Captain We're Sinking - The King of No Man (Cover Artwork)
Staff Pick

Captain We're Sinking

The King of No Man (2017)

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The Future is Cancelled brilliantly summed up what Captain We're Sinking were about. Frantic, hard-edged post-hardcore that still had a big singalong vibe to it. The Philly band delivered what, in retrospect, was the album of the year in 2013 and now, they follow it up with a record that finds itself at the opposite end of the spectrum. The King of No Man is dialed back, a bit more melodic and represents a bunch of guys no longer in their early 20s screaming and being frustrated at life. A lot of this comes down to lead singer, Bob Barnett, whose transition from his studies into being a teacher, and also being back with the boys in Philly, allowed him to step back and realize no matter how messed up things get, we can take a breath and realize the future isn't actually on red alert.

Cuts like "Trying Year" (which feels like a Tiny Moving Parts song) and "Don't Show Bill" (which is their take on hardcore punk) bring the more aggressive edge to the record but after speaking to Bob, he made it clear why they wanted to slow things down. Getting a job, moving on with family and being close again to write in terms of proximity (as he moved back from Scranton) cleared his head and they decided produce the record without the haste and angst of old. In fact, they had a bit more time than the last full-length which was rushed. This was also how they wrote their old EPs and it worked, but Bob and Leo Vergnetti (co-lead, guitars) wanted something new and also to test drummer, Bill Orender. Quite a bit here also comes off Bob's solo act, Little Wounds, and the term 'wound' does apply as a big theme throughout.

"Hunting Trip" for example is a slow, guitar-driven burner (which has a melodic tone a la "Lake" off the last album) -- showing the band's progression as writers. It's actually a story Bob made up in a diner reading a hunting magazine and pondering death. The title track follows the same way -- only this time, it's about the band's sci-fi fascination and focuses on a space colony where the inhabitants go mad, killing ensues and one person emerges as king of no one. What they also represent is the middling ground in terms of musical style. "Crow" is another of these whiskey-burners, where you can tell the band want to flex their vocals a bit more, tempering back the guitars and drum fills to let the vocals float on.

As for the older cuts, "Books" and "Smash 2" are what you're looking for. They feel like B-sides off the last album and the band admitted that a few songs that didn't make the last cut were transferred here. "The Future Is Cancelled Pt. 2" is another transposition (and listen closely to once more hear that "Lake" spine embedded). "Dance of Joy" starts off with a George Thorogood vibe ("Who Do You Love") and more or less sums up that despite both singers back each other up on vocals, it's not about that clashing dynamic anymore. It's a more serene and dare I say, mature, sound. Ironic, given Bob's brother, Greg, and his team did the same with The Menzingers' After The Party earlier this year. Guess that's growing up?

That said, overall, this album won't live up to TFIC. In fact, few albums will for me personally. However, that album was a full-blooded, fast-paced car ride on a bumpy road. It was brash and angry. This new record continues in the same story-mode but instead, the car pulls up to the edge of a cliff and we're watching the sunset, preparing to coast home at the speed limit afterwards. It also emphasizes that we can look for answers instead of getting frazzled at life's curveballs, and maybe then we'll realize that even though we're sinking, it doesn't mean we have to drown. CWS have toned it down but still, they've gone on to produce a bunch of anthemic rock jams that'll have you just as amped to shout along to.