October 9, 2003

The Repeat Button: Cap'n Jazz

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Ok, if you missed the memo, emo is not cool. The word that emo is done has been circulating for a few years now, but new iterations seem to keep popping up. Somewhere between its corporatization, when labels realized they could cash in on flocks of disaffected kids who wanted to shout their guts out, and its mainstream appropriation into the FM-friendly alt-rock genre, emo went out of fashion harder than Slap-bracelets, Furbys, Beanie Babies, and Tomagotchis combined. This is not to say it also fell off the pop charts.

There was a time, however, a long-long time ago in the late ’90s, when emo-tional music was in. Taking cues from from hardcore punk as well as more melodic indie rock, emo-styled bands pushed the envelope of both genres and appealed to a rather unique cross-section of the alternative music population, both artsy thrift-store marauders and metal-studded skaters. The music, fueled by angst-ridden pain and balanced by intimate outpouring, took root with bands from Dischord D.C. to Sub Pop Seattle. Before emo went bad, there was Cap’n Jazz, a shortlived, underground well of talent and innovation.

Cap’n Jazz was raw youth and artistic potential. It was a bunch of kids, riding on garage intuition and pure passion. The members’ differing visions (of which you can count Tim and Mike Kinsella’s) were so vivid, the group was forced to split in spite of acclaim. You can even hear the band breaking up on the album. All that’s left of a fleeting career and a number of EPs is the double-disc anthology titled Analphabetapolothology. On “Basil’s Kite,” throaty screams and lashing guitars crash into each other, only to pull back, revealing a precious and melodic core held together by the interjection of a trumpet into the messy punk landscape. Hearing the song, I am reminded of our need to believe. Cap’n Jazz reaffirms my belief in the ability of youth to create something timeless. Maybe the emo backlash wasn’t so well-deserved for some.

Archived article by Andrew Gilman