The twelve songs of Racetrack Babies by The Captain of Sorrow came out of some relaxed jamming between the band’s chief artistic engine Hans-Christian and his three instrumental collaborators. Christian wanted a wide array of sounds for the album, essentially treating each of the twelve tracks as something from a different angle than before. Racetrack Babies has a unity and coherence of sound and style holding everything together. It never has a scattershot feeling; instead, Hans-Christian and the surrounding players blaze a trail through these songs like they’ve been playing together for some time and retain a compellingly live feel.
The warm, visceral production style employed for the collection is one of its overall defining qualities and it especially favors the vocals and guitar attack while never giving short shrift to nuance and other important instrumental voices. Racetrack Babies has wide ranging appeal thanks to the spontaneous style of its creation and never lapses into self indulgence common to that approach.
“Hollow Empty Void” gets the album flying with impressive energy. The guitars and rhythm section strike up a nearly instant rapport that burns bright throughout the song despite its slightly ragged, dissonant sound. The lyrics and Hans-Christian’s vocal delivery alike are idiosyncratic without ever sacrificing any accessibility to a wider audience. “The Scarlet Pimpernel” has a thumping Beatles-esque sound with a steadier, moderately paced tempo compared to the album’s first track, but it somehow manages to harbor the same sort of energy we felt from “Hollow Empty Void”, albeit employed differently. “The Captain of Sorrow” presents listeners with another distinctive musical color from Christian and his collaborators’ songwriting palette while stripping back the more cluttered sound we’ve heard with earlier songs in favor of something much more sinewy and filled with shadows.
The Captain of Sorrow adopts the same mid-tempo tenor of “The Scarlet Pimpernel” for the track “Anti Anti” with a little less emphasis placed on the groove and there’s a recurring wash of distorted guitar in the song’s second half darkening its texture. Dynamics are critical to the success of “Park the Bench” as it alternates between carefully considered, quiet passages with jagged blasts of distorted guitar. It might seem, in some ways, similar to the aforementioned “Anti Anti”, but the writing approaches the contrasting moods in a distinctly different way.
Captain Of Sorrow Will Hit All Your Emotions
“Siamese Scars” is one of the finest pieces of writing on Racetrack Babies and highlights another master class in structuring as the song slowly climbs from a delicate opening into a full throated rock arrangement by the song’s conclusion. It’s an especially dramatic structure for a lyric that pulls no punches and elicits a powerful vocal from Hans-Christian.
“The Lunar Ticks” has a delightfully surreal musical air and its near eerie bassline holds the song together with surprisingly little effort. There’s some equally phantasmagorical piano dropping in some melodic touches in the background and the vocals take on a slightly woozy, ghostly air. There’s a half march tempo provided by the drumming and some beguiling melodic strengths pushing the finale “Skull Coppers” forward and it’s topped off with a lightly urgent vocal that contrasts well with its occasional guitar flourishes. The Captain of Sorrow’s Racetrack Babies doesn’t waste a single one of the twelve slots allotted for their first release and produce an album more successfully varied than any in recent memory.
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-review by William Elgin