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Review: Captain of the Lost Waves Hidden Gems Chapter 2 – “Circus of Morality” By Edmund Barker

While listening to Hidden Gems – Chapter 2 – Circus of Morality, the new release by Yorkshire-based entertainer and modern-day troubadour Captain of the Lost Waves, I was pleasantly reminded of Thomas Dolby. The maverick behind “She Blinded Me With Science” became known for an aesthetic style somewhere between David Bowie and Jules Verne, and often referenced technologies and ways of life from decades past. His debut album The Golden Age of Wireless is basically a love letter to the era when the radio, the airplane, and the submarine were all new and exotic, making Dolby an early adopter of steampunk in the ‘80s (granted, technology from around the ‘20s is now recognized as more diesel punk than steampunk, but if the very 1940s-flavored fantasy film Brazil can be cited as an influence on steampunk, so can Dolby.). Captain of the Lost Waves, with his dapper top hat and lyrics of nautical travel, comes off like an adventurer from some Edwardian-era novel—and showmanship is the name of his game. Just as comfortable with the bouzouki as he is with the synth, the Captain is a multi-talented force of nature.

In a wonderful bit of mood-setting, the opening track “Isles of Sopholore” starts with the sound of telegraph beeps, conjuring images of naval adventures. “Folksy” is one of the first words one thinks of when listening to Hidden Gems – Part 2, as evocative strings, accordions, and harmonies are employed to give the wistful feel of a sea shanty. But the Captain doesn’t remain constrained by just one genre or aesthetic, as the second track “Circus of Morality” is built around a piano melody that’s almost jazz-like. The album, remaining unpredictable, then works in an electronic beat for more of a trip hop sound during “Uniform,” with guttural lyrics of anger at the world reminiscent of ‘90s Depeche Mode. A somber trumpet kicks in during a beautiful instrumental bridge, adding to an impressive number of genre shifts in the first three tunes of the record. “Uniform” is a song about blazing your own trail and defying convention, a common theme of the album (and a creed the Captain lives by, as his circus-like show travels the U.K. like the carnivals of yore). While theatrical stage shows are a big part of this artist’s personality, the album does a successful job of emulating the feel of something live and loose—the tune “Mr Hollywood” has the soft feel of cocktail jazz in a club.


Like with The Dresden Dolls, much of the Captain’s attitude is based in the humor and swagger of retro cabaret theater, as felt in the album highlight “Pantomime.” With its upbeat lyrics about the inanities of life, “Pantomime” is joyful even when it gets moody, and a microcosm of the album as a whole. I await the Captain’s further adventures with bated breath.

5/5 Stars

Watch the music video for “Uniforms” by Captain Of The Lost Waves here:

and the music video for “January” here:

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2 Comments on Review: Captain of the Lost Waves Hidden Gems Chapter 2 – “Circus of Morality” By Edmund Barker

  1. Hidden Gems Chapter 1 is an album I’ve listened to so relentlessly I was nervous Chapter 2 might not possibly match it. I feel ashamed by that doubt. The new album surpasses the first.

    Softly singing the “Isles of Sopholore” the Captain draws you into the Circus of Morality, both a TARDIS-like, many-roomed spacecraft and a hall of mirrors to the human condition. A kind of musical Doctor, he adopts the guise of a 20th Century English eccentric and is lyrically playful with it, each song a self-contained work of audio art. “Berlin between the Wars” and “Hating Hate” have technical depths that keep on revealing themselves at each listen, whereas “January” and “This Boat” are flawless, crystalline images of emotion… All deserving your undivided attention as you drift enchanted through this Big Top-shaped starship.

    I have no shame in admitting that I was in tears as I reached the closing tracks. “Orange Puddle Soup” feels like the parting speech of a being you’ll feel privileged to have encountered.

  2. Andrew Moorhouse // May 23, 2019 at 1:33 pm // Reply

    Where to begin with this album? Perhaps the very beginning! From your first glimpse of the album cover, you realise this is going to be a different experience. The Illustration is beautiful, but the cover is devoid of words. You must search on the spine to find details of artist and album. On opening you are greeted with such amazing artwork that reminds you of things past, of circuses when you were a child. It truly is exquisite and it’s only matched by the wonderful music contained within the CD itself. It is clear, just as the graphic artist has expended much time and love on the album cover and it’s contents, much love and effort has gone to creating the songs contained therein. Here’s a record that welcomes you in to the Captain’s world and has a friendly, at times whimsical and humorous tone. Don’t be fooled, though, as the poetic lyrics comment on the world around us, not least in songs like Uniforms, Pantomime and Earworm, which pokes an accusing finger at the state of the music industry today. Meanwhile, January and This Boat will tug at your heartstrings and bring a tear to the eye. The music is wonderfully diverse and must have gained inspiration from a truly eclectic mix of sources, but that is to do the album an injustice, for it undoubtedly it remains very much it’s own experience, with creativity of the highest order. Experience is the word, for this album transports you to a world away from life’s trouble and worries. Wonderful harmonies, such as on Drifting, will remain long in the memory after the CD has ended. Speaking of ending, let the CD run right to the end to hear the final hidden gem of this exceptional recording. Open your ears and your heart and this album will reward in spades. Hidden Gems I was fabulous, but this does put it a little in the shade. Here’s to Hidden Gems III and the next adventures of the Captain.

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