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The Capstan Shafts

Environ Maiden

(Rainbow Quartz; US: 16 Oct 2007; UK: 14 Jan 2008)

The Capstan Shafts are the one-man band of Dean Wells, who is probably hovering over his four-track cassette recorder right now, saturating a Maxell 90 with a two-minute major-keyed ditty he wrote in his sleep. If he sleeps, that is. In two years now, he has released 51 songs on his first pair of LPs. If all of this reminds you of the manic antics of one Bob Pollard circa 1993, then you’re right on target. Environ Maiden, the Capstan Shafts’ sophomore outing of lo-fi pop tunes, is a no-brainer for fans of early Guided by Voices. If you dig the noisy, un-produced confections found on GBV records such as Propeller and Vampire on Titus, then you’re already a fan of Capstan Shafts. I’m telling you, you don’t even need to listen to the 29 cuts that comprise Environ Maiden. But, knowing you, you won’t be able to help yourself. Admit it, just reading song titles like “The Complete History of Greenland” and “She’s Kick People” has you salivating already. Did I forget to mention that Wells’ undeniable pop melodies are buried beneath a cozy blanket of fuzz and hiss? Or that the longest song on the album runs 2:10? The most significant difference between the Capstans and Guided by Voices is Wells’ great fondness for acoustic guitar, which is present on most tracks. Okay, so there’s a touch of early Mountain Goats here, too. Maybe some Television Personalities, as well. Wherever good guitar pop has been recorded badly, Wells has gladly gone. If you enjoy rummaging a bit to find melodic diamonds in the rough, then the Capstan Shafts await you.

Rating:

Michael Keefe is a freelance music journalist, an independent bookstore publicist, and a singer/guitarist/songwriter in a band. Raised on a record collection of The Beatles, Coltrane, Mozart, and Ravi Shankar, Michael has been a slave to music his whole life. At age 16, he got a drum set and a job at a record store, and he's been playing and peddling music ever since. Today, he lives in Oregon with his wife (also a writer, but not about music), two cats, and a whole lot of instruments and CDs.


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