Like Elliott Smith filtered through the moodier, cinematic portions of Radiohead's OK Computer, Chicago's Kevin Tihista's Red Terror offer up a lo-fi slice of indie pop with some surprisingly big ideas. Opening with an instrumental that sounds like a circus version of Angelo Badalamenti's Inside the Actor's Studio theme, it segues into a spinning filmstrip projector, cementing the songwriter's obvious love for theatrical melodrama. While most of the tunes are acoustic-based, the eclectic instrumentation feels rooted in the same murky, Beatlesque alleyway as works by the Auteurs or New Pornographer Dan Bejar's Destroyer. Lyrically, Tihista's boyish tenor seems fixated on a fairly stereotypical brand of heartache, and the numerous references to being "lost at sea" confirm the author's internal despair. He doesn't have much new to say about the subject, but there's no denying its effect on him. Standout cuts like the spooky "Ride" and the brooding "Real Life" -- the latter does suffer from a truly horrible lead guitar sound -- find Tihista in control of his sinking ship, and for the most part it's a pretty entertaining ride, but at 17 tracks, Wake Up Captain is a poor example of brevity, and listeners with short attention spans will snap about halfway through. However, those who value craft over instant gratification will revel in this talented artist's tormented -- yet candy-coated -- psyche.
AllMusic Review by James Christopher Monger