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Sam Duckworth is hardly the first musician to flirt with a change of direction, three albums into his career. And that’s not to say he’s completely rejecting the indie-folk he’s best known for with his self-titled new record. Recent single ‘Collapsing Cities’ is representative of an album that feels a little stuck in between his past and his possible future.
The track is described as a collaboration with Shy FX, but it feels more like a B-side remix of the pop song hidden within it. A catchy trumpet hook is the main focal point, but for some reason it’s been buried low in the mix. It’s wrestling beneath over-complicated jungle drumming and far too many vocal overdubs, making it less catchy and memorable than it could be. The song itself has a lot in common with early tracks like ‘Call Me Ishmael’, and is as good as anything Get Cape. Wear Cape. Fly has done. But a good pop song doesn’t need studio trickery like this.
A lot of the arrangements on Get Cape. Wear Cape. Fly feel gimmicky in the same way: the Stevie Wonder-style piano and Baaba Maal’s African vocals on ‘All Of This Is Yours’, the ELO vibe of ‘Nightlife’, the industrial/ballad mash-up on ‘All Falls Down’. None of these elements are intrinsic to the songwriting, so it’s hard to understand how and why many aesthetic decisions were made.
Listening to ‘Stitch By Stitch’ makes you wish Duckworth had thrust himself far less ambiguously in his 'new direction'. It’s a track with a gothic beat that’s more experimental than most, in that it’s almost entirely synthesised and heavily processed. There isn’t much musical continuity – a lot of ideas and motifs come and go quite quickly without being developed – but at least, here, Duckworth is committing to a new way of working instead of just bashing his old songs into new shapes.
But given that this track is fairly unique, the remaining highlights use a more traditional Get Cape formula. ‘Queen For A Day’ has an angry, driven verse, in a style that Frank Turner does best. Opening track ‘Hand Me Downs’, on the other hand, is a simple guitar/vocal track with pretty arpeggios and reminiscing lyrics.
It’s ‘The Uprising’ that takes Duckworth back to his emo roots. And as you can probably tell from the title, yes, this is the anthem. The chorus is stuffed with “woah”s, with real adrenaline running through it. The track goes on to a closing section which, if it was distorted and transposed to a minor key, could be a Senses Fail song.
In general though, Get Cape. Wear Cape. Fly struggles under the weight of Duckworth’s new interest in electronic beats. Admittedly this influence was always there from the off, when Duckworth started out making his music on a laptop, but it was never the focus of the music, at the expense of songwriting. On a song like ‘Where Will You Stand’ though, it feels like too much attention has been paid to getting the right sound instead of making the song work.
This same problem makes the musicians sound more like a session band than a band with genuine artistic involvement in the creative process. Get Cape. Wear Cape. Fly is a professional album by a maturing songwriter who has written some very good tracks. He just needs to remember that if a song works in its own right, then the song can be enough on its own, without the bells and whistles. Progression like this, seemingly for the sake of it, isn’t really progression at all.
- In Photos: Friends Of Mine Festival 2011 @ Capesthorne Hall, Macclesfield
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- Get Cape. Wear Cape. Fly - Get Cape. Wear Cape. Fly
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- Watch: Get Cape. Wear Cape. Fly - 'Collapsing Cities'
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