Captain, We’re Sinking write powerful vignettes that wring powerful, cathartic imagery from small and desperate slices of life. That’s why a song like “Annina, We Will Miss You” hits so hard– while many songs have been written about suicide, this one benefits by being populated with real, three-dimensional characterizations. When Annina says, “I’m sorry for the mess, but I’m not done yet,” we know her. Her words betray a darkness behind their superficial flippancy– it’s these moments where The Future Is Cancelled become so much more than just another punk rock album. It’s a document. It’s a main line between the heart and the head, putting experience into the realm of frothing, desperate art.
This nuanced and lush style of lyrical songwriting has a lot in common with fellow Scranton band The Menzingers. It should also be noted that each band has a Barnett brother as a vocalist. But where Captain, We’re Sinking differs is in the aggressive and raw way they attack their songs, inhabiting their music with throat-shredding screams and technical, angular fretwork. It’s this musicianship that sets them apart from other heart-on-the-sleeve punk bands, and brings to mind the subtle but intricate guitars of Hot Water Music. On “Adultery” the band uses dissonance thoughtfully, adding tension to the song by creating a sinister atmosphere, a stark juxtaposition to their anthemic choruses. While still firmly in the world of melodic punk, its post-hardcore edge supplies it with dimension and urgency, allowing the band to explore new territories without ever leaving behind the simplicity of a really good song as a foundation.
The Future Is Cancelled is an album filled with great lyrics and music, but most of all it feels fully conceived and coherent. The songs work on their own, but Captain, We’re Sinking ties them together with a musical motif, heard in full as the opening riff on the title track and then alluded to on different instruments throughout the album. It’s small touches like this that make it feel as a whole, suggesting that while all these songs are their own entities they share something intrinsic and pure in common, something a track number could never erase.
The songs on The Future Is Cancelled are the type you want to scream your heart out to, every off-kilter guitar part begging to be dorkily mimicked in open air. The aforementioned “Annina, We Will Miss You” is one of those that grabs you by the throat and doesn’t let go until it’s over. The instrumental work is amazing, with a fingerpicked opening that quickly transcends into a more familiar loudness. Captain, We’re Sinking even manages to make punk rock’s old workhorse, the power chord, sound vital again on “Annina, We Will Miss You”– harmonizing it while retaining the tried and true chug. “Montreal” is another incredible song, continuing the theme of religious imagery on The Future Is Cancelled. “More Tequila, Less Joe” is a slower song, electric in its content, exploring the idea of parental influence and alcoholism. It’s plaintive chorus, “I can feel you in my bloodstream,” is both a melancholy confession and a triumphant claim to the past. “A Bitter Divorce” begins slowly with chiming guitars and features some of the band’s best lyricism. I’ve never been a fan of songs about relationships, or even failing relationships but this one handles the subject with such earnestness it’s hard not to be swept up by it. Line after tattooable line, the song paints a picture of two people that experience love turn to hate by way of time. There’s nothing saccharine about it, “A Bitter Divorce” bleeds messy, human truth.
Captain, We’re Sinking have written a piercing, powerful masterpiece with The Future Is Cancelled— the kind of record that stays with you, the kind that leaves poetry lingering in your head. Those rare and glorious feelings that welled up in me while listening to this album reminded me of the first time I heard Reinventing Axl Rose, Repeater, or Fuel For the Hate Game. All of those records pushed me into punk, not with a tap but with an iron-fisted shove. For the first time I heard what music could do to a person– it didn’t have to handle human emotion with rubber gloves, it could be loud and passionate and musically enthusiastic. Punk rock needs albums like these, the ones that effortlessly transcend and bring with them a flock of the devoted. The Future Is Cancelled is the kind of record that will change lives.