"Emo." What does that word mean to you? It's a pretty funny word, considering the completely inaccurate and quite comical Google image results
for "emo." The genre has been skewed and practically tainted by the overwhelming abundance of misconceptions and stereotypes of what emo actually is. As I'm writing this and researching the correct meaning of the word, I've come to realize there is no final say on what "emo" may be defined as. You can read as many articles, Wikipedia pages, or even Urban Dictionary entries, which there are over a thousand of, (or at least that's the number I stopped at because I was tired of scrolling) in search of a definition. The truth is, the definition of emo is kind of subjective, making it seemingly impossible to pinpoint. But, like everything that's ever come into existence, the emo genre has its roots, and those roots are undeniable.
I grew up listening to punk music, with the word "punk" possessing a broad and unspecific definition. In my middle school years, I discovered Fuse TV, which I'm sure quite a few millenials can admit to as well. While the majority of the radio was polluted with monotonous pop and easy listening garbage run by stations broadcasting fixed playlists, I took sanctuary in what I believed to be the cutting edge of cutting edge, religiously tuning in to shows like Steven's Untitled Rock Show
, or even a full 30 minutes of Loaded
featuring the videography of bands like My Chemical Romance or The Used. It's funny to think about some of the bands I actually took incredibly seriously
, but I'm positive I'm not the only one.
As time went on, I abandoned my middle school music phase, only being tied to certain tracks by strings of nostalgia found on burnt CDs crammed full with bands like Saosin, Taking Back Sunday, and Brand New. It was only until fairly recently when I was introduced to Cap'n Jazz. To say the least, I was instantly hooked. I became a junkie over night after purchasing Analphabetapolothology
within three hours of my first listen to the seemingly infinite guitars on "Little League"; the track that launches the brilliantly spastic album to a non-stop punk fury.
Cap'n Jazz's lifespan was brief, lasting from 1989 to 1995, concluding with a non-lethal overdose of classically trained guitarist Victor Villareal while on tour in Little Rock, Arkansas. At this point in their career, the band had become local favorites; a buzz band that reached significant success in the underground punk scene at the time. A few years before the rise of the internet and file sharing, the talk of the five Midwestern teenagers would be limited to word of mouth, but their legacy would spread like wildfire following the reissue of Analphabetapolothology
in 1998. The anthology includes their two 7" releases, various recordings that were technically not supposed to see the light of day, and the group's first full release, Burritos, Inspiration Point, Fork Balloon Sports, Cards in the Spokes, Automatic Biographies, Kites, Kung Fu, Trophies, Banana Peels We've Slipped On and Egg Shells We've Tippy Toed Over
or simply, Shmapn Shmazz
Cap'n Jazz's musical catalog has been widely celebrated and embraced, earning them the title "The Emo Velvet Underground", as their initial full-length release set an influential bar that would set off a chain reaction of stylistic emulation for rock subgenres including punk, hardcore, math rock, post rock, and more. As much as the group has been hailed as the forefathers for waves upon waves of genres and musicians, by no means is Cap'n Jazz perfect. In fact, their imperfection is what draws listeners back, as lyricist Tim Kinsella's self proclamation of being a happy accident
on "Puddle Splashers" perfectly represents the essence of the bands style as a whole. It was later revealed that most of Cap'n Jazz's distinct lyrics were written by the 19 year-old frontman while he was tripping on mushrooms, which makes sense considering the seemingly nonsensical lyrics that practically pour out of the singer's mouth at light speed paces. Through wordplay, alliteration, and pure wit, Kinsella manages to tackle topics like existential outlooks on material possessions, childhood nostalgia, and the awkward uncertainty of young love. All of the tracks are coated with a melancholic layer supporting the lead singer's perpetual wistfulness.
"Forget Who We Are" takes a stab at the absurd social hierarchy that's been integrated into school systems across America, which has constructed transparent boundaries between stereotypical cliques that every high school graduate can attest to. The jocks. The geeks. The goths. I know you know what I'm talking about. From a birds eye view, it's a system for morons, and kind of comical watching the conditioned participants get sucked into the political nature of determining which people you are or aren't allowed to talk to.
On "In The Clear", Kinsella wails through "A to J", only to cease his alphabetical recitation with an ostentatious "Lost!", before plunging into the latter half of the track. It's a cheesy line and it's a total shtick. It was the first gimmick of its kind. But behind the layer of pioneered gimmickry, sometimes we find a fundamental stroke of genius, unable to be replicated in the future without accusations of ripping off its original creator.
Cap'n Jazz's musical by-product is enormous, and borders on insurmountable, as they are responsible for influencing countless musicians following their parting in 1995, proven by the sheer amount of bands who have adopted
Cap'n Jazz's song titles
for their own musical exploits
. Each of the members would go on to pursue their own musical projects, including the Kinsella brothers accomplishments with Owen
, Joan of Arc
, and the highly influential American Football
, to name only a few.
For all music listeners, there is an inexplicably specific sound that instantly hits home, with the sound varying from person to person. There was always a sound I instantly connected to as I expanded my musical taste growing up, but it took a while for me to pinpoint it. Collecting bits and pieces of this sound along the way, it ended up taking me 20 years to discover a landmark of my personalized taste, as it lives and thrives on Cap'n Jazz's Analphabetapolothology
. Recommending this album would be considered lack of praise, since this essential piece of musical history is necessary to be heard by a global audience.