Full disclosure: one of my best friends is in this band. I do not make any claims to impartiality, although I do strive for thoughtful analysis.
There’s an interesting dynamic in Capital Intensity that’s indicative of the predicament The Spicy Draculas find themselves in: see, they never intended for this to go anywhere. TSD started with a couple of friends staying up late together and recording some of the worst music they could think of. It was a practical joke, just a couple of friends thumbing their noses at the hyper-critical, self-serious music climate we find ourselves in—the fact that I’m even writing this review would likely cause the Draculas to roll their eyes.
What they didn’t expect was that after one of their shows, where they attempted to piss off everyone in the audience, one member of the crowd decided they were worth signing. As members of Drink More Records’ small but growing stable, The Spicy Draculas were faced with that dilemma I mentioned earlier. They were going to put out a record, but what would they do with it? Would it be more ridiculousness, or would they actually try to make something worth a listener’s time?
I’m glad to announce that The Spicy Draculas put a lot of labor, and a lot of love, into Capital Intensity, and it shows. I’m not going to say that it’s easy to listen to, if you don’t know what to expect, but many times, it seems like that’s the point. There are a lot of layers to this album, and more importantly, they’re worth exploring.
First off, there’s the fact that the 16-track, 43-minute album is split into two halves: “The Spicy Brightness” and “The Spicy Darkness”. While this could have been just a throwaway joke at the expense of dichotomy-themed culture, the ideas of light and dark actually very much shape the album. The most terrifying element is that, by the time you reach the end, you’re not sure which you prefer: the order or the chaos.
See, The Spicy Brightness is the Draculas’ joke. It’s the setup to a punchline you’ve heard a thousand times before, a “what’s worse than finding a worm in your apple?” After the quick, very good intro tracks “Draculas Ate the New Year” and “Shovin’ Buddies”, the Draculas attack every form of popular music, pushing it to its worst iteration. Their iteration of the Christmas classic “Hark the Herald Angels Sing” reduces every lyric to the inane “fa la la”s that permeate the song. There’s also a cool ambient piece, “Chili Paste From Hell”, that sits squarely in the middle of the first half and evokes a giant factory, with pistons firing and producing saccharine crap. My personal favorite part of side A, though, is “Snowglobe of Filth and Memories”, a song that bashes depressing, emo music with lyrics as laughable as “I can’t decide which is colder, this falling snow or your shoulder”. The side ends, predictably, on a very happy note, with “Let’s Be Friends!”, a warped but very telling satire on vapid friendships. And then…well, we move from the light to the dark.
Have you ever heard an anti-joke? It’s just as funny, only really dark. So, using the above example, the anti-joke response to “what’s worse than finding a worm in your apple?” is “the Holocaust.” It’s dark, it subverts your expectations from what the setup provided, and you feel really dark, and a little bad, because you enjoyed it much more than any regular old joke.
That is what the second half of the album, The Spicy Darkness, is. It’s loud, it’s angry, it’s scary, but the worst part is, it’s good. Like, really good. The lyrics are solid, and instead of parody, the Draculas are perfecting the music they tackle. The best example of this is “Blood Pudding”, the 1:12-long song that is a great lo-fi blues-rock tune, in which the narrator essentially sells you blood pudding as a tasty snack. It would feel like a commercial if it weren’t so damn sincere. Complimenting “Chili Paste From Hell” on the Brightness, “Duck Sauce with Spaghetti and Street Balls” feels like a cold, solitary walk home from work—maybe the culture-crap factory has shut down, and you’re all alone, and boy is that terrifying. “Did You Bleed Out Yet?”, the following track, is easily one of the most disturbing things I’ve ever heard, and it works perfectly.
So, you get to the end of the album. You enjoyed being in the Brightness, but saw its cheap, shiny distractions for what they are. The Darkness frightened you, yes, but it was more like, you were frightened because you didn’t understand it, and now, it’s growing on you. “You’d think that we’re the bad guys / but we’re misunderstood,” the Draculas sing on the decidedly epic closing track, “The Ballad of the Spicy Draculas/DraculasNation Anthem”. He continues, “We take in all the outcasts / we use our fangs for good!” It’s a simple statement, but it’s elegantly put: we know that was a little crazy, but it was worth it, you’ll see. Honestly, the last track is worth the entire album. It’s the perfect, over-the-top finish to an album that, to the uninitiated, tries the patience. There’s even a key change!
Capital Intensity is an album that you should definitely give a listen. Decide for yourself. You can DOWNLOAD IT FOR FREE (or whatever price you want) over at their bandcamp: http://thespicydraculas1.bandcamp.com/. I definitely recommend it.