PopMatters is moving to WordPress. We will publish a few essays daily while we develop the new site. We hope the beta will be up sometime late next week.
Music

The Capitol Years: Jewelry Store

Robert Horning

The Capitol Years

Jewelry Store

Label: Full Frame
US Release Date: 2003-03-25
UK Release Date: 2003-05-12
Amazon
iTunes

Releasing EPs seems a highly suspect practice. Perhaps they might once have offered a cost-effective alternative between buying the 45 and buying the long-player, but digital technology has made them superfluous relics, something for precious, pop nostalgics like Belle and Sebastian (following the like-minded Smiths) to release. For established bands, EPs constitute an irritating body of work that one is often led to purchase twice, once in its bogus original format, and again in its inevitable re-release as a full-length CD with the usual variety of overseas rarities and vinyl-only b-sides. Perhaps Internet piracy helps take the sting out of such record label double-dipping.

The Capitol Years' Jewelry Store fits into a different EP category, that of an up-and-coming band announcing their intention to market themselves to major labels. As such, this six-song collection sounds great. The vacuum-tight production and the clear, crisp mix gives the record the same gently abrasive, mildly exfoliating texture that the Strokes record has, to the extent that chief Capitol Year Shai Halperin's voice is even tricked out and gently distorted to sound like that of whichever leather jacket is the Strokes' singer. "Lucky Strike" is obviously a close cousin of Is This It's "Last Night", delivering a similar density of hooks in its carefully constructed three minutes, but all of Jewelry Store partakes of the Strokes' appropriative songwriting strategy, streamlining the American garage rock heritage by cross-pollinating it with the straight-forward simplicity of Kasenetz and Katz's Buddah bubblegum hits. The results are impossibly catchy and difficult to resist -- you would have to try, out of some dour and misguided snobbery, to not find these songs at least momentarily appealing.

But there is a crucial difference between the Capitol Years and the sublime bubblegum songs of the late '60s. Nothing in those songs -- "Yummy, Yummy, Yummy", "Little Bit of Soul", "Simon Says", and so on -- intruded between the listener and the addictive, compulsory hooks. The bands were anonymous and interchangeable, and the lyrics deliberately moronic and platitudinous, making it unmistakable that the songs were simply about their hooks, with no pretense to be anything greater. They reveled in their status as pure entertainment product, making a commentary on the shallowness of our culture's entertainment industry even while attesting to that industry's seductive power. But the records' self-awareness and openness towards their commercial crassness offered listeners the opportunity to be equally self-aware, to enjoy the saccharine pop with an ironic detachment and sophistication, to be paradoxically empowered with the sense that even if they were hooked they weren't duped.

But it's obvious from the packaging and the earnestness of the lyrics that the Capitol Years don't want to efface themselves before the majesty of their irresistible hooks, they want to exploit them to become a marketable commodity themselves and establish themselves as hip rock personalities. The songs are no longer about the hooks, but are about the band's yearning desire for fame and credibility. The lyrics are ostensibly about something specific, but no matter what's being sung, all one seems to hear is "We are cool, please like us, we are cool please like us" over and over again. So the listener is confronted with the question of whether one thinks the band members seem like cool people on the basis of their music, which is totally irrelevant and rather distracting. Bubblegum records are shameless in their calculation, but earn forgiveness for it by never trying to pass themselves off as someone's original and unique vision. But the Capitol Years tries to be coy about its calculation, cloaking it in a cult of personality, which leaves us trying to figure out what they were trying to approximate at any given moment rather than accepting the music at face value. Of course, unfortunately, this is the music critic's habitual approach to all music; but it is albums like this one that encourage it.

All of this is not to say the Capitol Years doesn't deserve major label attention, and even major label stardom. The industry has always been in the business of reinvigorating the same old thing by attaching it to new faces and manufacturing new legends, and keeping the machinery of entertainment and public relations rolling smoothly. This EP signals the Capitol Years' willingness to cooperate with the process. And if the industry would decide to push accessible '60s-saturated music like this rather than such juvenile putrescence as Good Charlotte and Evanescence, the pop music market would a much more intelligent, much less forbidding place.

Please Donate to Help Save PopMatters

PopMatters have been informed by our current technology and hosting provider that we have less than a month, until November 6, to move PopMatters off their service or we will be shut down. We are moving to WordPress and a new host, but we really need your help to save the site.


Music

Books

Film

Recent
Music

Laura Veirs Talks to Herself on 'My Echo'

The thematic connections between these 10 Laura Veirs songs and our current situation are somewhat coincidental, or maybe just the result of kismet or karmic or something in the zeitgeist.

Film

15 Classic Horror Films That Just Won't Die

Those lucky enough to be warped by these 15 classic horror films, now available on Blu-ray from The Criterion Collection and Kino Lorber, never got over them.

Music

Sixteen Years Later Wayne Payne Follows Up His Debut

Waylon Payne details a journey from addiction to redemption on Blue Eyes, The Harlot, The Queer, The Pusher & Me, his first album since his 2004 debut.

Music

Every Song on the Phoenix Foundation's 'Friend Ship' Is a Stand-Out

Friend Ship is the Phoenix Foundation's most personal work and also their most engaging since their 2010 classic, Buffalo.

Music

Kevin Morby Gets Back to Basics on 'Sundowner'

On Sundowner, Kevin Morby sings of valleys, broken stars, pale nights, and the midwestern American sun. Most of the time, he's alone with his guitar and a haunting mellotron.

Music

Lydia Loveless Creates Her Most Personal Album with 'Daughter'

Given the turmoil of the era, you might expect Lydia Loveless to lean into the anger, amplifying the electric guitar side of her cowpunk. Instead, she created a personal record with a full range of moods, still full of her typical wit.

Music

Flowers for Hermes: An Interview with Performing Activist André De Shields

From creating the title role in The Wiz to winning an Emmy for Ain't Misbehavin', André De Shields reflects on his roles in more than four decades of iconic musicals, including the GRAMMY and Tony Award-winning Hadestown.

Film

The 13 Greatest Horror Directors of All Time

In honor of Halloween, here are 13 fascinating fright mavens who've made scary movies that much more meaningful.

Music

British Jazz and Soul Artists Interpret the Classics on '​Blue Note Re:imagined'

Blue Note Re:imagined provides an entrance for new audiences to hear what's going on in British jazz today as well as to go back to the past and enjoy old glories.

Film

Bill Murray and Rashida Jones Add Another Shot to 'On the Rocks'

Sofia Coppola's domestic malaise comedy On the Rocks doesn't drown in its sorrows -- it simply pours another round, to which we raise our glass.

Music

​Patrick Cowley Remade Funk and Disco on 'Some Funkettes'

Patrick Cowley's Some Funkettes sports instrumental renditions from between 1975-1977 of songs previously made popular by Donna Summer, Herbie Hancock, the Temptations, and others.

Music

The Top 10 Definitive Breakup Albums

When you feel bombarded with overpriced consumerism disguised as love, here are ten albums that look at love's hangover.

Music

Dustin Laurenzi's Natural Language Digs Deep Into the Jazz Quartet Format with 'A Time and a Place'

Restless tenor saxophonist Dustin Laurenzi runs his four-piece combo through some thrilling jazz excursions on a fascinating new album, A Time and a Place.

Television

How 'Watchmen' and 'The Boys' Deconstruct American Fascism

Superhero media has a history of critiquing the dark side of power, hero worship, and vigilantism, but none have done so as radically as Watchmen and The Boys.

Music

Floodlights' 'From a View' Is Classicist Antipodal Indie Guitar Pop

Aussie indie rockers, Floodlights' debut From a View is a very cleanly, crisply-produced and mixed collection of shambolic, do-it-yourself indie guitar music.

Music

CF Watkins Embraces a Cool, Sophisticated Twang on 'Babygirl'

CF Watkins has pulled off the unique trick of creating an album that is imbued with the warmth of the American South as well as the urban sophistication of New York.

Music

Helena Deland Suggests Imagination Is More Rewarding Than Reality on 'Something New'

Canadian singer-songwriter Helena Deland's first full-length release Someone New reveals her considerable creative talents.

Music

While the Sun Shines: An Interview with Composer Joe Wong

Joe Wong, the composer behind Netflix's Russian Doll and Master of None, articulates personal grief and grappling with artistic fulfillment into a sweeping debut album.


Reviews
Collapse Expand Reviews



Features
Collapse Expand Features

PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 PopMatters.com. All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.