Album Reviews

Captain Wilberforce – Everyone Loves A Villain

(Blue Tuxedo) UK release date: 9 March 2009

Leeds-based Simon Bristoll aka Captain Wilberforce continues to fight the good fight on behalf of UK power pop with his second album, Everyone Loves A Villain.

We’re used to the Yanks churning out note-perfect power pop bands by the dozen, but on these shores pickings have been a bit sparse since the mid-90s glory days of Teenage Fanclub. Unfortunately, up to this point in his career Bristoll has flown further under the radar than even the Fannies did at their peak.

Will this all change with Everyone Loves A Villain? The album has been around since the end of last year on import but it is only recently that it has begun picking up airplay (courtesy of Gideon Coe on 6 Music) and that all important word-of-mouth reputation.

Reviews of Captain Wilberforce frequently begin with a role call of the usual influences, namely Squeeze, Jason Falkner and Jon Brion. Which is all a bit dull really, so let’s give the album a chance to work its magic without playing a game of showing off our record collections.

No Strings Or Ties is a cracking opening track, with a killer melody, fuzzy power pop guitars, and stacked harmonies aplenty. I haven’t been this impressed since Cotton Mather released Kon Tiki, and that’s saying something.

The jaunty Everybody Loves A Villain (notice the slightly different title) and Confetti, Champagne And Roses manage to make a few pointed remarks about celebrity culture, but most listeners will have their attention focused on what is happening in the background.

That’s because, by and large, the lyrics don’t really matter on Everyone Loves A Villain. This is a record that is all about sound and the way Bristoll blesses our ears with his utter mastery of harmonic guitar pop.

As is the norm with power pop albums there are two default musical settings; the bouncy, upbeat tracks, and the slower, mid-tempo ‘ballads’. The latter category is well served by the gorgeous The Girl Who Broke Her Own Heart (great title as well) and the acoustic closer The Twilight Kids. Bristoll’s voice proves equally adept on the slower material, which is more than can be said for certain power pop acts.

The best of the stompers include the aforementioned No Strings Or Ties, The Longest Night (on which Bristoll essays some interesting tempo changes), and the positively euphoric Born Again Brand New Man.

The rest of the album occasionally bogs down in comparison to the standout tracks, but really this is a minor caveat and the likes of Get A Grip, My Dear and You Must Remember This would be highlights on many an album.

Power pop fans are already in on the secret, having snapped up both this album and 2005’s equally accomplished Captain Wilberforce debut, Mindfilming. But music fans of any persuasion should give the good captain a spin. You may just be pleasantly surprised.

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Captain Wilberforce – Everyone Loves A Villain