The indie rock five-piece the Capes generated some buzz in the US with their 2005 EP Taste, which collected previously released UK singles for the new market, riding on the back of their NME hype. Drawing obvious influence from the Beatles, Wire and Oasis, the South London quintet produces a jangly, new wave style of pop, with the lyrics delivered in singer Kris Barratt’s distinctly British accent. While there is something mildly amusing in the retro-sheen of Hello, the Capes’ full-length US debut, the music ultimately contains a level of sameness from song to song which offers little to differentiate them from other similar bands.
Barratt and his bandmates share their alum, Goldsmiths College, with three-fourths of Blur, and Placebo’s lead singer, as well as Sex Pistols impresario Malcolm McLaren. But it is the Beatles-like harmonies that end up out front on “Carly”, guitars and synthesizer bopping along at a lively pace. Opening with a video-game synth line that reoccurs throughout the tune, “First Base” mixes flailing drums and sometimes thin guitars with Barratt’s vocals. On “Francophile (Ver. 1.5)”, one of the two tracks that were on Taste, they open with big, crunchy guitars, but the song quickly devolves into a frantic, futuristic-feeling runaround. The mostly acoustic “Gimme” is tired and droning, adding nothing new to their sound.
Only “Mexican Broads” and “Super Girls” really stand out, and that is because, coming at the beginning of the album, they are the freshest listens. But there is only so much interest that such a same-sounding collection of songs can sustain over the course of 12 tracks, before all of the songs start to run together in one giant stockpot, the same pot where you would find so many of the other hyped “It” bands stewing.
Given their close association with Bloc Party and Franz Ferdinand (not only musically, but personally with regards to the former), it isn’t all that surprising how familiar-sounding the Capes’ music is, and that leaves them without much to separate themselves from their brethren. Barratt, along with dual keyboardists/guitarists Richie Gladman and Nick Cresswell, bassist (and Cresswell’s older brother) Rupe Cresswell, and drummer Rupe Phelps, deliver safe, easy indie rock for the masses.
Taste may have stirred up some media attention, but after listening to Hello, it’s hard to imagine that the Capes will ever be considered “essential listening” in years to come. But the public’s fickle preferences often confound, and this is one more case of that. After all, when a band like the Capes - a band so closely associated with Bloc Party - comes along and starts to get attention, you have to wonder whether they’re receiving their buzz because of their music, or because of their relationship with an already popular band.
// Notes from the Road
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