Stunning return from Barnett Brother B, and his post-hardcore shipmates.
I'm going to get the lazy / inevitable (delete as you feel applicable) item out the way early, yes it's the return of Bob Barnett, brother of punk rock royalty Greg Barnett of The Menzingers with an equally epic album as his siblings 2017 offering "After the Party".
Whether the success of this album is based on its own brilliance or the likelihood of people picking it up on the back of this lineage is a rather moot point, as whatever path they take to discover "The King of No-Man" the listener will be left feeling it's one of the finest releases of the year; but will it be enough to catapult Captain, We're Sinking and in particular Bob Barnett to the pinnacle of punk, sitting alongside his illustrious bro?
In addition to this familial expectation there is also the spectre of 2013s "The Future is Cancelled" hanging over this latest release; which no doubt graced many people's top 10 albums of the year; and those who extolled the virtues of that behemoth of an album will be chomping at the bit for another collection of angry, vitriolic anthems.
It's somewhat of a surprise then that TKN-M is more or a companion piece to its predecessor as opposed to a re-tread of similar songs or a complete departure of what made TFC so well respected. Take the inclusion of songs such as "The Future is Cancelled part 2" which supports this theory; a song that could have been lifted straight off the previous record; in fact feeling more like a song that has had a long gestation and development before being released. These moments though are few and far between, instead focussing on a more reflective and introverted perspective that whilst still retaining that Captain, We're Sinking flavour embraces their vulnerable side as opposed to the frantic nature of the most memorable parts of its predecessor; think an expansion of "More Tequila, Less Joe" than "Adultery". This shift makes TKN-M feel less schizophrenic than TFC and as a result much more cohesive; this album feels like a journey or a single entity as opposed to disparate songs, and the album is better off for this focus.
What does shine throughout the album is the lyrics. Bob Barnett has always excelled at crafting stories that tell of a time or place; and imbues enough emotion in them for you to really feel and experience what his protagonists are going through; "Hunting Trip" and "Crow" are possibly the two finest examples of this on the album, from describing the wind, the breeze and shaking drinks and awkward glances. This ability provide a stunning freeze framed moment where time stands still allowing Bob to describe them in detail whilst still progressing as the narrative of the song; there has always been a focus within Captain, We’re Sinking to focus on the aesthetic and making things feel real within the lyrics and on TKN-M this has really been taken to the next level.
Pleasingly there are also a couple of Easter egg moments for fans of The Hold Steady to grasp, with closing track "The King of No Man" drawing on a couple of THS songs (noticeably "Killer Parties"). As a complete fanboy of The Hold Steady these fleeting moments have always put a smile on my face, and show the bands influences firmly on their sleeves; perhaps not as noticeable this time round but still a worthy bonus!
The album is littered with gems, but kicks off with perhaps the most up-beat and catchy song on the album "Trying Year", which has an unmistakable Captain, We're Sinking vibe to it with poppy guitars and rhythmic drumming; it's perhaps the song that most people will identify with first and warrants repeated listens to fully appreciate how great it is, dealing with growing up and reaching that milestone cross roads in your life "...mid-20 something up to our necks in crippling debt; we're untouchable...". It identifies that unique part in many of our lives where we are still care free but realising we have responsibilities on the horizon we have to deal with. Other standouts include "Cannonless" which showcases a real vulnerability in Bob Barnetts voice with its wavers and fractures, it's a truly hauntingly beautiful song; whilst "Smash 2" starts quiet but explodes with frantic spasming energy, and it's perhaps the most anthemic song on the album; finally "Dance of Joy" reminds so much of Canadian alt-country legends Wintersleep, with its drum heavy rhythms and slightly subdued wavy vocals.
There really is a lot to admire on TKN-M, it's very much what you want to hear from Captain, We're Sinking in 2017. It's shown that they have developed, but not too much. It feels familiar yet different and that's why I'd argue it's a companion piece; it feels like the moment of clarity after the turmoil, anger and aggression of The Future Is Cancelled; it's highly likely then both Barnett brothers will be vying for the accolade of many a punk’s top record of 2017.
Stream and download The King Of No Man here: https://captainweresinking.bandcamp.com/
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This review was written by Richard Mair.