The Capstan Shafts

Revelation Skirts

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Dean Wells had been running the Capstan Shafts as a one-man band for over a decade by the time of 2010’s Revelation Skirts. Running it into the ground if the previous album Fixation Protocols was any indication. Many of the elements of what made earlier Shafts records so good were still there (Wells’ vocals, his obscure but heartfelt lyrics and the short, catchy songs that sound like Guided by Voices A-sides), but the overall feeling was of a project that had run its course and felt forced and tired. To bring some new direction and focus on Revelation Skirts, Wells brought in a collaborator for the first time. Matt LeMay of Get Him Eat Him (and the author of two glowing reviews of previous Capstan Shafts albums) joined up with Wells to play drums, bass, organ and guitar as well as producing. It would be nice to say that the decision to add LeMay righted the ship and fixed all the problems that had threatened to ruin things, and though the record has more fire and energy than Fixation, it lacks the immediacy and weirdness of Wells' earlier work. While the songs have nice sing-along choruses, occasionally sharp hooks, and Wells sounds as good as ever, it’s jarring to hear pro guitar solos, big sounding drums and guitars that ring instead of clatter. Strange that rather than sounding like they could have been one of the better bands on Homestead, instead they sound like they could have been signed to Geffen in the mid-90s. It might have been better for Wells and LeMay to rename the band in order to escape comparisons to earlier Shafts records. Something to signify that the band was now a real-ish band, that lo-fi had become hi-fi, and that the sound was late period GBV-influenced. Capstan Shafts, Jr. would have worked. All that being said, Revelation Skirts isn’t a bad 90’s influenced, modern rock album and a handful of the songs would make good mixtape selections. It’s just that the Capstan Shafts used to be something very different and much more interesting.

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