Kave Talk

Fran Capitanelli

Criminal Records, 2011


REVIEW BY: Jason Warburg


The truth is, there’s something a little off about most artists of any consequence. Those unique perspectives and characteristics are a key part of why these individuals become artists, and why their work appeals; they see the world differently.

Fran Capitanelli first came to my attention as the frontman/guitarist for Georgia power trio The Tom Collins, whose 2005 album Daylight Tonight was a revelation, a stunning Led Zeppelin / Tom Petty mind-meld full of powerhouse guitar work and memorable songs. It was all the more surprising coming in the wake of the group’s self-titled 1999 debut, which could generously be described as a hot mess. The Tom Collins was full of Capitanelli’s laconic TP-esque snarl and fat Jimmy Page power riffing, but eschewed any semblance of discipline or structure in favor of a chaotic “It’s 2 a.m., and I’ve had a couple too many” vibe that, listened to in the cold light of day, leaves you shaking your head at the serial missed opportunities.

Having changed out rhythm sections entirely between his first and second albums under the Tom Collins banner, and done a fair amount of session work with Butch Walker and Gavin Degraw in the interim, Capitanelli turns Kave Talk into a true solo showcase, covering nearly all the instruments himself. That said, this feels in many ways like The Tom Collins, part III, with hints and flavorings of both my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250 Daylight Tonight and its less structured predecessor.

One thing’s for sure: Fran Capitanelli loves to play guitar, animating these nine tunes with a tremendous range of interesting, complex, and consistently melodic riffing. Opener “I Sent You On” features a kind of dreamy/beachy vibe, with references to a coconut forest and the shore, as big, weepy, rather Harrison-esque guitar accents descend past. “My Favorite Jeans” extends the dopey slacker vibe with a loopy lyric over a big airy riff: “I think it’s time for my favorite jeans / Where are they? / I think it’s time to rip some holes in the knees / But they’re on me.” It’s laidback, atmospheric weirdness interrupted only by a fiery little mini-solo.

“There’s Nothin’ To Think About” opens with a dash of musical chaos before resolving into a big, thumping mid-tempo number that finds Capitanelli emphasizing the little David Bowie quaver that sometimes creeps into his vocals. Both it and the brief, heavy/greasy “Dangerous Place To Be” (“It’s a dangerous place to be / Inside my head”) close with wildly elastic, evocative solos.

The continental divide of this album—the halfway high point—comes with “Recent Suspicions,” steady and serious with airy production and multi-tracked background vocals adding dimension, and a big echoey solo full of swerves, dives and miscellaneous whammy bar mischief. “It seems they were right,” sings our indisputably guilty Fran in a matter-of-fact tone, “your recent suspicions.”

Each of the above, and the songs that follow, ambles past like a long story from the guy at the bar, full of sardonic, at times disjointed observations on the day. “Tip Your Glass” is explicitly just that, a two-minute salute to binge-drinking and calling in sick to work, capped off by a playful solo that’s half dreamy and half frenetic. The final trio is highlighted by the heavy yet distinctly off-kilter riffing of “Spot In Her Makeup” and the deliriously bloozy kiss-off closer “The Very Last Show.” “I’d give you one more last time / To hear you say that you love me so,” sings Capitanelli over a fat blues foundation augmented by purring Hammond organ. “Sorry baby, you just caught my last show.”

The real question is, is this album a strange kind of fun… or a fun kind of strange? The answer depends on what angle you come at this music from. If you’re looking for the kind of disciplined, powerful songcraft Capitanelli displayed on Daylight Tonight, you’re not going to find it here. But if you’re vulnerable to the charms of a laidback barroom philosopher full of soggy shaggy-dog tales, who also happens to play some ferociously inventive electric guitar, then step right in, grab a stool, and make yourself comfortable. It’s gonna be a long night.

Rating: B

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