Tuesday, 6 November 2018

Album Review: Stand By by Captain Trips (by Jack Genovese)

A few months ago, I came across a conversation on Facebook about whether the UK has the best skate punk scene around. It was an interesting and honest discussion, thought-provoking for those of us who’ve been involved in it in the last few years. But to me, the most compelling piece of evidence in support of the motion that, yeah, the UK has a damn fine skate punk scene going on at the moment, is a very simple one: The fact that a band as talented as Captain Trips is so often overlooked, simply due to sheer ‘competition’ from many other amazing skate punk bands populating our scene.

Captain Trips are a 4-piece from Fareham, on the south coast of the UK, although they appeared in my life out of nowhere, like some enchanted creatures. I had just started going to punk rock gigs in the UK, around a couple of years ago, and at the time I was sifting through Bandcamp obsessively to find new punk rock bands to fall in love with, when I saw this new band with a new EP just released, both named Captain Trips. The simple aesthetics of the EP’s artwork and the fact that it was their first release should not fool you: the EP was extremely professionally written, executed and recorded, with four bangers which came to be instant classics in my personal playlists. Needless to say, I was hooked.

Now, the parties involved may give a slightly different version of events from mine, but the way I recall it is that it was I who went to Mark Bell of Umlaut Records fame to recommend him this new band I had just found out. Fast forward two years and Captain Trips have now (October 2018) released their second ever EP with the aforementioned London label, called Stand By and comprising 4 new original songs and a cover, after a series of gigs around the UK – including Manchester Punk Festival this year and their own skate punk festival, Punkle Fester – for the joy of many impressed concert goers.

Stand By – recorded by Daly George at the legendary Ranch in Southampton – is the perfect showcase for each of the band members’ talents, both technically and from a songwriting perspective. The EP opens with Bottom Of The River, which was already teased last year as a single + videoclip. The intro, two notes played incessantly by one of the two guitars for almost 10 seconds straight, accompanied then by a little riff by the other guitar and then a little drum roll, makes you adequately psyched up for what follows. As soon as the double time hits, you immediately feel the urge to jump on a table or start moshing with the first person you see. This song – which by the way is my personal favourite of the four new originals – really highlights Rich’s singing, always harmonious, and Andi’s drumming, with continuously changing beats and awesome drum fills.

The second song of the EP is Dead Ringers, which frequent spectators at Captain Trips’ gigs will probably recognise, particularly due to the change in tempo in the verse that is both unexpected and very effective. The chorus of this song gives me heavy Strung Out vibes, which I’m sure Phil will take as a massive compliment (as he should). A shout out should go also to Lee, whose bass lines in the chorus are really on point. The song that follows is Chances, probably the most “technical” song of the EP. The ending of this song is particularly powerful, with the vocal harmonies that will make it particularly fun to see live, I’m sure.

Speaking of songs that I can’t wait to see being played live, the fourth song on the EP is a cover John Farnham’s You’re The Voice, a move I have to admit I wasn’t expecting from Captain Trips. I also have to say that, before hearing this cover, I was only vaguely familiar with this anthemic hit from the 1980s. Nonetheless, I was left particularly impressed; the skatepunk version of this song works incredibly well and Captain Trips really make it their own with their signature fast drums and powerful riffs. At this point I am strongly hoping for a Captain Trips video of this song, all of them rocking a mullet and spandex leggings – challenge accepted guys? I’m also sure that this song will attract many punks under the stage bellowing the WOHOOOs in the chorus in Rich’s face. Tip for Rich: bring a poncho!

The EP ends with Siren Song, an angry and fast song that leaves no time to breath from the start. When I listened to this song for the first time, I thought it felt a tribute to, if not itself a product of, the best of the UK skate punk scene, and as such it holds a special place in my heart. I know for a fact how involved Captain Trips are in our scene, first as fans and supporters of local bands; Siren Song sounded to me like a dynamite blend of The Human Project and Darko, a combo that not only works perfectly but also serves as a strong case for the UK skate punk scene as a cohesive, influential cultural movement that’s establishing itself as its own style.

I’m not being hyperbolic when I say that Captain Trips are probably the most underrated skate punk band in the UK, if not Europe, at the moment. In Stand By, they confirm the mastery they had shown in their eponymous EP by writing banging skate punk songs that are both catchy and inventive. Captain Trips may not play a type of skatepunk as technical as PMX’s or as furiously intricate as Dead Neck’s, but their songs come up as wonderfully expressive and are carefully crafted to be as enjoyable to be played as they are to be listened to.

You can stream and download Stand By on Bandcamp and like Captain Trips on Facebook.

This review was written by Jack Genovese.

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