[18 December 2007]
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.