Hidden Chord - The Captain And His Entourage (Cover Artwork)
Staff Pick

Hidden Chord

The Captain And His Entourage (2002)

Level Plane

On a label not known for it, Level Plane have dropped on us some solid rock'n'roll. Sure, they have A Trillion Barnacle Lapse and Air Conditiioning, but for the most part, nothing strays all that far from the screamo and hardcore that the label is founded on. But if this album is any indication, than maybe they should look into signing a few more bands to broaden the scope of their catalog. In any event, this is a solid, no frills, rock'n'roll album.

Now, I've never seen this band live, nor do I know if they're even still a band, but judging from the overall sound of this album, I'd imagine the lead singer to have a certain on-stage swagger, with a "this is how we play our music, and if you don't like it, than fuck you" attitude. That's just the vibe I get from listening to this.

The first track, "A Fictional Literature Dealing With The Problems Of Dreams" (don't worry, this is the only long song title like this. This isn't Fear Before The March Of Flames), opens with a solid drum beat and some low-droning bass, and then the vocals kick in. The vocals here are different, so to speak. The singer's voice isn't all that unique, but his delivery is. It almost feels like the lyrics are being spoken, but it's got just the right groove to keep your foot tapping and your head bobbing throughout. While on a lyrical tangent, I'd like to bring them up, since they're a point of attention for me on this album. They're a bit abstract at times, but remain refreshingly clever. In "A Fictional Literature..." the vocalist sings "Drums, you know, have no place in secular life / You can find them in galleries, and shows playing in four/ four / Mary can play like Jupiter or Mars, sounding out her drums / Playing to her inspiration." Contrary to apparent popular belief, writing songs that don't include the words death, knife, heart, bleed, or anything of that nature is in fact, still possible. Who'd have thought? The song ends with some great guitar work that evokes thoughts of great rock bands in the past.

"The Unfrightened" is probably the album's most upbeat song, keeping a great rhythm throughout the duration with two vocals present. The lead singer still has his parts and then an echoed version of his vocals, but with different lyrics, are present in the background in some of the earlier parts of the song. About three and a half minutes through, an infectious guitar groove kicks in, and then so do the echo-sounding vocals. The song fades out at the five-minute mark, leaving way for the "Beauty Is An Ugly Mask," which is certainly an interesting song. It's only a minute long, but uses no sort of vocals or conventional instrumentation. It sounds like congo drums and a wood block. There seems to be no rhyme or reason to this, but it does keep a your interest, and serves as an interesting interlude in the album.

There's no suprises in any of the other songs, and after the untitled fifth track, things slow down a bit, and become more low-key, but everything still keeps a great rhythm and engages you to continue listening. There's some sort of misprint in the liner notes, as it gives lyrics for the fifty-second "Beauty Is An Ugly Mask," in which there are no vocals, but regardless that's where my favorite lyrics are found. "Beauty is an ugly mask, I blow smoke from cigarettes / Into open wounds to get my fix, I shot drugs into my childrens wounds / Because they're little pricks / What kind of guy do you take me for, what kind of guy do you adore? / Nonsense and shock are useless now."

You're really getting a lot of music here for just an EP, being almost 30 minutes by the end of it all, which is just one of the many reasons to check this out. This is how rock'n'roll is meant to sound. Don't get this confused with that rock revival garage rock garbage, like the Vines and White Stripes; it's the genuine article. This EP is a hell of a good time, and I urge all of you to pick it up.