The Capitalist Kids’ At a Loss Asks and Answers “What’s the Point in Keeping Pop Punk Alive?”

by Brian J. Audette

Capitalist Kids at a loss

As one of Austin’s more outspoken punk enthusiasts you’d be right to chastise me for not covering this album closer to its release. This is the review that I just kept pushing to the back of the line, but trust me when I say that this should not reflect on the album at all. As a matter of fact, at a loss is one of the local albums I replayed most often in 2014 and that should speak volumes. Yes, this was a 2014 release and yes, it is now 2015, but allow me to start the new year with a clean slate and on a rocking pop punk note with Capitalist Kids’ at a loss.

While at a loss may seem like par for the course when it comes to The Capitalist Kids’ brisk and catchy pop punk styling, below its surface this latest LP is brimming with new ideas existing as further evidence of their continued evolution. Continuing the tradition of providing pop punk love songs and sardonic socio-political snark, The Capitalist Kids have managed to maintain continuity while still upping their game on this release. This isn’t some boy band with guitars, The Capitalist Kids are pop punk perfection. Frequently more melodic and even at times more indulgent than previous releases, at a loss ambles through well trod territory in exciting new ways for The Capitalist Kids. The band seem to be stepping out of their musical comfort zone at times with some interesting experimentations in song structure and lyrically with a number of more introspective tunes. On the surface it’s may seem to be more of the same and while that’s not a bad thing, it certainly doesn’t mean you won’t immediately notice a few changes. Perhaps most noticeable among these is the sheer depth and volume of the sound on at a loss. While having added a second guitarist for some (if not most) of their previous LP Lessons on Love, Sharing, and Hygiene this latest album really showcases what such an addition can do and simply blows the roof off their sound in the best possible way. This record is fast and loud as you might expect, but pushes at the basement show boundaries of the band’s earlier work and begs to be let loose upon the world.

Encompassing fourteen songs in just under thirty minutes, at a loss skips along at the same brisk, pop punk pace we’ve come to expect from The Capitalist Kids. Opening with the riotous “Not ‘95”, at a loss simultaneously fires a shot across the bow of the local scene saying “No one in this town likes pop punk/Cool kids like their garage punk/If your band has fuzzy vocals/You’ll be a hit with all the locals” and then disowns it by the chorus “We’re not going anywhere/Damn good thing that we don’t care/Not here to impress no one/We’re only doing this for fun.” While casual enough on the surface, the song features the first of several more introspective and in this instance almost self-deprecating lyrics toward the end “What’s the point in keeping pop-punk alive?”. This internal, inquisitive narrative repeats throughout the album, lying in wait underneath the driving rhythms and searing guitars. We see it again almost immediately in the album’s third track, “Beginner’s Finnish” wherein singer Jeff asks “Do you ever get the feeling/You’re only running out your time on Earth?/You’re aching for a life of meaning,/Significance, and worth?”. It’s a sentiment that’s practically a follow up to Lessons’ “Three Oh”, the singer’s seemingly surprised musing on turning 30.

“Closer to You” brings us back into more familiar territory with the album’s first love song. Still played at break neck pace and featuring the same quality guitarmanship we’ve come to expect from The Capitalist Kids, the song is easily the album’s sappiest, but in a rocking kind of way. Practically a Valentine note, Closer to You does feature one of my favorite lyrics on at a loss “Peel back the layers like a sexy little onion/And hope you never make me cry”. Later on in the album “I Gotta Hold On To You” and “Body Snatchers” will revisit similar territory, even if the latter does reference some manner of lover’s spat.

On the whole at a loss’ socio-political musings are less sarcastic and jovially dismissive than previous albums. While “Gender Binary Bop” and its call for gender acceptance (“Sexuality’s a spectrum,/There are so many shades”) will make you forget about boppers both Big and Blitzkrieg-related and having you clapping your hands at the same time, “Infinite Growth on a Finite Planet”, “Minimum Rage”, and “On Purpose Racists” address their subjects with a weary resignation, the latter asking “Will we ever get rid of the/George Zimmermans of the world?/I don’t know.”

Clearly The Capitalist Kids are still covering the same material, but there’s a new plateau of maturity here as well as a seasoned weariness, the kind that comes with age. While still couched in the fast and loud styling of pop punk,at a loss is venturing into more “adult” punk territory, a place that the likes of Kevin Seconds, Frank Turner, Bob Mould, and Henry Rollins have all explored before in a multitude of ways. Speaking as a mid-30’s punk myself, there is a point where the ideology meets with the realities of age, life, family, and responsibility and how will you remain “punk” or will you? At a loss’ introspection seems to be approaching a similar point, but for now at least the answer seems to be more frenetic picking and louder guitars. “What’s the point in keeping pop-punk alive?” As long as there are new Capitalist Kids albums, I think that’s answer enough.


Brian Audette lives somewhere in Austin within a pillow fort made of broken dreams. He only comes out to see shows and buy beer. He has a surprisingly well maintained lawn and is using it to breed an army of attack mosquitoes with which to take over the world. Brian can be reached at brian@ovrld.com or on Twitter at @bjaudette.