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January 13, 1998

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Every generation of indie kids has their own musical Holy Grail. Like Slint's Spiderland or Rodan's Rusty, it's usually a bold, epic, almost revolutionary statement created by a band that has long since broken up and spawned other excellent bands, despite their never managing to escape the shadow of that one incredible album. Cap'n Jazz, a young, volatile Chicago band that broke up in 1995, fits this description perfectly; their only full- length release Shmap'n Shmazz (also known by another title too long to bother writing out fully) is their Holy Grail to the post- emo indie- rock world. The mythos surrounding this way- out- of- print and impossible- to- find album has only increased with time, until Jade Tree Records recently decided to re- release it as part of a compilation of all Cap'n Jazz's recorded material. If Analphabetapolothology partially demystifies Cap'n Jazz by making their music more accessible, it makes up for it by proving that the music is well worth all the fuss.

Analphabetapolothology is a document of a band whose unabashed enthusiasm is their greatest charm. Even the title betrays Cap'n Jazz's need to say everything at once; their songs careen at breakneck speeds with ragged guitars falling all over each other in a race to the finish. But it's Tim Kinsella's voice-- a screechy, hoarse thing-- which makes Cap'n Jazz so special. Kinsella's lyrics spill out of his mouth faster than he can pronounce them, all blending together in a wild, unschooled yowl. He may not be quite on pitch all the time, but his energy is so infectious it doesn't matter. The first half of Analphabetapolothology, which is Shmap'n Shmazz in its entirety, is the distilled experience of life in all its messy glory; it makes you want to to laugh, cry and scream all at once along with the band.

Being a two- disc set, Analphabetapolothology is a treasure for completists, while rubbernecking passerbys may balk at its length. Truth be told, there's a lot of material which could have been mercifully cut; after Shmap'n Shmazz's tracks, the uneven collection of seven- inch releases are a bit of a comedown, although covers of A-ha's "Take On Me" and the Beverly Hills 90210 theme (remade as a Pavement-y amble) are mildly amusing. In this case, you gotta take the good with the not- so- good; getting a chance to own Cap'n Jazz's first album in any form is well worth the cost.

Pitchfork Media

Nick Mirov