Handsome Furs: Sound Kapital

Former Wolf Parade frontman Dan Boeckner returns with his wife, Alexei Perry, for an album of synth-driven, heart-on-sleeve anthems.

Handsome Furs

Sound Kapital

Label: Sub Pop
US Release Date: 2011-06-28
UK Release Date: 2011-06-28

Dan Boeckner is a rock god. If that sounds a little cheesy, a little '80s rock charts, that's part of the point. Boeckner wields both of his primary instruments -- an abused guitar and that beautiful, strong, unhinged voice of his -- with an enthusiasm and charisma that at once paradoxically recall the arena titans and punk heroes of the early '70s and 1980s. In his other, more famous (and now potentially defunct) outfit, Wolf Parade, he provided the raw, heart-on-sleeve counterpart to Spencer Krug’s more baroque, synth-driven numbers -- and though Krug often got most of the attention in Wolf Parade write-ups, Boeckner penned the strongest numbers on the band's underrated later albums, At Mount Zoomer (2008) and EXPO 86 (2010). Onstage, Boeckner bounds about in sleeveless T's, all tattoos and swagger, having a damn good time and making sure you do, too. They don't make them like this anymore.

In his other project, Handsome Furs, Boeckner plays largely the same role. Here, he shares the stage with his wife, Alexei Perry, the band itself created as a way for the two lovers to collaborate and travel the world together. The band's past two records, Plague Park (2007) and Face Control (2009), had Perry on tinny drum machines and synths, while Boeckner tore at his throat and guitar in equal measure. On its new album, Sound Kapital, the duo wrote all the material on keyboards. Boeckner fans could be forgiven for feeling some trepidation: what could a Boeckner album without guitars possibly sound like?

You can relax -- Sound Kapital isn't entirely without that instrument. But, per Boeckner and Perry’s claims, it does focus less on the axe and more on the percussive sounds of '80s industrial and electronic music. Handsome Furs have always had a fetish for all things Eastern European; check past song titles like "Radio Kaliningrad" and "Nyet Spasiba", as well as those decidedly lo-fi drum tracks and trebled-out guitar, sounds that could come straight out of a Romanian nightclub. Sound Kapital continues in that vein, moving the focus on to Boeckner's lyrics, too. Songs here deal with the promise of exotic travel and the problems of repatriation once the vacation's over.

The music itself does see a change without Boeckner's guitar placed front and center. These tracks, as a whole, are less anthemic than his best material, more synth-oriented, often almost danceable. While that shift takes some getting used to, it is not unwelcome once Sound Kapital digs its significant hooks into your ears. Opener "When I Get Back" has Boeckner returning to his native land a changed man, for better or for worse, as Perry's left hand punches out deep grooves and her right hits an almost bubbly synth melody. "Memories of the Future" sees Boeckner disparaging the nostalgia that, arguably, drives this entire project and its wanderlust -- "I throw my hands to the sky / I let my memories go." The track proves that he and Perry can turn a forward-looking outlook into just as much of a jam as a backward-looking one. "Serve the People" could be an indictment of Russian oligarchs and American corporatists alike, and it will get fists in the air in both countries. Early single "What About Us" turns the record's most club-ready and retro banger into a New Order-esque heart-on-sleeve coda, with Boeckner singing, "Let's stay in this evil little world / Break my heart" over and over again to somehow comforting, ethereal results.

These tracks all mark subtle differences for Handsome Furs, a small evolution in sound. Admittedly, though, Sound Kapital's most thrilling moments come when Boeckner relents and restrings his guitar. "Damage" builds to a sudden, thrilling spazz-out, while "Repatriated" uses his preternatural gift for melody to bring significant emotional heft to a song about frustration and, ultimately, hard-won acceptance of one's outsider status. These guitar-driven songs stand out as highlights, but they don't overshadow the rest of the record. Boeckner and Perry succeed in their experiment, wringing the same cathartic material out of their synth-driven approach as they did in their previous album-long anthems. These two have plenty more talent to give to us; pray for their marriage to last a long, long time.


This book offers a poignant and jarring reminder not just of the resilience of the human spirit, but also of its ability to seek solace in the materiality of one's present.

Marcelino Truong launched his autobiographical account of growing up in Saigon during the Vietnam War with the acclaimed graphic novel Such a Lovely Little War: Saigon 1961-63, originally published in French in 2012 and in English translation in 2016. That book concluded with his family's permanent relocation to London, England, as the chaos and bloodshed back home intensified.

Now Truong continues the tale with Saigon Calling: London 1963-75 (originally published in French in 2015), which follows the experiences of his family after they seek refuge in Europe. It offers a poignant illustration of what life was like for a family of refugees from the war, and from the perspective of young children (granted, Truong's family were a privileged and upper class set of refugees, well-connected with South Vietnamese and European elites). While relatives and friends struggle to survive amid the bombs and street warfare of Vietnam, the displaced narrator and his siblings find their attention consumed by the latest fashion and music trends in London. The book offers a poignant and jarring reminder not just of the resilience of the human spirit, but also of its ability to seek solace in the materiality of one's present.

Keep reading... Show less

The World of Captain Beefheart: An Interview with Gary Lucas and Nona Hendryx

Gary Lucas and Nona Hendryx (photo © Michael DelSol courtesy of Howlin' Wuelf Media)

Guitarist and band leader Gary Lucas and veteran vocalist Nona Hendryx pay tribute to one of rock's originals in this interview with PopMatters.

From the opening bars of "Suction Prints", we knew we had entered The World of Captain Beefheart and that was exactly where we wanted to be. There it was, that unmistakable fast 'n bulbous sound, the sudden shifts of meter and tempo, the slithery and stinging slide guitar in tandem with propulsive bass, the polyrhythmic drumming giving the music a swing unlike any other rock band.

Keep reading... Show less

From Haircut 100 to his own modern pop stylings, Nick Heyward is loving this new phase of his career, experimenting with genre with the giddy glee of a true pop music nerd.

In 1982, Nick Heyward was a major star in the UK.

As the leader of pop sensations Haircut 100, he found himself loved by every teenage girl in the land. It's easy to see why, as Haircut 100 were a group of chaps so wholesome, they could have stepped from the pages of Lisa Simpson's "Non-Threatening Boys" magazine. They resembled a Benetton knitwear advert and played a type of quirky, pop-funk that propelled them into every transistor radio in Great Britain.

Keep reading... Show less

Acid house legends 808 State bring a psychedelic vibe to Berlin producer NHOAH's stunning track "Abstellgleis".

Berlin producer NHOAH's "Abstellgleis" is a lean and slinky song from his album West-Berlin in which he reduced his working instruments down to a modular synthesizer system with a few controllers and a computer. "Abstellgleis" works primarily with circular patterns that establish a trancey mood and gently grow and expand as the piece proceeds. It creates a great deal of movement and energy.

Keep reading... Show less

Beechwood offers up a breezy slice of sweet pop in "Heroin Honey" from the upcoming album Songs From the Land of Nod.

At just under two minutes, Beechwood's "Heroin Honey" is a breezy slice of sweet pop that recalls the best moments of the Zombies and Beach Boys, adding elements of garage and light tinges of the psychedelic. The song is one of 10 (11 if you count a bonus CD cut) tracks on the group's upcoming album Songs From the Land of Nod out 26 January via Alive Natural Sound Records.

Keep reading... Show less
Pop Ten
Mixed Media
PM Picks

© 1999-2017 All rights reserved.
Popmatters is wholly independently owned and operated.