The Captain is gone. Long live the Captain.
Its seven years since Captain Gone last released any music, which is about as long as I’ve been writing about Nordic music and I think I only covered them once.
But things have a way of coming around, and they are back.
In fact I’ve come across at least some of them in other guises since then. I recall seeing Norwegian artist Sol Heilo at the Reeperbahn Festival in 2017 and most of the CG crew made up her band at that time, including guitarist Ronny Yttrehus, bassist Olav Senstad, (both still with her when she’s not writing film scores or painting) guitarist/vocalist Jon Arne Bjørnstad, drummer Torjus Gisnås Nevland and keyboard man Lyndon Riley, who might be British.
(I recall Lyndon wore a flat cap – he seems to have replaced it with a beanie now – and looked like a British pigeon fancier, and it stuck in my mind).
It was those ‘other guises’ that kept them apart but what is ‘apart’ in Oslo anyway? George Best once famously said that Manchester is a village and you could draw the same conclusion about the Norwegian capital. You often see the same names cropping up as they help each other out and it was no surprise to see that Jonas Kroon produced this new song – he seems to be in here just about every other week with one of his artists.
To cut a long story short they kept in touch, as ‘besties’. They had a common love for the song ‘Berlin’ and when the opportunity came to record it they seized it with gusto. It was written by Jon Arne Bjørnstad & Lyndon Riley.
What’s more, the experience of coming back in the studio together was so inspiring that they now want to do more with this project.
Musically, ‘Berlin’ fills an ‘easy listening’ niche that I haven’t heard too often coming out of Norway, where the music can be intense, but it’s ‘easy listening’ with a twist. Perhaps I just need to get out more often. It has a Beatles-like quality in the arrangement yet in its jauntier parts it reminded me a little of Billy Joel’s ‘Piano Man’.
Instrumentally, the whole is greater than the sum of its parts. It may be years since I last heard Captain Gone but I hadn’t forgotten their ability to produce a sound – including formidable harmonies – that is almost orchestral/choral, out of a handful of instruments and their mouths.
Listen closely around the 2:55 mark for the best example.
They still have that ability, in spades, while you’ll have to listen several times before you’ve picked out the little musical nuances, especially in the electric guitar and the bass.
Vocally, Jon Arne Bjørnstad nods to the memory of some of Jon Anderson’s finer moments with Yes, and in the same range.
Lyrically, well I haven’t figured out the meaning yet. The mere mention of Berlin evokes all sorts of images including (abused) power, freedom vs. captivity, fall from grace, extremes of everything, debauchery, you name it.
The lines “some of us have islands, others have Berlin/all I’ve got’s a window with the weather coming in” did make me consider that it suggests that there are many means of escape from life’s tumult; by running from it, embracing it, or even just standing there and letting it shit on you.
But others, (and they are cute, this is a well-written song), such as
“I’m falling through the cracks in the plans that I’ve made…
“I’m looking for forgiveness for the song I wasn’t brave enough to write/ the fight I wasn’t strong enough to fight…
“I don’t know where my friends are but I wish they’d taken me”…
revert me back to ‘Piano Man’ and its observational qualities and reminiscences. Perhaps ‘Berlin’ and all its contradictions is no more than a metaphor for what the writers sees as their personal failings.
Hopefully it won’t be another seven years before we hear some more new material from Captain Gone!
(Additional Drums: Eirik Skaar).
Normally I say ‘Find them on…’ here, with social media links but I can’t locate any. As soon as there are they will be inserted.
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