Tuesday, 21 November 2006

Get Cape. Wear Cape. Fly - Chronicles Of A Bohemian Teenager

The voice behind the beguiling moniker Get Cape… actually belongs to 20 year-old Southend native Sam Duckworth, who has built a growing reputation over the past year armed with just an acoustic guitar, laptop and a diary full of impassioned lyrics.
Delivering his first full length, Duckworth has drawn a few comparisons, particularly with fellow Essex lad Billy Bragg, who is a definite precursor to Get Cape… in the lineage of the protest song. While also making use of up-tempo laptop beats, he doesn’t fit into the homegrown folktronica niche devised by taste-makers over recent years - while 'Chronicles…' has its antecedents, Duckworth is his own man.
Four of the final cut of songs appeared on last year’s limited self-titled mini-album, although the finished versions are suitably fleshed out for this Atlantic release.
'Once More With Feeling' is a misleadingly understated introduction to the album - not an accusation which will often be levelled at Duckworth. Things get going with 'An Oak Tree', with jazzy touches and a breakneck rhythm which suggests a copy of Roni Size’s 'New Forms' has perhaps sat next to the assorted troubadours and guitar bands in Duckworth’s record collection. The vocal styling gives away a history fronting several hardcore/emo bands - the raw chorus of 'I-Spy' in particular suggests having been road-tested in this guise. The album settles upon a formulaic song structure of acoustic intro/verse followed by beats kicking in before the first chorus, perhaps gleaned from the Postal Service album of a few years ago.
Duckworth’s earnest and well intentioned lyrics fall short of exerting too much political leaning or malice, perhaps unlike US contemporaries such as Bright Eyes, although clumsy couplets perpetuate the likes of 'Whitewash Is Brainwash' and certain sections of the writing are unneccessarily wordy (“You don’t need a degree to de-construct this melody” - 'Chronicles… Part Two'). Having said that, the importance here is of a young spokesperson eager to speak for and to his generation about issues affecting their lives - be it capitalism, reality TV, addiction or war, all of which are dealt with here.
Where 'Chronicles…' excels is in the obvious pop nous of its creator; stand-out 'Call Me Ishmael' would have been just fine on its own, but an inspired change of pace for the end third and a wonderful cornet solo lift it up above the rest of the tracks here. The other previous single, 'Chronicles… Part One' is a similar grower, progressing from bedroom lament into super-charged sing-a-long. Occasionally the arrangements can seem overcooked, the beauty of these songs is in their simplicity and some of the assorted beeps and bleeps seem superfluous.
While not a perfect debut by some stretch, Duckworth’s talent for pop songwriting should not be underestimated and his intentions are admirable. As he himself opines on theme song 'Get Cape. Wear Cape. Fly', “Open your eyes. You don’t need to buy.” Apart from this album, surely?


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