PopMatters is moving to WordPress in December. We will continue to publish on this site as we work on the move. We aim to make it a seamless experience for readers.

Music

Li'l Cap'n Travis: Lonesome and Losin'

Terry Sawyer

Li'l Cap'n Travis

Lonesome and Losin'

Label: SBM
Amazon
iTunes

I consider myself a typical member of the Generation X Diaspora: I left the liberal, coffee shop comforts of Ann Arbor, Michigan so that I could find the exact same ambience, only bigger and with fewer people that I'd slept with. Despite all of the xenophobic grousing of its residents, Austin, Texas is still an Edenic urban center in small town drag. More than anything, Austinites have real choices about the local music they see and aren't just stuck with some frat boy cover band that has figured out that picking up a guitar is one way to defer the development of personality and still get laid. Li'l Cap'n Travis, local shit kicking rockers, highlight one of the best reasons I'm glad that chance and circumstance brought me to this woozy Texas oasis.

Lonesome and Losin', the band's second lurch out of the gate, is just the sort of soundtrack you'd want to have right before you accuse someone of taking your beer, chair, or future one-night stand. This album was clearly crafted from equal parts whiskey weeping and fisticuffs.

Unlike many other graduates of the Country Cool School, Li'l Cap'n Travis have not forgotten that country and western music has a long tradition of comic tragedy. Whereas Whiskeytown and Son Volt tended to distill country and western into just another form of pop balladry, L'il Cap'n Travis manage to update the stale one-liners of divorce, jail time and death into the more contemporary drudgery of hangovers at work, crooning for a "Cowgirl on Crutches" or, my personal favorite, the desire to "go out and get drunk and have a fight with some punk with a wallet chain". A lot of music that makes me laugh can be like my father telling jokes, retrofitted to every situation, and toxic with repetition. But L'il Cap'n Travis is the sort of band that makes you want to memorize their lyrics like pub anthems, the kind of "true dat" cowboy koans that make you want to lift your stein and then hit the floor.

Their bar brawl bravado smirks through some of album's funniest songs, including "Pink Elephants", which begins with vocals that sound like they're delivered from within the porcelain maw, and contains the classic gem: "I'm tired of being a toilet bowl slut". The song itself jerks along like an affable drunk taking a missing swing at life. The guitars combine slow strumming and staccato bursts into a chorus that sounds like feedback falling down. "I Don't Want to Go Out Tonite" is a sensitive bruiser's litany of all the side-splitting reasons that make staying home the best option, including "don't need to spend money picking up some little honey to be mean to me". The irony being, of course, that the track's up-tempo gait makes it a great song for getting ready to do exactly what it rails against.

Above and beyond their Skoal-dipped skill with a quick quip, Li'l Cap'n Travis are no strangers to songs with a fair share of yearning. The title track, "Lonesome and Losin'", sounds like a lovesick steel-pedaled rewriting of the Wilco and Billy Bragg collaboration "California Stars". In fact, Wilco is the one obvious influence throughout, but it's a touch-and-go reference, not a railroad spike through the shoe. "Chances Are" is a love lost elegy with saloon-banging piano that includes a wonderfully drawled out chorus. On "Restless and Rowdy", the band pulls off some sweet half-assed harmonizing, sounding like a Neil Young track written for a condemned dive, including slurred lyrics like "rowdy and ruthless and usually useless". Perhaps the album's most beautiful track is "Alone in the Drugstore" with its bumble-hummed vocals, feedback hammock sway, and plangent chords. It's the kind of track built for summer night air.

Only "Peelin' Out in Zeus Yard", an unfortunately named and badly thought out instrumental, rakes the ear unpleasantly. It brings to mind some kind of 3 a.m. junky haze in an all-night Mexican restaurant with tinny mariachi skiffle piping in the background. It's a Tylenol backdrop at best.

On the back cover, the song credits are boldly demarcated amongst the members. One can only hope that the band is not on the verge of being torn apart by an exchange student, too much Jim Beam, or the VH-1 kiss of death, "not communicating". Hopefully, these front porch troubadours have a few albums yet to go. There aren't enough honest drunks with talent in the world -- at least, none that sound fun to hang out with.

Please Donate to Help Save PopMatters

PopMatters have been informed by our current technology provider that we have until December to move off their service. We are moving to WordPress and a new host, but we really need your help to fund the move and further development.


Music

Books

Film

Recent
Music

Jefferson Starship Soar Again with 'Mother of the Sun'

Rock goddess Cathy Richardson speaks out about honoring the legacy of Paul Kantner, songwriting with Grace Slick for the Jefferson Starship's new album, and rocking the vote to dump Trump.

Books

Black Diamond Queens: African American Women and Rock and Roll (excerpt)

Ikette Claudia Lennear, rumored to be the inspiration for Mick Jagger's "Brown Sugar", often felt disconnect between her identity as an African American woman and her engagement with rock. Enjoy this excerpt of cultural anthropologist Maureen Mahon's Black Diamond Queens, courtesy of Duke University Press.

Maureen Mahon
Music

Ane Brun's 'After the Great Storm' Features Some of Her Best Songs

The irresolution and unease that pervade Ane Brun's After the Great Storm perfectly mirror the anxiety and social isolation that have engulfed this post-pandemic era.

Music

'Long Hot Summers' Is a Lavish, Long-Overdue Boxed Set from the Style Council

Paul Weller's misunderstood, underappreciated '80s soul-pop outfit the Style Council are the subject of a multi-disc collection that's perfect for the uninitiated and a great nostalgia trip for those who heard it all the first time.

Music

ABBA's 'Super Trouper' at 40

ABBA's winning – if slightly uneven – seventh album Super Trouper is reissued on 45rpm vinyl for its birthday.

Music

The Mountain Goats Find New Sonic Inspiration on 'Getting Into Knives'

John Darnielle explores new sounds on his 19th studio album as the Mountain Goats—and creates his best record in years with Getting Into Knives.

Music

The 100 Best Albums of the 2000s: 60-41

PopMatters' coverage of the 2000s' best recordings continues with selections spanning Swedish progressive metal to minimalist electrosoul.

Books

Is Carl Neville's 'Eminent Domain' Worth the Effort?

In Carl Neville's latest novel, Eminent Domain, he creates complexities and then shatters them into tiny narrative bits arrayed along a non-linear timeline.

Film

Horrors in the Closet: Horrifying Heteronormative Scapegoating

The artificial connection between homosexuality and communism created the popular myth of evil and undetectable gay subversives living inside 1950s American society. Film both reflected and refracted the homophobia.

Music

Johnny Nash Refused to Remember His Place

Johnny Nash, part rock era crooner, part Motown, and part reggae, was too polite for the more militant wing of the Civil Rights movement, but he also suffered at the hands of a racist music industry that wouldn't market him as a Black heartthrob. Through it all he was himself, as he continuously refused to "remember his place".

Music

John Hollenbeck Completes a Trilogy with 'Songs You Like a Lot'

The third (and final?) collaboration between a brilliant jazz composer/arranger, the Frankfurt Radio Big Band, vocalists Kate McGarry and Theo Bleckman, and the post-1950 American pop song. So great that it shivers with joy.

Music

The Return of the Rentals After Six Years Away

The Rentals release a space-themed album, Q36, with one absolute gem of a song.

Music

Matthew Murphy's Post-Wombats Project Sounds a Lot Like the Wombats (And It's a Good Thing)

While UK anxiety-pop auteurs the Wombats are currently hibernating, frontman Matthew "Murph" Murphy goes it alone with a new band, a mess of deprecating new earworms, and revived energy.

Music

The 100 Best Albums of the 2000s: 80-61

In this next segment of PopMatters' look back on the music of the 2000s, we examine works by British electronic pioneers, Americana legends, and Armenian metal provocateurs.

Music

In the Tempest's Eye: An Interview with Surfer Blood

Surfer Blood's 2010 debut put them on the map, but their critical sizzle soon faded. After a 2017 comeback of sorts, the group's new record finds them expanding their sonic by revisiting their hometown with a surprising degree of reverence.

Music

Artemis Is the Latest Jazz Supergroup

A Blue Note supergroup happens to be made up of women, exclusively. Artemis is an inconsistent outing, but it dazzles just often enough.

Books

Horrors in the Closet: A Closet Full of Monsters

A closet full of monsters is a scary place where "straight people" can safely negotiate and articulate their fascination and/or dread of "difference" in sexuality.

Music

'Wildflowers & All the Rest' Is Tom Petty's Masterpiece

Wildflowers is a masterpiece because Tom Petty was a good enough songwriter by that point to communicate exactly what was on his mind in the most devastating way possible.


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.