Sound — 10
Cap'n Jazz's 1993 ep (which I'll refer to only as "Sometimes if...") is a prime example of the sound which characterised the second wave of emo which emerged during the early 90's. Second-wave emo bands like Cap'n Jazz, Sunny Day Real Estate, and Texas is the Reason presented a well-rounded sound which incorporated elements of 80's hardcore and skate punk without sounding linear or unvaried, and which drew influence from the college-rock and post-punk of the day without sacrificing expression for Morrissey-like pop instrumentation. While they do display elements common to the emo genre of the 90's (shifts in tempo, dense drumming, etc), Cap'n Jazz stand out from the rest of the emo scene with their innovative use of the trumpet and their peculiar, Pixie-esque use of abstraction.
Lyrics — 10
Tim Kinsella's lyricism displays the unmistakable influence of 80's college rock bands like Sonic Youth and the Pixies. Kinsella's explosive stream-of-consciouness approach, coupled with his taste for sweeping abstractions, define the style that would later be adopted by third-wave emo bands of the 2000's. It should be noted, though, that while their followers thrived on cliches and on typical teen angst scenarios, Cap'n Jazz never fall into the trap of writing the predictable lyric; rather, they redefine the concept of lyricism, as did alternative rock bands like Nirvana and the Pixies before them. The lyrics often display a tendence towards philosophy, a trait which would later be adopted by a number of screamo bands such as Circle Takes The Square and Funeral Diner. Kinsella's vocal approach is one that had a clear influence on later post-hardcore and emo acts; he switches comfortably between an agonised wailing and a menacing rasp clearly borrowed from hardcore punk acts like Minor Threat, without ever being afraid to stumble into a much softer, whispered passage.
Overall Impression — 10
Cap'n Jazz are truly a unique voice, and this voice is one which inspired many, many artists, long after the band themselves split up. This short ep displays so many of the elements that would later become staples of emo, indie, and post-hardcore bands of the 2000's; from their atrociously long and often unrelated titles to the loud-soft-loud dynamic that they borrowed from the alt. rock scene, Cap'n Jazz set the standard for a genre that would, for the most part, only decrease in originality and in sincerity over the following sixteen years. "Sea Tea" stands out as the very best of the three songs found on "Sometimes if..." with its opening menacing build-up of feedback and its spastic, hi-hat heavy drumming, its use of swooning, drunken, jazz-style trumpet interjections, and its frail, lament-like ending. Cap'n Jazz's "Sometimes if..." illustrates a period during which emo was a fruitful and innovative genre, before it evolved into the generic pop which we now know it to be.