Change can be a tricky thing for a band. Sometimes it’s for the better, sometimes it’s for the worse, and if you happen to have been successful the first time out, shifting gears can leave a lot of your original fans in the dust.
Captiol Years, initially the solo project of Shai Halperin (Shai, Son of Eli), made a big splash with its 2001 debut, Meet Yr Acres. Gaining a lot of praise from critics and word of mouth, the disc seemed to establish Capitol Years as a lo-fi act that combined a little bit of indie garage sensibility with some straightforward classic rock vibes. Original enough to not seem derivative or redundant, yet casually slipping into the rock revivalist sounds of bands like the Strokes, Capitol Years put Halperin on the map as a rocker to pay attention to.
Of course, one-man shows don’t go over well live, and Halperin quickly expanded Capitol Years into a full-fledged band for touring purposes. Turning to his ex-bandmates in the defunct Mastercaster, Haleperin solicited drummer Sir Kyle Lloyd and bassist Dave Wayne Daniels, as well as new recruit Jeff Van Newkirk on guitars, to help him bring the band to the stage. Touring with such acts as the Mooney Suzuki and the Warlocks, Captiol Years was quickly recognized as having a solid, fun, and rocking live show. It only seemed natural to bring this amped-up sound to the studio for a follow-up to Meet Yr Acres.
However, with the acceleration to a Big Rock Band, Capitol Years seems to have lost a little bit of the basement magic that made Meet Yr Acres so charming. It’s not that the Beatle-esque melodies have suffered. They’re still there, but now they seem to have been layered over with a classic Rolling Stones blues vibe that somehow changes things. It’s almost as if Halperin crammed Urge Overkill and Fountains of Wayne into one quirky, greasy, gritty rock marriage. Whether or not it’s better or worse than before is difficult to say.
The Jewelry Store EP will probably appeal to most of Capitol Years’ original fans, especially the ones who went out to catch them live, because that’s basically the same thing you’re getting here. Recorded in a studio frenzy, and often live straight to tape, this a quick but dense rock collection. “Jet Black”, “Jewelry Store” and “Japanese Store” all have enough gritty rock pleasure to make this EP an enjoyable listening experience, but there seems to be a little too much similitude to the classic rock influences. The blues-rock chords and progressions are certainly a little more obvious than the last time out. Even when the band unleashes the sound and lets it turn into a cheerfully noisy mess, as at the end of “Jet Black”, it’s not exactly innovative.
I hate to get too involved in analyzing as EP, because for the most part they tend to be stop-gaps between one LP and the next. There’s a lot of promise, and a decent amount of fun, in Jewelry Store. I’ll reserve judgment about whether Capitol Years’ transformation has worked for a full-length release. It would be a shame if Halperin has just let this project become “yet another rock band”, but only time will tell.
// Notes from the Road
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