This ‘Joey Cape’ article was written by Ed Quinn, a GIGsoup contributor
There is such a thing as bright melancholy. It’s the sort of music that can make you smile even though it’s predominantly about mopey stuff like bleeding wounds or heartache. Joey Cape’s solo work emanates bright melancholy, moving from his punk rock background playing with Lagwagon, to a more folky style. His third solo album, ‘Stitch Puppy’, provides jaunty acoustic guitar in one hand and sombre violin and piano in the other.
The subtle violin and piano accompaniment aid the pedestrian guitar chords and turn what might have become a slog into smooth, harrowing treat. This is more especially true in ‘Me the Witness’. ‘This Life Is Strange’ has a particularly good instrumental outro. The first half of the album in general is solid, but the rest is let down by what can only be described as “more of the same”.
Admittedly the constant strumming acoustic guitar chords can get grating going into the latter part of the album; if it weren’t for the fades in and out, it would be hard to notice that ‘Faultlines’ and ‘Moral Compass’ are two separate songs after having played all the way through. It starts to become apparent that one song could just as easily be another. In parts the album blends together and gets rid of any sense of individuality the songs have, until the last, slow piano track eases in to achieve the best ending that it possibly could have had.
‘Tracks’ works amazingly as the albums finisher, taking from the best parts of the previous songs to make a soothing, reflective ballad-like piece.
The album isn’t all sombre stuff either, it doesn’t matter what Cape sings, any song can be uplifting if he wants it to be. The listener may even experience the slight nod of head from the bouncy rhythm that some of the songs adopt, like with ‘Spill My Guts’ and ‘Gone Baby Gone’.
Cape’s style is that of a pessimist: despite playing uplifting, deceptively simplistic music, his vocals are passionate and wistful, making extra sure not to fall into a screaming whine. His voice is easy on the ear, with an ever-present air of confidence in the words he’s actually saying.
His lyrics are expressive, seemingly dealing with feelings of mistrust and abandonment, but they’re vague enough to be open to the listener’s subjective interpretation. It’s with this that Cape provides a means of connection with his audience. Cape should be commended for straying away from safe, repetitive sing-a-long-y lyrics in lieu of something worth actually listening to, and not just loudly hearing. And, unlike the last three sentences, Joey Cape does not get too pretentious.
A small gripe worth mentioning: the few times that Joey Cape does say fuck come off sounding silly. At the risk of sounding like his Nan, his voice and the overall tone of his album sound too nice to make inexplicable swearing sound sincere.
Overall, Joey Cape’s music can hug you if you let it. People may be put off by the constant chords and the interchangeable nature of a couple choice turds, but for those who endeavour to step over them, the album is great listening. ‘Stitch Puppy’ is best listened to all at once to get the best idea of what it’s all about, but once you’ve done that let your Shuffle function portion out your guitar chord dosage accordingly.
Stitch Puppy is out now via Fat Wreck Chords