The last time the world heard from Captain, We’re Sinking was in 2013 when they announced that The Future is Cancelled. While that was grim for sure, the album was the perfect soundtrack to accompany such news. It is an intensely emotional showcase that cemented them as a band’s place in front of the game. I first encountered Captain, We’re Sinking while they were touring with The Menzingers, Fake Problems, and Restorations. To this day, that show stands as one of the best I’ve been to and that was largely due to discovering Captain, We’re Sinking. I’ve been a huge fan ever since.
If the band’s activity outside of Scranton, PA over the last four years is any indication, they may have been right to title their album as such. Then, earlier this year, it was announced they were returning with their third full length album – and second with Run for Cover Records – entitled The King of No Man. With this, my top priority became getting those tracks into my ears. Based solely on the lead single and opening track, “Trying Year”, I knew it was going to be good. As it turns out, The King of No Man is one of those albums that I listened to multiple times a day for two weeks straight. It’s got that ‘every time I think I’m going to listen to a different record, it’s just easier to let this roll over again because nothing else sounds as good to me right now’ kind of good.
One of the things that sets Captain, We’re Sinking apart from other punk-ish bands is an ability to seamlessly blend honest, emotionally charged lyrics with complex guitar leads and tempo changes while still maintaining a high factor of sing-a-long-ability. The opening one-two punch of “Trying Year” followed by “Books” perfectly exemplifies this. They show that the band is not only back but better than ever. 2016 was rough for everyone and having that frustration captured so perfectly in the first song provides a great release. The follow up of a heartfelt track about the passing of a friend in the hospital make the case for one hell of an emotional roller coaster to come. The first twist comes at the third track, “Don’t Show Bill”. This shit gets real dark real fast with a sound that is straight up Crime in Stereo levels of hardcore. It’s something new from Captain and I wasn’t sure about it at first, but it didn’t take long for me to get on board and fully embrace it as an essential part of the record. I don’t know about you, but I have noticed a direct negative correlation between how loud I yell “There is nothing wrong with me” and how true that ends up being.
From there, the album takes a step back and lets the audience breathe, if only for a moment. It’s not long into “Cannonless” before you’ll find yourself singing along to the beautiful melodies of “Blissfully our frames connect/ keep time by the rise and fall of your chest/ take slow and steady breaths.” As much as I was hoping “Smash 2” would be about the yet-to-be-written follow up to The Offspring album bearing the same name, the passionate account of two lovers celebrating each other is a much better use of the band’s lyrical talent. Speaking of sequels, “The Future is Cancelled” returns for another take on the subject in “The Future is Cancelled Part 2”. The same bitterness and intensity the band showcased before is again present, but the lyrics contain an air of wisdom only gained through experience. Life’s little fuck ups can be a shitty time, but making it out the other side with your head held high and learning something is a great outlook for life.
When it comes to emotional payloads, it’s obvious Captain, We’re Sinking is no slouch; that’s where my favorite track from the album, “Hunting Trip”, comes in. Regardless of whether or not the lyrics were based on true events, the images describing the subject’s pain as they deal with the survivor’s guilt of having lost their father so many years back and all that it’s done the their family are haunting. Throughout the song, the guitar escalates from an infectious riff dancing lightly around the fret board to a full on ruckus as it serves to punctuate the emotional high and low points. The sadness you are left with lingers long after the last chords ring out.
The second half of the album continues with “Water” and “Crow”, two songs that deal with getting older, growing apart, and the way our relationships change as a result. The build up into the chorus of “Crow” as the singer exclaims “Now you cannot believe that this is the end of you and me” is an energizing injection at a point when a shot in the arm is just what you need to bring things back around. While we’re on the subject of positivity, “Dance of Joy” is another departure from what I’ve come to expect and yet I can’t believe it didn’t exist before. You would think an acoustic guitar riff that is straight Paul Simon and the ridiculously upbeat chorus of “You’ll be alright!” repeated over and over would have no place in a Captain, We’re Sinking song, but here we are and I’m just fine with it.
The album closes with the titular track and is a haunting ballad of loneliness and loss. Our subject is completely alone in a world where the last other person has died by their own hand. Concerned with the final resting place of their friend, our narrator advises the deceased not to reveal what they did in life. He proclaims himself the king of all, but as the only subject left to rule over, he is the king of no man. It is a fitting metaphor to the disconnected lives that so many lead. What good is all that we have amassed with no one to share it with?
The King of No Man is definitely not the feel good, porch hangs soundtrack of summer album. Not by a long shot. However, it is a fantastic example of what a band can achieve writing from a perspective of intense emotional honesty. I found myself connecting to the songs more profoundly than most and it gave me a newfound appreciation for people who are willing to open up in their music the way Captain, We’re Sinking did. On top of everything else, the album is the perfect length of eleven tracks and clocking in at 37 minutes, the ideal candidate for repeat listens.