Subway Rat - Captain of the Football Team - Album Review - Indie Rock from New York, USA

Subway Rat - Captain of the Football Team - Album Review - Indie Rock from New York, USA

Another gray and gloomy Friday evening, the first Friday in 2024 here in my mental hospital in the Swiss mountains. While I am writing the first review of 2024, it is the 'Captain of the Football Team' album by Subway Rat playing in my ears, hailing from New York City, USA. Although the music style wasn't one of my favorites, this album challenged me with its musical concept to comprehend, and determine strengths, potential, and weaknesses, and to put it down in the right words. I discovered Subway Rat with this album for the first time about a month ago, and this is how I feel about it today.

David Polanco / Subway Rat, artist photoPhoto credit: Unknown

First and foremost, the album stands out for its personal Subway Rat concept, revealing everything in the first song to an extent that you don't get any surprises until the very end. It musically incorporates punk, indie, alternative, and commercial rock influences in its foundation and yet are never necessarily the focus. Songs typically draw influences from a commercial approach while carrying radio-friendly structures with optimal lengths, as well as their familiar tractability. Instrumentally, everything was structured purposefully to provide the necessary soundscape and energy, in which the album qualifies as entertaining, at least in my experience.

Secondly, the entire album is heavily characterized by one unmistakable element; the vocals, which I have spent my entire day questioning. On one side, providing such distinctive uniqueness and authenticity to music is an admirable thing, as it wouldn't be Metallica without James Hetfield, Pantera without Phil Anselmo, and System of a Down without Serj Tankian. Even further, these examples qualify Subway Rat as an extremist, which was my first thought on my first and also on my last experience listening to 'Captain of the Football Team.'

On another side, the vocalist, David Polanco, makes the difference with his unapologetic personality, accompanied by a heavy, unclimactic style with a charismatic tone. Make no mistake, he's got all the strength he needs to make an impression, dominating the entire branding of the project, leaving everything else in the shadow. Among his gigantic presence, the rest of the universe is irrelevant, if I may say so. In other words, it doesn't really matter what instrument or who is playing behind, unless that was the objective of this album.

The combination of influences from the 90s nostalgic indie, punk, and alternative rock provided by the instrumentation, along with the extraordinary and unfamiliar reggae-ish vocals, represents a departure from any mainstream examples. In this case, the album provides both familiar and exotic vibes, portraying an easy-listening and truly entertaining music from start to finish.

Lastly, I also would like to admit that the album sounds satisfyingly good together with its imperfections, blending both analog and digital sounds in a nostalgic character, leaving the entire stage to the unmistakable vocalist on purpose as part of the plan.

David Polanco / Subway Rat, artist photoPhoto credit: Unknown

On the other side of the coin, I must admit that the destiny of Subway Rat depends on one simple question; whether you enjoy the vocal style or not. Everything else is just confetti.

Also, contrary to my personal taste, the entire album was structured with the most basic instrumentation that doesn't hold enough weight. They simply don't carry enough significance other than providing the necessary foundation for the vocalist to deliver his magic. I make this argument by focusing on the drums, guitars, and other additional instruments, as well as their roles and partitions. Either they must be the simplest musicians I have ever heard in my entire life, keeping everything so technical and emotionless, or there's something fundamentally missing.

Subway Rat - Captain of the Football Team album artworkArt credit: Unknown

release December 31, 2023

In conclusion, I would like to close with Frank Zappa's words that Captain of the Football Team album has reminded me of; "I'm a person who likes to do what he wants to do, and has worked at it for 20 years, and can generally do what he wants to do, whether people like it or not. And what I do is designed for people who like it. Not for people who don't. And I have no desire to inflict it on people who don't wanna consume it. And I'm committed to turning out as much of it as possible for the people who like it. If you don't like it, there's all those other names on the list." Thank you for reading.

Subway Rat on the Web


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