Oh Captain My Captain - Recklessly She Split the Sea
Record Label: Bladen County Records
Release Date: November 14, 2008
The members of the Portland rock group Oh Captain My Captain aren’t nearly as talented as they think they are. Their debut disc, Recklessly She Split the Sea, moves with effortless swagger and their lead singer has a weary, forlorn croon that carries each of the songs, but that’s really about as far as they go. An orchestra instrumental serves as a promising start on the first track, “Opening Credits,” and returns as a minute-long opener to seventh track, “Don’t Be a Hero,” but the violins get bogged down throughout the rest of the record. The strings are present on the plaintive “Stones of Lead,” but disappear shortly after the opening, and then pop up only sporadically and mutely for the duration of the record. In their place, jittery, garage-style rock swirls around, with one hand firmly geared towards the pop spectrum and the other towards the psychedelic angle. The songs are definitely dramatic and catastrophic, especially with lines like, “If some man should come to take you out of my life, go with him, baby you’re not worth the fight, not tonight,” but the power isn’t exactly felt. The vocals and the delivery comes across more like a smokescreen than that of actual fact. That is to say, listening to this album almost feels like one great magic trick.
Founding members Jesse Bettis (vocals/guitar) and Josh Spacek (guitar) know all the right buttons to push and do so effectively, but none of it feels authentic or first-rate. Bettis’ vocal stylings even carry a bit of Chris Martin and David Bazan in their movements, but the grandiose, cinematic elements are too few and far between, and when they are present, their presence is ephemeral and understated. While the album is chock full of piano, vibes, bells and even a trumpet, their ability to augment the songs falters. What results is a quirky mess. The progressive rock moments feel more like mimicry than originality, and the hooks don’t stand out nearly as well as one would hope. The only track that has a radio-ready feel to it is the sixth track, “All My Good Luck,” and the cinematic opener, “Anne Marie.” It isn’t until the last four songs that the band puts together songs worth repeating. The group cites Radiohead, The Beatles, and Queen as influences, and each one of them is felt here, but not as effectively as one might hope. By the time the album concludes, the herky-jerky rhythms and over-the-top crooning are all a bit too much. Is it good music? Sure. Is it tolerable music? Absolutely. Does it make me want to listen again? Not entirely.
That being said, this album has the right formula and all the potency to make it far. They’ll probably even make it to radio and their much-heralded live show will win me over, but for now, this tepid reaction is all they’re getting from me.