You get the feeling, after listening to LUXURY or whether it is better to be loved than feared a few times, that Captain Audio is trying to figure out where to go next. That's not to imply that the group -- singer-guitarist Regina Chellew, singer-bassist-keyboard player Brandon Curtis, and drummer Josh Garza -- is already out of ideas. If anything, they have too many; the disc is, if nothing else, a series of big dreams with a backbeat. Some might even call it pretentious, but -- and this is important -- that is not necessarily a bad thing. Captain Audio wears its ambition well, rarely letting it devolve into we're-smarter-than-you smugness. Instead, the band seems to be playing only to impress itself, and all three members are talented enough to pull it off time and again. Yet sometime between last year's My ears are ringing but my heart's ok and now, it seems Chellew, Curtis, and Garza set the bar too high for themselves.
Meaning: Just playing songs is no longer good enough. LUXURY is the sound of a band trying to top itself, searching for new territory instead of conquered countries. Or perhaps they're simply bored with the idea of being a band, making music by anyone's guidelines, including their own thin rulebook. If nothing else, that would explain why one of the first songs on the disc, "Los Pedasos," is delivered entirely in Spanish, as are the whispered lyrics on "Piano Robitico III" and some of "Presentame a Tu Novio." If you want to confound any and all expectations, well, that's a pretty good place to start. In a way, LUXURY almost feels like a side project, a step to the left instead of straight ahead. Actually, it's a step in every direction, from machine-music instrumentals ("Piano Robotico I") to piano-bar slow burns ("Velvet," complete with saxophone accompaniment lifted from a Glenn Frey solo album) to what-the-fuck? new-wave (the too short "Presentame a Tu Novio," which features something resembling a chorus of kazoos). My ears are ringing..., it appears, was only the shallow end.
And the band might not have even revealed how deep it can go yet, if "Take it Like a Pill" is any indication. Here's the moment where a pop song collides headfirst with a symphony, where violins and guitars are interchangeable, where the band's lofty aspirations are realized for possibly the first time. "Take It Like a Pill" is art-rock, sure, but rarely are both sides of the equation as heavily emphasized as they are here. It's a cinder block wrapped in cotton candy, a song that slugs you on one cheek and strokes the other. And somehow, it helps the rest of the album make sense, the point made halfway through. Of course, Captain Audio probably doesn't care whether you understand anyway. Good for them.