review by guest contributor Adam P. Newton.]

Capgun Coup “Sitting on the Sidewalk” [MP3]
Capgun Coup “Bad Bands” [MP3]

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1 Comment

    Listen to it louder in a large space. Did you read the lyrics, man?

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