By Jeremy Hallock
By James Khubiar
By Observer Staff
By Kelly Dearmore
By Jim Schutze
By Rachel Watts
By Lauren Drewes Daniels
My ears are ringing but my heart's ok
Last Beat Records
The five-song demo tape Captain Audio was hawking at its live shows last year was as good as almost every other local release of 1998, splitting the difference between art and rock with more pop than Mark McGwire hacking at fastballs. So it's no surprise that the band's first real effort is even better, a glimpse of Dallas' future made by a trio of musicians who played a significant role in its recent past: ex-UFOFU bassist Brandon Curtis, ex-Comet drummer Josh Garza, and guitarist Regina Chellew, who briefly toured with Ruby. My ears are ringing but my heart's ok ventures off in unexpected directions, splicing together pop music's past until the resulting creation is as familiar as a recurring dream, but just as hazy and uncertain. The John Lennon, Yaz, and T. Rex covers found on the limited-edition single the band handed out at its recent listening party provide a thumbnail sketch of the band's intentions, but it's only an icebreaker instead of the entire conversation.
Captain Audio's best trick reveals itself quickly: the moment that occurs when someone finally finds the "on" switch to the amps, initiating brilliant collisions of guitar and bass and keyboards, setting off the song like a match in a fireworks factory. But instead of simply employing the tried-and-tired soft-loud-soft guitar dynamic, Captain Audio rams the entire song headfirst into a wall of sound until it comes through the other side covered in shiny debris. Songs pick up extra parts like a magnet rolling through a junkyard. "Know it all" starts off as a hushed, gorgeous surprise--just Chellew, a piano, and a barely there guitar that sounds more like the practice-room echo of a snare drum. By the time it reaches its play-fuckin'-loud climax, they've been joined by bass, trumpet, and a background chorus that tiptoes into the mix before eventually jumping in with both feet.
The rest of My ears are ringing but my heart's ok is full of hidden delights. The mostly instrumental "put that sweater on" shuffles along, its chiming guitar giving way to the squealing solo lifted straight from Prince's "Let's Go Crazy" that opens "driving, riding." The song is buoyed by Curtis' follow-the-bouncing-ball bass line, bobbing and weaving organ and piano, and a sucker-punch chorus that comes out of nowhere, then quickly returns there. The dreamy "explode" could be an update of a Santo & Johnny song, until Chellew's sing-you-to-sleep vocals disappear into a melodic drone. Curtis' incendiary "(untitled)" starts with a bit of country-rock noodling before erupting into a mess of cymbal crashes and shimmying guitar, sounding like the Flaming Lips playing on the wing of a 747. It's a thrilling song on an amazing record, less a tentative hint of things to come than a definite promise of a better tomorrow.