Oakland’s Kapowski promise much on paper. They don’t even use guitars, just piano, organ, bass and drums and some rather splendid harmonies. In addition, the quartet’s influences stretch much further back in time then most other bands dare to go, so this is a world where George Gerschwin is mentioned in the same sentence as Van Dyke Parks and Ray Davies.
The lead singer and songwriter Jesse Rimler has a real emotional ache of a voice, with a slightly unhinged quality caught halfway between The Walkmen’s Hamilton Leithauser and Wayne Coyne from The Flaming Lips. Often it’s a strong enough instrument to carry the song but the band all play their part with some wonderful set-ups. ‘Section Eight’ is set to the quirkiest, geekiest of keyboard melodies but after that the band become far more ambitious.
The impressively arranged ‘Picture Of Health’ has its roots in musical theatre thanks to its storytelling and big band send-off, ‘Shut-In On The Go’ is dominated by an unusual combination of intense percussion and baroque organ fills, whilst ‘Lunatic Talk’ locates a halfway point between Queen and Vaudeville. Meanwhile, ‘Late Last Night’ and tender closer ‘Reel To Reel’ are as warm and as intimate as American indie rock gets.
‘Boy Detective’ is blessed with original arrangements and songwriting but also delights with its aura of teary-eyed romanticism. Sometimes, when there’s a danger that music is becoming increasingly homogenised, it’s heartening to know that there are acts like Kapowski who dare to be different.
Roommate, Eels, Queen, Ben Folds Five