Get Cape. Where Cape. Fly - The Chronicles of a Bohemian Teenager
Review by Jack Foley
HE may only be 20 years of age but Sam Duckworth is already being hailed as something of a wunderkind.
A singer-songwriter of immense talent, Sam – aka Get Cape. Wear Cape. Fly – has had to do things on his own.
The album, The Chronicles of a Bohemian Teenager is a predominantly self-produced affair that was mostly recorded between Sam’s Southend bedroom and a converted lock-up near Luton.
It finds Sam tackling the classicism of folk music and splicing it with modern technology and a youth’s eye view of contemporary Britain. And it’s an utterly captivating listen, seldom doing what’s expected of the genre and continually giving way to extremely pleasant surprises.
Much like fellow hard-workers Hard-Fi (who also had to do it on their own before getting a break), Get Cape. Wear Cape. Fly is now a permanent fixture on radio stations such as Radio 1 and Xfm.
And that’s not bad for an album that was written during a succession of self-generated tours that saw Sam playing gigs across the country (over 150 since January 2005), crashing on floors and getting drunk with friends throughout the UK.
Themes include Sam’s love/hate relationship with the “scummy town” he calls home, his run-ins with the British National Party, escapism and teenage hedonism.
Unlike many albums of teen angst and disaffection, however, the folk-driven melodies on Chronicles are mostly upbeat and almost always infused with electronic flourishes that genuinely enable it to soar.
Take the instantly recognisable former singles, I Spy/Call Me Ishmael or even the most recent The Chronicles of a Bohemian Teenager (Part One) as evidence of the type of sound to expect.
I-Spy is particularly thrilling – but quietly so. Kicking off with a lone acoustic guitar riff and the line “I spy with my little eye something that begins with I don’t care”, the track then unfolds into a really rich number complete with aching vocals, shots of piano and some excellent riffs.
By the time the “la, la, la’s” kick in towards the end, the record has been transformed from the traditional one man and his guitar approach to songwriting into something much more expansive and vibrant.
Call Me Ishmael repeats the trick later on, emerging as a hip alternative take on the folk formula thanks to its nicely lazy beat and brass accompaniment that enables it to bask in a warm glow.
Elsewhere, opening track Once More With Feeling drops a two-minute opening salvo that’s as much a statement of intent and a call to arms than anything else – featuring such choice lines as “don’t let the people make you think being young makes you useless” over the top of his lush guitar and brass melodies.
While An Oak Tree contains an altogether more funkier vibe, courtesy of some sparkling beats and a gutsier set of vocals. It’s upbeat focus (“I guess another setback is just another lesson learned”) comes as a breath of fresh air when compared to countless young indie bands shouting about tales of angst and depression.
There’s the odd piece of social and political commentary on tracks like the emotive War of the Worlds, where Sam displays a maturity beyond his years.
While his sense of humour is evident from song titles such as If I Had A Pound For Every Stale Song Title I’d Be 30 Short of Getting Out of This Mess (Arctic Monkeys eat your heart out!).
But the album is at its strongest when keeping things more personal and reserved, such as the song that he named after himself, Get Cape. Wear Cape. Fly – another dazzler that contains some really complex guitar riffs and a sound that’s not dissimilar to the under-rated band South.
Whitewash Is Brainwash is another beguiling effort, rich in thought-provoking lyrics and yet wrapped in fine melodies, urgent beats and layering (both instrumental and vocal).
It’s hard to believe, in fact, that Sam put such an accomplished album together without the lucrative benefits of a studio behind him – but this only makes the result more impressive.
To refer back to his artist’s name – having got his cape and worn it with pride throughout the country, Sam Duckworth’s debut album doesn’t just fly, it soars.