Capillary Action - So Embarassing (Cover Artwork)
Staff Pick

Capillary Action

So Embarassing (2007)


My first interaction with Capillary Action came when Jon was looking for someone to review his first album. A few AIM chats with him and I was blown away. The album was full of raw talent -- most of it exuded through Jon's songwriting and playing of almost every instrument on it. Bits and pieces of freakout absurdist rock, jazz, metal riffs, Brazilian pop music -- it all was jammed into one album, track by track. But it was jagged. The edges were rough, the songs were not homogeneous, the album was self-recorded and mastered over the phone.

After an album based on sound collage, years of touring, writing, and arranging, Cap Act has finally harnessed the sound that they wanted to. The songs are solid, dallying in the above mentioned genres with fluid transitions and precision playing. Keeping free jazz as a template, the group has flushed out the sound with vocal harmonies, full horn sections and strings. Latin rhythms jump in and out behind dissonant guitar licks, hyper melodic bridges featuring Phil Spector style arrangements, freak-out absurdist lyrics sung over vicious metal riffs -- all of it is par for the course.

It doesn't matter if you're listening to the easy listening-style pop intro to "Elevator Fuck" or if you're rocking the blast-beats of "Bloody Nose" -- So Embarassing just feels succinct. The juxtaposition of musical styles against each other create a soundscape that is inexplicable -- like the doctor's explanation of Montgomery Burns' illnesses, there are so many viruses trying to get through his system that they've become crammed tightly and stuck, leaving him seemingly healthy and invincible. By covering all grounds imaginable, the album is both jarring and pleasant, exciting and devastating. And for some dumb reason, it just works.

Or, you can be like Greg and complain about how listening to this music will just make him tired.

I can see how the salsa rhythms of "Placebo or Panacea" could be tiring. Tight, quick and smooth, that tempo and those smooth horns could give me one hot rump-shakin' nap. Or let's talk about one my favorites, "Sexy Koala," which trades off Wes Montgomery-style jazz guitar with outbursts of post-hardcore guitar riffing and blast-beats. The album smoothly transitions into the closer "Self-Released," which builds slowly into a mid-tempo rock chorus before dabbling in more absurdist instrumentalism and wildly toned improvisational horns until it drops off into a quiet, slowly repeated sung phrase "You will always be self-released." The instruments fill in with the guitar accompaniment with an atmospheric vibe as it builds in tempo and dynamics. The album closes with dramatic noise and improvisations, dropping off for a contained single phrased ending.

The flow of the album is top notch. The instrumental playing is mind-boggling. The humor is self-evident. I remember someone referred to them once as "dorks with guitars." Touring constantly as a three-piece, it's amazing to hear the re-worked renditions of these songs, but for once, overdoing it and layering has not ruined the core of the song itself. Instead, what we have here is an example of "dork with guitar, plus army of highly-trained musicians."

Father of Mine, Live in San Francisco, 2007