Capillary Action – So Embarrassing

Capillary Action
So Embarrassing

Anyone that can make it through the 31 minutes of So Embarrassing, the latest offering from Seattle’s Capillary Action, without suffering a seizure is either deaf or a diehard veteran of late 90’s spazzed out indie rock. Exciting genre bounding rock, the likes of which were pioneered by Brainiac, Trenchmouth, and the Dismemberment Plan, have been missing these days; all the fun of those groups seemingly sucked out of any torch bearers. But Capillary Action shows much fun is to be had across these 11 songs that span across rock, punk, jazz, metal, even a little flamenco, often within the same song.

What most bands of the previous era lacked wasn’t imagination but inventiveness. Capillary Action has no problem using everything they can possible think of in terms of instrumentation to push their ideas to the absolute limits. Jazz drum fills and the odd chord patterns front a horn section as though the Dismemberment Plan were being backed by Jaga Jazzist; string sections sound ripped from the score of some melodramatic foreign film. There is nothing the band won’t use and it all works with remarkable power.

Each song packs as much wallop as physically possible, whether it’s by hooking you in with quick metal riffing that bridges 2 sections together or the strong vocals of Jonathan Pfeffer. Bounding from crooning to howling in the space of one bar brings Mike Patton’s vocal acrobatics to mind. And when being augmented with some of those string sections, albeit briefly, Pfeffer is capable of also sounding remarkably similar to late period Elvis Costello.

It isn’t all fun and games. Lyrically there are some dark themes going on, spat out with Patton rage. An example, from “Gambit“, “You say I’ve got a heavy head/but I’ll keep you at arm’s length.” Scary to think these are the first lines you hear. Some themes are easy to decipher, such as “Self Released,” but more often than not they veer towards the disturbing. “Badlands” which is safe to say not a Springsteen cover, its frightening for both narrator and listener. Don’t let the titles lull you into a false sense of whimsy. In “Pocket Protection Is Essential” Pfeffer takes “solace in the fact” someone is “as good as dead.” Not flat out six feet under dead. But as good as dead. That’s some pretty scary mob mentality there.

If the thought of all these styles and all this hate coming together sound like a mess, well, frankly that’s because it is. But no one said that‘s a bad thing. Personally I welcome a well orchestrated mess. No matter how many times So Embarrassing is played you will never hear it the same way. It’s certainly dense and chaotic, the only thing holding it together is the not the thought of what direction the band will turn to next but what map to use. You will never anticipate the changes and moods the band takes nor will you ever familiarize yourself with where one song ends and another begins. Capillary Action has created an album that forces you to listen to it as a whole, not chopped up into iTunes pieces. Though a complex and challenging listen, it looks to craziness ahead while paying tribute to the past.