Capsula is a throwback to an era of punk rock that may not ever have existed, a remnant of a Platonic world where all songs are played fast, where the drummer keeps an animalistic beat for hours on end, a place where the pogoing guitarist can fill the stage and stage the fills with melody and soul as the girl bassist with the bunny ears rocks harder than Izzy Stradlin. They are, in short, a revelation, Buenos Aires expats who moved to Bilbao, Spain because in South America, in Tom Verlaine’s words, the distance it kills you, and there was no way to foster a career having to cross the Andes just to get a gig in Santiago or Punta Arenas.
When Songs & Circuits came out five years ago, we could scarcely believe our luck, pinched ourselves to find a modern punk band that played fast and offered steaming parilla of smoking riffs and still poured on melody like it was hot sauce. Rising Mountains had a few points deducted for sameness, for the too familiar problem of punk bands that evolve into generic rock. It was still hands down better than 9 out of 10 rock albums that came out that year. They then traded favors with the esteemed Ivan Julian — after he produced their album, they cut his, serving as a high-class backup band on The Naked Flame. For the past year we have waited to find out if their third album would be a step forward. (Others, released in South America earlier in their career, have been as lost to the world as an Incan alphabet). And now we know: In The Land Of The Silver Souls, officially released here on April 4th, but magically available in the iTunes Store this morning, was delivered from Old Europe back to the New World. March 16th, 2011 will not go down in history as a great day for Planet Earth, except… Capsula’s new album is precious metal, 14-carat pure and good.
The album kicks off, as Songs & Circuits did, with an indirect assault. “Wild Fascination” stirs the blood, but it’s not til Martin Guevara wraps a guitar riff ’round Coni Dutchess’ ample bass and Nacho Villarejo kicks “Town Of Sorrow” into overdrive that we see plates sliding off the Bilbao Guggenheim as every Basque bastard starts to rock. By “Hit’n’Miss,” a song that embodies the entire Capsula oeuvre in a single cut — Cali pyschedelica, garage rock, a frisson of Leaving Trains tunefulness — we’re convinced that Capsula’s new one dissolves into a salubrious groove.
The problem with punk bands, traditionally, is they either keep knocking their heads against the same brick alley wall, or they try to get somewhere. Too often bands you really love — let’s take the not-quite-punk, but of that era classic L.A. band The Dream Syndicate as an example — get good enough to really play well but what they choose to play is… rock. And your heart breaks. This could have happened to the Clash, when Give ‘Em Enough Rope followed their epochal launch, but fortunately they then figured out how to turn to musical idioms — New Orleans syncopation, say, or rockabilly — to infuse their music with its antecedent roots. Happily Capsula’s going the Clash route, or should we say the Clash roots. We hear occasional underpinnings of blues here and there, and in the daring “Communication,” they quite wondrously come close to the sound of Mr. James Osterberg’s “Penetration.”
Over the years, we’ve obsessed over the Fleshtones, the Mekons, Luna, and Television, the Stones and the Clash, the Brian Jonestown Massacre. At the dawn of what appears to be a great year in rock’n’roll music, we’ve just played an album by a band that has emerged as our au courant fave, the Greatest Rock’n’Roll Band In The World, Circa 2011. We’ve played Capsula’s new one maybe three times. We suspect we’ll be playing it for years to come. If we’re lucky. Capsula is playing at SXSW, like tomorrow. If you want to know where the spirit of real rock’n’roll now lives, it’s in The Land Of The Silver Souls. And it prompts us to challenge First Communion Afterparty: your move.