In his single “A Long Time Ago,” enigmatic singer/songwriter Captain Dane-O fuses together elements of post-punk’s surrealism and conservative but biting guitar melodies with an Echo & the Bunnymen-style psychedelia, also of the minimalist persuasion, and although the resulting cocktail is anything but ‘mainstream’ in stylization, it undeniably makes for one of the more spellbinding sonic treats I’ve had the pleasure of reviewing recently. Captain Dane-O utilizes a moody harmony as the cornerstone for every chilling verse he unfurls, and while the track probably wasn’t conceived as the biggest attraction on Monster in the Addict, it certainly feels like it just the same.
Lyrically, there are a thousand different ways that you could interpret “A Long Time Ago,” and personally I think this is one of the more multidimensional singles to come out of Captain Dane-O’s scene in recent times. The instrumentation does a lot more than contextualize the lyrics in this track; in fact, I definitely think you could make the argument that the guitar parts communicate more than any of the words do in a couple of key moments here. This is an artist who doesn’t like to play by the basic rules of pop/rock, and while that might repel a few listeners, it will attract scores more among discriminating indie circles.
This bassline is rather understated for what the composition calls for on paper, but through its muted contribution to the main melody in the song, I think it helps to prevent the guitar component here from sounding overindulgent and, for that matter, too prominent in the master mix. There’s something to be said about a single that feels as dark as “A Long Time Ago” does and yet lacks a vicious bass part arranged to drag its audience asunder, and if Captain Dane-O’s peers were to consider following his lead on this front, I think indie rock would be better for it.
The vocal here has a little more presence in the mix than the song needed, but I can definitely appreciate the element of surrealism that Captain Dane-O was trying to capture in going with the formula that he did. While I doubt his core motivation was solely to distinguish his sound, and more specifically, his approach from that of the mainstream masses this spring, there’s no question that he’s going out of his way to make as angular a single as he can in “A Long Time Ago,” most likely to expose critics like myself to his versatility as a songwriter.
Though I was not familiar with his music before acquiring a copy of Monster in the Addict for myself just recently, I’m very impressed by the high caliber muscle that Captain Dane-O is flexing in “A Long Time Ago,” and definitely plan on keeping him on my radar throughout 2020. He strikes me as an artist who likes to express himself through every stitch of melodic faceting that a composition can, and ultimately would, afford him, and when taking into account the anti-indulgent framework he employs in his best material – including this single – his skillset makes him quite the rare find indeed.