2003 was a pretty awesome year.
I can distinctly remember becoming acquainted and subsequently falling in love with two albums. First was The Lawrence Arms' The Greatest Story Ever Told and the second was Osker's 2001 LP, Idle Will Kill. As a 17 year old ingrate and unrepentant admirer of the '90s Epi/Fat style of melodic skate punk hitherto that point, I was simply not prepared for the depth and immensity of those two records. Though I was initially reticent to admit to myself that these two records would change my life more than any Deviates CD ever could, I eventually came around to the realization that the cerebral introspection and wit of Greatest Story and the irascible, emotive charm of Idle Will Kill would become the templates by which I would later gauge all melodic punk records. One decade and some life experience later, those two records still strike me as just as powerful and important as ever.
I only bring any of this up because for the last few weeks, I haven't been able to listen to anything aside from Captain, We're Sinking's The Future Is Cancelled, and it has earned its way into the winner's circle in my heart occupied by those two records I first heard 10 years ago. From the opening chord of the fantastically metallic and riff-laden opener, "Adultery" through the angular punk cadence of "Beer Can," the almost Propagandhi-esque "Here's to Forever," to the epic sing-songy outro of "Shoddy Workmanship," which reprises the chorus of the spectacularly quirky "Brother," the record paints a very gloomy, very self aware and extraordinarily enjoyable picture worthy to be adored by any fan of melodic indie-infused punk, and emulated by bands within the genre.
Even upon initial listening, this album struck me as being not only a mixture of all corners of what could be considered punk, but also perhaps the best refinement of the genre I've ever heard. Somehow, this record manages to emote like a less-dramatic Brand New song without boring the listener in "A Bitter Divorce," while fusing Braid-like technical rhythms with faster tempos and octave chords that bring to mind NOFX on absinthe in "The Future Is Cancelled." Oh! And speaking of the title track, there is a musical theme played on several songs throughout the record on various instruments that sounds like the bad guy theme from Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade. Pair all of this with very interesting and atypical guitar leads (best typified by the totally weird verse of "You Have Flaws"), and some of the coolest fucking drum parts ever (The epic end of "Beer Can" and the time signature change in "Here's to Forever" for example), and what you have is certainly the most musically captivating punk record that's come out in years.
Lyrically, the record is extremely dark. In 38 minutes, dual vocalists Bobby Barnett and Leo Vergnetti cover everything tear-jerking, from prescription drug abuse and suicide to heartache, remorse and family problems. The Future Is Cancelled is a collection of stories about imminently relatable people in dismal life situations. The way that some of these lyrics feel like they could be about the listener and their friends or experiences is a huge part of this album's immense strength. Just when you think it couldn't get any more sad, the issue of god as a presence, fictional or not, in the lives of the characters on the record looms heavily and enigmatically. People seem slighted and spiteful toward god, like a jilted ex-Christian coming to terms with a loss of faith or a believer struggling to reconcile an all-loving god with the cruelness of their life. Despite all the existential woe mixed into the lyrics, there is a single line which appends a sort of silver lining to the rest of the album. The simple, yet anthemic "Things just have to change/My brother are you okay?" sang like a unifying theme (a la TGSET) in both "Brother" and "Shoddy Workmanship," gives the album a sense of almost uplifting continuity in the midst of a lyrical endeavor that is feverishly sad.
The Future Is Cancelled is a triumph of intelligently-conceived, darkly thematic songwriting as well as a welcome celebration of the scope and promise of all that punk music can offer. It brings to mind the feeling that overtook me the first time I heard "The Revisionist" or "Kinetic" and began to understand that an album can very much change your life.
2003 was a pretty awesome year.