The Captain Shafts – Environ Maiden

The Captain Shafts
Environ Maiden

So…what to make of an album of 29 tracks that all run less than 2 minutes apiece? To be sure, the underground legend that is Dean Wells has crafted an album of sweet melodies, mixed with noisy guitars. But, how does one go about reviewing such a thing?

Well, for starters, Environ Maiden is something to behold. Such a DIY aesthetic is rarely seen in this overproduced, modern world. Mr. Wells, who doesn’t even maintain his own MySpace, knows his way around a tune, and plays the kind of dirty, roughed up tones on the guitar that made R.E.M.’s debut so memorable.

Starting out with the sweet serenity of “Right on the Malthus”, the album states its purpose immediately. Sweet, crunchy, riffy, and everything that made “alternative” rock so real in the 90’s is represented well in this short track. Now, for me to go through every track, as I traditionally do, would be silly. Plus, I don’t feel like giving you 28 descriptions that sound like the previous one. So, on to some highlights…

“My Family was Welsh, I’m Just Tired” bops along with a sugary melody line and some nice changes for a one man band. “The Ballad of Kid Butane” is a slower number and it simply drips sincerity. “What do you think of me” Wells moans, before a simple Buddy Hollyesque solo kicks in. Though the song ends abruptly, it works so well. “One of us Should Be Further Away” finds Wells double tracking his voice for a honey dripped harmony, which is hard to discern through the fuzz. “Oil Over Greenland” is a stately acoustic number. “We are salvaging the years…” is moaned nearly ad nauseum. “Northern Me!” finishes off the album with its clearest track yet. With a trumpet deep in the mud, it’s a fitting end.

But to say I enjoyed this record would only be half true. I am not one for half finished ideas that could have been made into a true masterpiece. Now, don’t get me wrong – I have nothing but respect and honor for Mr. Wells’s work ethic and aesthetic. But for me, as a listener, it just doesn’t sit completely right. Though these half finished songs are some of the best I will hear all year, the mini-ness of them is what keeps me from giving Environ Maiden my highest recommendation.