Dark Captain Dead Legs & Alibis Review

Album. Released 2011.  

BBC Review

Barbed lyrics decorate music that flirts with pastoral folk and post-rock.

Mike Barnes 2011

Formerly Dark Captain, Light Captain, this London-based quintet attracted critical praise for their 2008 debut Miracle Kicker and achieving a surprise iTunes hit with Jealous Enemies. Although it was the most immediate cut, its seductive mesh of picked guitars and male/female harmony vocals was representative of the feel of the album.

Dead Legs & Alibis is cut from similar cloth. The group has been somewhat erroneously tagged as alt-folk in some quarters, presumably because they use acoustic guitars – in the same way that any band with a sax is often deemed to be jazzy. On songs like Fade, Dark Captain add piano and smoky brass to their dreamy weft of voices – four group members are credited with vocals - and deft drum grooves.

This soundworld invites comparisons with the pastoralia of Nick Drake’s Bryter Layter, but equally to the lusher moments of quintessential post-rockers Bark Psychosis, to 90s shoegazers Chapterhouse, and even to Crosby, Stills & Nash. And in contrast to the sweetness of the music, the lyrics can be barbed and sour.

Although the rhythm of Different and Easier is buoyant and syncopated, at this halfway point in the album the shape of the melodic lines and breathy, constantly doubled-up voices sound too much like they are in a default mode, and begin to cloy. This feeling is compounded by the fact that the following track, 80,000 Reasons, although kicked along vigorously by the drummer, feels like a very close relation to its predecessor.

It seems just a tad churlish to criticise something as sonically gorgeous, finely arranged, and full of fine individual songs as Dead Legs & Alibis, but it would make a significant difference to the music if there were more space, especially in the vocal arrangements. This is achieved to some extent through the spangly guitar motifs of Ex Detective, and Strange Journeys Home has a slightly more expansive feel.

The final track, Flickering Light, begins with just acoustic guitars, and when the drums and bass make an entrance halfway through, it gives the song a sense of dynamics that’s almost completely lacking elsewhere.

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