The Sea Captains
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The Sea Captains

Portsmouth, New Hampshire, United States | SELF

Portsmouth, New Hampshire, United States | SELF
Band Rock Pop


This band has not uploaded any videos
This band has not uploaded any videos



"Full Speed Ahead: Riding High with the Sea Captains"

The Sea Captains don't take themselves particularly seriously. They finish their debut 11-track album, Unfathomable, with the intentionally ironic "I'm Not Rock and Roll": "I know I won't get very far/I can't even play guitar." There are skronks and feedback squawks to make the point, a crooning verse, protestations that "I'm a fraud/Show's over/There's nothing to see/You can stop looking at me."

But the song actually rocks pretty hard, with a heavy three-strum guitar punctuation in the chorus and a near-grindcore open.

Like Pinkerton-era Weezer or the tongue-in-cheek silliness that sometimes finds its way into the Magnetic Fields, the Sea Captains walk the wobbly tightrope of both being interesting (maybe even important) songwriters and having a sense of humor. As someone who generally dislikes funny in his music, let me say this: the Sea Captains get to the other end of the tightrope without really even needing that big long stick to keep themselves balanced. They've got great taste in influences, an ear for when they're going overboard, and frontman Tim Collins delivers smart lyrics with an elegant panache.

Well, assuming you can deliver a line like "self-esteem is over-rated/so come on over here and get naked" with panache.

That's from the opening "Come on, Sugar," which alternates between '50s-style boy-band pop and hyper-aggressive pop punk, with a transition that features vocals heavily to the front and muted guitar in the back. There's even a sort of an upstroke bridge. And, like more than a few couplets here, Collins dials right down to the essence of things: "I don't want to have to take you out to dinner every goddamn day/I don't really have the money."

God, isn't that the truth?

People who've been around the Portland scene a bit will have a hard time not thinking of this as Adam Flaherty's band, of course. He has the success of his Noise Machine days, garnering him a Best Indie Rock BiMPy and widespread respect as a smart songwriter. In the same way that Flaherty got away with having a, let's say, non-traditional voice, because he was so smart and endearing, Collins gets similar leeway. He's not a first-rate vocalist, but he's not trying to be, and what he lacks in tone and pitch he mostly makes up for with a winsome disposition and emotion you can believe in. Still, there are some clunky falsettos here and there that'll make you wince.

Also, "Pretty Like a Cigarette," even if it's supposed to be a wink-wink kind of song, with a Morphine-style low-end drive and a cowbell, needs either a Mark Sandman or a Sully Erna to complete it, and I'm not sure that's a good thing.

In large part, though, you should find yourself so wrapped up in each song's new universe that you won't be thinking overly much about the details. "Evil (How Could You Be So)" is terrific, a set of three scenarios painted in front of martial drumming from long-time Flaherty rhythm-keeper Tom Ash and featuring a ripping guitar solo from Zack White. The girl is first Snidely Whiplash, then Dr. Frankenstein, then the Phantom of the Opera, with everything finishing in a swirl of strings.

The arrangements here are equal to the lyrics, smartly moving from highly involved studio pieces into simple singer/songwriter fare like "Open Mic," which opens like the Bay State's "Let's Turn This City On," but practices restraint where those emo types go big. "Lonely All the Time" is a huge vamp, with Collins popping forehead veins in the chorus, then pulling back for jaunty lines in front of hand-claps: "If everyone was a nickel then you and me were a dime." Marty Morrissey's bass here is a perfect swaggering strut up and down the scale to hold the whole thing together.

That's followed by a terrific alt-country pop number in "It's Your Rhythm" that has Collins at his most comfortable delivery. There's a warm bit of organ, an acoustic strum, and maybe my favorite line of the album: "Something in her shake makes my belly ache." It's tough not to sing along with.

That tune vies with "Up to My Ears" for best song on the album. Coming next to last, "Ears" is basically the culmination of the band's best tricks: following the vocals tightly in both cadence and melody, alternating between a bouncy verse and a big chorus, and lyrics that paint a series of portraits, this time of girlfriends that make Collins bemoan, "I'm in la, la, la, la, la, la, la, la debt," or, later, "I'm in la, la, la, la, la, la, la deep shit."

The band love those contrasts that make as little sense as they do. Seriously.

Sam Pfeifle can be reached at - Sam Pfeifle, The Portland Phoenix


Unfathomable - LP
Crust and Slush - Christmas EP



The Sea Captains are the Frankenstein's monster of the rock and roll world. Born of a thousand different pieces from a thousand different places they are simultaneously a revived college band, a Christmas band, and something entirely new--with a dash of rambling from someone who may have watched too much Fraggle Rock as a child. The Sea Captains are a rock band. They are a pop band. By day they are a quintet of perfect gentlemen who you would love to host your family function. By night, they positively drip with playful sexuality and can hardly keep the fans from rushing the stage. They are The Wiggles meets Aerosmith. They are garage rock and acoustic dinner ambiance.

The Sea Captains are fun incarnate.

To listen to their debut album "Unfathomable" is to tour through all of these experiences and more, and yet it remains unmistakable that this is the consistent sound of one band. Vocalist Tim Collins, rhythm guitarist Adam Flaherty, bassist Marty Morrissey, drummer Chris St. Lawrence and lead guitarist Carl Hansen have made it their mission to provide a rock experience that not only delivers the catchy riffs and sing-along lyrics that an audience craves, but to do it without the creepy facades of their gloomy-gus contemporaries. The Sea Captains know how to have a good time and it shows. Go ahead and take their picture, they'll SMILE for it. How many rock bands will do THAT?