FOREWORD: I should note that Capitol Years brainchild, Shai Halperin, is the brother of semi-famous pop critic and celebrity hound, Shirley Halperin – a good friend of mine who let me write for her ‘90s underground rock zine, Smug Magazine (and whose husband, Thom Monahan, produced Shai’s band). While Shirley went on to co-write informative marijuana chronology, “Pot Culture” with ex-High Times editor, Steve Bloom, brother Shai continued to live the indie rock ‘n roll lifestyle. Despite not having a new album out in three years as of June ’09, Capitol Years scored big in the subterranean music world with ‘05s Let Them Drink and ‘06s even better Dance Away The Terror.
Moving from the collegiate confines of his New Brunswick-based Rutgers University digs to the city of Brotherly Love, multi-instrumentalist Shai Halperin got a 4-track and unveiled ‘01s promising full length debut, Meet Yr Acres, in the guise of Capitol Years. Originally intended for release under the rhyming moniker, Shai, Son of Eli, a term coined by his friend out of respect to Halperin’s Israeli father, he settled on the catchier, attention-grabbing Capitol Years for the sake of convenience.
Though strictly a solo affair, Halperin had previously gained local exposure playing Jersey clubs with bassist Dave Wayne Daniels in what he calls “the less good, more offensive” Mastercaster. Joining both for the current touring and recording unit are guitarist Jeff Van Newkirk and drummer Sir Kyle Lloyd.
Now as a fully functional quartet, the Capitol Years return with the illuminating 6-song, 19-minute Jewelry Store EP (Full Frame Records), expanding upon the overall range and compositional efficiency of Halperin’s previous ‘solo’ endeavor.
The frenetic opener, “Jet Black,” features some of Halperin-Newkirk’s most visceral guitar work while Daniels’ bass booming bottom on the title track underscores its sinister ‘60s garage sound. In fact, the latter song and the fuzz-toned “Japanese Store” would fit in comfortably alongside many superfine Nuggets era no-hit wonders.
Conversely, “Lucky Strike” finds comfort adapting the Strokes sterling post-punk-influenced chug-a-lug rhythm and snappy eclecticism. As an added reward, Halperin’s penetrating vocal inflections and creamy caterwauls uncannily recall the strange magic of Electric Light Orchestra’s Jeff Lynne at certain junctures.
How’d you come up with the flashy band name, Capitol Years?
SHAI HALPERIN: I was ready to put the debut out as Shai, Son Of Eli, but at the last minute, I didn’t want the focus to be on one person. I had floated the name, Capitol Years, around in my head. The name is sort of fishing for some attention people may be clever enough to think is witty and interesting. There wasn’t any thought for it to be like the Beatles’ Capitol Years. It was just a cool name to garner attention like REO Speedealer did, but they got sued (for its proximity to arena rockers REO Speedwagon).
Compare the debut to the Jewelry Store EP.
Half the songs on the debut were done on digital 4-track and converted to 8-track without the thought of releasing them. It has potential, but the means by which it was done is scrappier. I could have treated the audio better. I recorded it in my own studio apartment. So I sang softly so neighbors wouldn’t hear and it transferred to a certain style. The EP was recorded with a whole band after four or five weeks of touring and has a lot of energy. There wasn’t too much composing or sculpting. We tried to capture what we’d been doing on tour. There’s not too many overdubs or double tracking. Song-wise, some parts are as old as the first album. The material fits the mold of a rock band as opposed to someone sitting at home thinking weird thoughts and making weird songs. We had another song we could have finished and ten more we could’ve done, but we took the best material. It’s basically the quickest, cheapest thing we could have done.
I love how the rumbling, echo-drenched “Train Race” seeps into a psychedelic Beatles groove but then gets chastened by chaotic Sonic Youth guitar suss.
That’s a combination of things. It’s at the end of the record because it’s different from the other tracks. The other songs are more blues-based. That track’s more modern soundscaping. It’s our concert closer. We do outlandish standing-on-the-bass drum guitar solos. It’s a fun one.