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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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