Capillary Action were an American Avant-garde/Experimental band that formed at Oberlin College in Philadelphia, PA in 2004. Expertly self-referred to by the band themselves as “confrontational cubist-pop.”
So Embarrassing is nothing short of brilliant. It is by turns loud, aggressive, dynamic (yes, the recording is actually dynamic! Especially on the last track, “Self-Released”!), dissonant, and melodic. No doubt, this is musician’s music. This is by and for people who care about musicianship, first and foremost. What makes this album especially impressive however, is that they actually wound up writing good songs. There’s no mindless noodling. The album is filled with well-written songs featuring thoughtful instrumentation and orchestrations. There are trombone’s, cello’s, saxophone’s, viola, violin, and various types of percussion. Several genre’s are covered, often in the course of a single song – something akin to loud indie rock featuring mathy compositions, and in a few songs electrified bursts so loud, dissonant, off-kilter and jazzy, you can’t help but think of early Dillinger Escape Plan (“Bloody Nose” anyone?). To top this all off, the album is actually sequenced really well and has perhaps a perfect running time considering the content. Just listen to the transition between “Gambit” and “Pocket Protection is Essential,” then the transition to “Elevator Fuck.” I mean… fuck!
Track 4, “Placebo, or Panacea,” may be the unlikeliest song to get stuck in your head based on the complexity of the rhythm’s, atypical percussion, and dissonant electric guitars, but damn it, they somehow manage. Then, later in the album, they accomplish other similarly unlikely melodic vocal hooks, with far-out instrumentation and musical passages, on both “Father of Mine” and “The Chaperone.” This is not to say this is easy listening. If you’re not inclined to like more challenging styles of music, you may not have the mental fortitude and tenacity to digest it and let these hidden hooks expose themselves to you.
I’ve been listening to this album for over 8 years now and have not come across another who’s heard it or this band in general, but the people I’ve shown it to have been blown away. This is perfection incarnate.
Unfortunately, Capillary Action’s music is not to be found on streaming services, but their music can be found on Bandcamp (see link below).
Highlights: The whole album. Seriously.