Album Reviews

Captain – This Is Hazelville

(EMI) UK release date: 14 August 2006

Lemme tell you something, indie kids. If you spend months following around a band no-one’s heard of, watching them gig in tiny scum pits and sitting through Fat Bob lookalike support acts while you’re waiting for their set, all in the anticipation that when they do make it big you can sneer ‘I saw them when’ to all your mates, you have to accept the possibility that when their day finally comes, it’s not only your cool pals in the drainpipe jeans who notice you were right all along, but effing Radio 2 as well.

You’re damn right that it’s extremely irritating but don’t for a second let it fool you into thinking that somewhere along the line Captain have done something wrong. It just means that not only do you like them, but so does your mum and the fat receptionist at the office and even Terry Wogan.

Tough shit. They’re that popular because they’re that good. They cross boundaries and appeal to everyone – a shiny, happy, breezy explosion of summer sunshine and Casiotones born to sneak Prefab Sprout and forgotten ZTT B-sides into the public consciousness when no-one’s looking.

Captain’s cheery, upbeat, synth-heavy, dance-along electronics have every right to appeal and belong to everyone and this is not – repeat after me, this is not – something to hold against them. To paraphrase frontman Rik Flynn, Hazelville is a Glorious album, from its Twilight Zone plinking on the opening eponymous track, through revisits of now familiar singles Glorious, Broke and Frontline, to tracks you might not have heard before, such as the slower, gentler East, West, North, South and Build a Life, a poppy, folky, lovely little ditty that fades out beautifully into the drum and bass-heavy intro of the horn-laden and multi-layered Wax, with interwoven vocals and a crescendoing backbeat that dances and swirls around the main tune like a moth around last century’s leftover disco balls.

This Heart Keeps Beating for Me explodes in an oh-oh-oh singalong that should get the whole dancefloor movin’ and a shakin’, while the slightly sinister (in a summery, happy way) funereal drum march beginning of Western High, swoons in with darker undertones as Flynn’s voice breaks on the higher notes like waves against golden, sandy beaches. Summer Rain reminds you of the sun shining through the clouds and then there’s Accidie, sounding just as good on record as it does live, waving the flag at the festival audiences they’re wooing in a field near you right this minute.

They’re showmen (and women), there’s no doubt about that, and they know how to work a crowd perhaps too well for an audience raised on shoegazing and introspective guitar riffs, but what else do you expect from a band whose bassist once ran away from a cruise ship to join the circus and a guitarist who (allegedly) ran away from the Greek army for shooting a donkey?

And that’s before you even get to vocalist and keyboard player Clare Szembek, who kickboxes and makes promises about paisley hotpants. They look and sound like a lost ’80s indie troupe, caught between the grebos and the New Romantics, not entirely sure which side of the fence to come down on. So they mix glamour with thrift store, skinny scarves with skinny jeans and layer on the synths for your enjoyment.

It’s the new rock’n’roll, the type that’s been made possible by Lost Vagueness and post-ironic nods to the debts paid to 80s glamour and excess, a world Captain seem purpose built to drag kicking and sequencing into the noughties. So what if they’ve suddenly become too huge, too ubiquitous to remain as cool as you hoped they would?

They’re signed to EMI, they’ve got Trevor Horn on their side and they will sell the three million records they’ve set their hearts on. If with that comes a danger you might hear them blasting out of Heart FM between Bonnie Tyler and Britney try and get over it, eh? They don’t care – and honestly, neither should you. Swallow your indie pride and give them the credit they deserve.

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More on Captain
Captain – This Is Hazelville
Interview: Captain
Captain + Make Good Your Escape + New Rhodes + Drink Me @ Metro, London