Music News

O Cap'n, My Cap'n

Fire is motion.
Work is repetition.
This is my document.
We are all all we've done.
--Cap'n Jazz, "Oh Messy Life"

For years now, the recordings of Cap'n Jazz have been sought after futilely by the small percentage of the indie nation lucky enough to have heard and been touched by the music of this wunderkind collective. The Chicago band, consisting of Tim Kinsella, Mike Kinsella, Sam Zurick (all three currently play in Joan of Arc), Davey vonBohlen (now of the Promise Ring) and Victor Villareal, broke up in 1994. Now the kids thirsting for the phenomenon that was Cap'n Jazz can end their quest--Jade Tree Records, home of both Joan of Arc and the Promise Ring, just released the double CD Analphabetapolothology, which contains every track Cap'n Jazz recorded during its all-too-short existence.

The liner notes, credited to "Ex-Cap'n Jazz" but presumably penned by lyricist Tim Kinsella (who oversaw the reissue), end with "Thank you. You're welcome. I'm sorry. It's okay." This anthology serves as tribute, gift, apology and closure all at once, attempting to resolve the past for the sake of the future.

Cap'n Jazz fans speak of the band reverentially, not just out of respect for the dead, but because of the awesome emotional intensity involved. To hear this disc is to be a voyeur into the innocence, confusion and passion that dwell in the hearts of young men (at 20 years old, Tim was the oldest in the band at the time of its demise; his younger brother Mike was 17).

The first CD in the set contains the "burritos, inspiration point, fork balloon sports, cards in the spokes, automatic biographies, kites, kung fu, trophies, banana peels we've slipped on and egg shells we've tippy toed over" LP, Cap'n Jazz's most polished and sincere accomplishment, brimming with meticulous math-rock that grows from whispered frenzies to feverish explosions of atom-splitting virility. This is the Cap'n Jazz incarnation that is worshipped for its tenderness, power and detail.

"In the Clear," which also appears in an earlier version on the second disc, is the embodiment of the simplistic aspirations and angst the band defined--the lyrics mutter, "I'm hoping once I'm a big kid and I look down to the ground, it'll seem further away." "The Sands've Turn'd Purple" asserts the perils and unknowns of the generation slightly after X--"We risk the feeling of risk. We don't believe in failure."

The tracks not from "burritos, etc." can be considered the path taken to the final monumental document of five teenage boys growing up in the Windy City. They include a pulsing, humorously intensified cover of a-ha's "Take On Me"; the last two songs the band ever wrote, recorded live at the band's last show ever; several demos never meant to see the light of day (including the brazenly literary "Tokyo"--it should be noted that Tim Kinsella recently earned his degree in English Literature); and many seven-inch and compilation tracks that foreshadow the genius which was to come. Also present is a Kinsella family (even Mom) punk cover of "Winter Wonderland" that illustrates the innocent naivete the band exuded. Perhaps most vital of all to a true understanding of Cap'n Jazz's beauty is the cover of the 90210 theme--no other band could pull it off as straight-facedly and sincerely as the Cap'n. These early tracks are the sound of young boys exploring their minds, testing their limits, discovering and rediscovering their own imaginations.

Revolver recently had the rare opportunity to do a postmortem Cap'n Jazz interview; rare because the members feel the subject is better left alone. This interview is with Tim Kinsella, who generously endured the 20-questions game while being sick in bed with the flu. A previous attempt was made to interview Davey vonBohlen about Cap'n Jazz when the Promise Ring played Hollywood Alley several months ago, but he had nothing to say about the recording, except to express regret and contempt for the entire Cap'n Jazz experience. What follows may well be the last Cap'n Jazz interview, the final nail in the coffin of a once precious and utterly genuine entity:

Revolver: Would you be in Joan of Arc now if Cap'n Jazz had never happened?
Tim Kinsella: Probably not, because I don't know why I'm in a band. I'm just in the habit of it.

R: If you had it to do all over again, would you do things the same way?
TK: Yeah, I liked that music a lot. And it's all I . . . it's what we knew how to do.

R: Why did you break up when you did?
TK: We didn't all get along for about the last three years of being a band, out of the four years. Me, Sam and Mike obviously still get along, and I still get along with Davey, it was just . . . none of us could get along with this kid Victor after a while. It just got to be too much.