CAPGUN COUP Maudlin
Garage rock has a curiously dubious nature. Based on the notion that garage inherently champions a primordial version of rock & roll over the thoughtfully orchestrated fret acrobatics of, say, a progressive band, a dilemma is created: If a garage-rock group isn’t too hot at playing their instruments, are they poor players overall or just decent at their style? Nebraskan outfit Capgun Coup tackles this quandary on Maudlin by tossing surf rock, punk, and other clatter onto ramshackle garage, creating a cocktail where charm is able to overpower sloppiness.
Still, when Capgun bangs out a jangly, devolved mess while declaring “Bad bands are my favorite bands” (Conversely, “Good bands, they just got no soul”), you pray for self-awareness. Recorded at Omaha’s artistic hub, Hotel Frank, Maudlin was cut live and unquestionably sounds like it. The unrefined production gives the group’s sonic scramble a grimy authenticity. Much to Capgun’s benefit, they don’t let the garage sound force them to stick to a single tone. Instead, a thirst for range finds them cobbling together a spread of ideas. “Got Alot of Gull” is a jumpy hippie tryst, “Sitting on the Sidewalk” is antiquated rockabilly gone Dylan, soft vocal harmonies and a sweet piano dot “For Fish,” and “Now That I’m Home” blossoms with a plucky, summery bounce. This 14-track disc even has room for the instrumental “Fishlip.”
Capgun’s LP is fortunate enough to have two standout tracks. The first is “Wish I Was a Fag,” which dwells in catchy, palpable anguish. Armed with a love life gone sour, Martin complains, “Every girl I had was a drag/I wish I was a fag so bad.” On paper, the lines might appear distasteful—even mocking—but delivered alongside burnt-out guitar tones, the desire is a doleful revelation.
“Farnam St.” is another downer, producing the soundtrack to a miserable prom night. If it wasn’t so drowsy, boozy, and wounded, the tune could even fit in at a dance. As “Farnam” unravels, you can picture the Capgun gang as inebriated teenage outcasts, spitefully electing to hurl empty beer bottles at a barn versus hanging out with high-schoolers who rejected their company. “Farnam” and “Fag” pinpoint what makes garage feel right in spite of instrumental deficiencies: It can uncover a brazen emotional insight that doesn’t need good guitar playing to thrive.
Capgun’s ambition doesn’t mean achievement (“Bad Bands,” for example, is actually pretty bad itself) but with so many experiments and angles, Maudlin offers scattered glimmers of heartrending truth. Perhaps Martin’s right: Bad bands have all the soul. (Team Love)