Review Summary: The word “fun” is a double-edged sword.
The word “fun” is a double-edged sword. One on hand, it can imply a time of enjoyment and release, but on the other, it could describe unending silliness bordering on stupidity and even idiocy. So, bands that set out to have this “fun” sound are walking on a tight-rope between a highly enjoyable listen and a cheese-fest that sounds like something from a Nickelodeon kids show. Thankfully, pop/punk band Capital Lights succeeded at sounding fun but not cheesy on their debut record, This Is An Outrage.
The whole record bleeds infectious energy, sing-along-choruses, and pop rock melodies. For those wondering, Capital Lights explores the pop side more than the punk side, but it only crosses into electronica territory one time. As for the rest of the record, there’s a successful blend of fun pop/alternative rock and watered-down post-grunge. Don’t worry, Capital Lights is highly successful at emulating these styles, and will have you on your feet cheering throughout the entire album. Speaking of on your feet, the record doesn’t really slow down, only stopping once for the poppy, token ballad. This approach works and prevents Lights from becoming overly pretentious, and also keeps them from sounding too serious about their music. That’s the other thing. The record bleeds both of musical and lyrical simplicity, so if you’re looking for Tool-styled musical composition or Rise Against-esque lyrics, get your fix elsewhere. However, this simple sound works, and the band is good at producing guitar-driven, pop rock/post-grunge tunes.
Opener “Outrage” is a bouncy, power-chord driven tune with a highly catchy chorus and clever lyrics. The piano in the verses and the multiple melodies in the chorus and bridge adds an extra layer of innovation to the group’s sound, keeping them from being a Fall Out Boy clone. Vocalist/bassist Bryson Philipps is the most talented asset of the band, able to reach any note or octave without any issue, and staying mainly in his high range. This talent is displayed well in the bridge of this song. “The Night of Your Life Is When You’ll Die” is a latter track, but successfully brings the energy from early in the record, with another catchy chorus and hard rock-inspired song structure. “Mile Away” is the synth-pop ballad, and though the autotuned vocals are a little annoying, Bryson’s attempts at rapping actually work, and the piano blended with the keyboard actually works quite well. Finally, “Let The Little Lady Talk” has a swing dance-esque, swaggering tempo that’s full of adrenaline and pump-up vocals. There’s even some trumpets, which add another layer of variation.
Speaking of variation, credit also should go to guitarists Brett Admire and Johnathan Williams. Though neither are groundbreaking, their mini-solos and riffs vary enough from the typical pop-punk formula to still be interesting and engaging. In addition, songs like “Worth As Much As A Counterfeit Dollar” and “Kick It Off” display their strong knack for perfect cohesion, and the guitarists are truly a core sound of the group. Again, Bryson has a strong voice that rarely borders on annoying and stays enjoyable. Even drummer Mike Philipps shines, especially on “Kick It Off”. The only instrumental aspect that can be complained about is the bass, as it’s barely audible.
That’s instruments and vocals, so how are the lyrics? Capital Lights was a Christian band, but they stuck more to clever wordplay than explicit Christian themes. In “Worth As Much As A Counterfeit Dollar”, the line “you hold ransom for tuition that I’ve already spent” is both clever and laughable, while the battle/break-up theme of “Let The Little Lady Talk” goes well with the swaggering tone. “Return” does describe the events after the Crucifixion and mentions Christ by name, but it’s the only openly Christian tune, and is actually extremely passionate.
With such a simple concept, you would think this record would be easily forgettable, or passable as just another fun pop/punk/rock record. However, Capital Lights performs this simplicity so well that you won’t really even notice it, and will immediately be roped in by the catchy, bouncy sound. Check out This Is An Outrage, you won’t be disappointed.