Joey Cape - Bridge (Cover Artwork)
Staff Review

Joey Cape

Bridge (2008)

Suburban Home

Joey Cape has never been a guy to stay dormant for very long; one look at his resume would confirm that. Helping to create the `90s Fat sound with Lagwagon? Embracing some slightly more obtuse influences in Bad Astronaut? Jamming with his buddies in the Playing Favorites? Ironically covering classics with Me First and the Gimme Gimmes? Check, check, check and check. So as a gracefully aging punk rock frontman, the next logical step in his career arc would be a straightforward solo record, right?

Of course, Bridge isn't the Caper's first solo output; his acoustic split LP with No Use for a Name's Tony Sly released in 2004 polarized many listeners. But this is Cape's first record with his name solely on the cover, and though it's a nice idea, the finished product leaves a little to be desired.

Firstly, Bridge isn't entirely comprised of 'new' material; five of these tracks ("Errands," "B-Side," "Memoirs and Landmines," "No Little Pill" and "Mission Unaccomplished") first appeared as Lagwagon songs on that band's recent EP, I Think My Older Brother Used to Listen to Lagwagon. Granted, the Bridge sessions took place over the course of three years so it's hard to know what was recorded when, but this record is undeniably hurt by nearly half of the tracks on Bridge having been first released on that Lagwagon EP just a few months ago.

As for the actual nature of these songs, too often Cape doesn't do enough with them, resulting in a record that's not nearly varied enough to retain a listener's interest. A little broader experimentation with tempos would've done wonders for Bridge, but instead the majority of these songs are quiet, somber numbers that tend to run together. The record's first two tracks, "Errands" and the admittedly heartbreaking "We're Not in Love Anymore" follow this formula. The Iron & Wine-esque production and delivery on "Canoe" just doesn't fit (although the voiceover provided by Cape's daughter Violet is pretty adorable), and while the keys in "Non-Sequitur" give the song a decidedly different feel, it's too little, too late. It's not even that these songs are bad; there's just too many of them.

It's a shame too, because when Cape elects to increase the tempo and sing with some conviction, the results are pretty solid. The warmth and honesty behind "Who We've Become" makes for an enjoyable listen, and the light percussion and faster strumming found on "B-Side" give the song a Bad Astronaut vibe that will undoubtedly make most listeners miss that band even more. Speaking of Bad Astronaut, closing track "Home" wouldn't have sounded out of place on a BA record, with a smooth, quiet buildup that ends in a full-on electric guitar and drum assault with Cape yelling "Can you see them?" with more passion than in any of the previous 11 tracks.

Given the quality of Cape's other projects, Bridge feels like an unfocused effort that only huge fans would be able to appreciate. It might sound strange, but there's not much doubt in my mind that with less time to record and less time between sessions Joey Cape would be capable of creating an excellent solo record, so here's to hoping that happens in the future.