This Is Hardcore: Capdown – Civil Disobedients

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The combination of horns and punk rock invites the term throwback these days. However, bands like Less Than Jake and Mad Caddies still shift tickets, but more for the nostalgic thrill rather than a chance to witness new material. The ska boom in ’90s America sold watered down two-tone to the masses. ‘The Impression that I Get’ by The Mighty Mighty Bosstones made the big screen thanks to the 1995 film Clueless; ‘Sell Out’ by Reel Big Fish was featured in the titles of the FIFA football game; and No Doubt were topping the charts with their hit ‘Don’t Speak’. It’s not hard to see why credible punks began losing interest in any band with the slightest hoot of a trumpet.

Around the same time, far far away from the Californian sunshine, a young band from Milton Keynes were making moves to reclaim ska and all it’s social worth. Capdown, formally known as Soap, hit the UK underground running, playing every makeshift venue Grey Britain had to offer. Their name, an abbreviation of Capitalist Downfall, characterised their lyrical intent and instantly separated them from the recent wave of US ska hitting our shores. As the ’90s came to an end there wasn’t a back room, basement or community hall in England that Capdown hadn’t packed out. Soon enough, hardcore label Household Name Records stepped in and offered the four-piece an album deal.

Civil Disobedients was released in 2000, heralding a new wave of homegrown talent in the process. With this one record Capdown unwittingly sent out a message to bands all over the UK – it’s OK to experiment. Before Civil Disobedients, the punk scene was a rigid landscape of uniform bands, yet here was a band mixing up hardcore, street-punk, dub and even elements of hip-hop. The lightning fast album opener Unite To Progress couldn’t be further, musically speaking, from the laid back album closer Bitches and Nike Shoes. Capdown were fearless in their musical endeavours and weren’t afraid to show it.

**Capdown and right, Jake Sims-Fielding performing live in 2006 **Photos: Nigel Crane/Redferns and Photoshot/Hulton Archive

The fourth track, Jnr NBC is an aggressive display that sits right next to Dub No 1, a dexterous instrumental owing much to the forefathers of ska. One of the key elements to Capdown’s sound comes from lead singer Jake Sims-Fielding who could not only spit out more words per minute than some of today’s MCs, he was also a virtuoso saxophone player, introducing an element of jazz into the musical milieu. Ska Wars and Cousin Cleotis, two of Capdown’s most-loved tracks, feature enough hooks and bounce to rival their arena filling pop-punk counterparts across the Atlantic.

Capdown are currently inactive, but even after officially splitting up in 2007, the band have been known to reform for certain festivals such as Reading and Leeds. Within the UK, Civil Disobedients set a whole scene in motion. Without Capdown’s success, bands like Lightyear, Adequate Seven and Five Knuckle would never have been granted a platform for their individual style of punk rock. This album is a treasure trove of unique musical ideas packed with a strong social conscience, making Capdown one of the most revered bands to come out of the UK underground.