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Time Capsules

The Capsules give shoegazers something to look back on and forward to.


The grade school roller-skating party is a cultural memory that spans geographies and generations. A child of the '70s in Buffalo and a child today in Los Angeles can share memories of Ring Pops and mixed-soda "suicides," of thin-knotted carpets and scabbed knees, of smelly, brown skates and swirling lights.

For many, the skating rink also holds the memory of that first wonderful, terrible brush with the opposite sex: the couple-skate. Clumsy in your swelling frame and even clumsier in those clunky skates (unless you were one of the gifted who could skate backward, or "shoot the duck"), you offered your shaky, sweaty palm to another, and the two of you traced looping ovals, hand-in-hand, while some sappy love song filled your ears.

Unless you frequented a very hip skating rink, the song was probably not "Slideshow" by Lawrence trio the Capsules. But it should have been. Singer and guitarist Julie Shields' vocals fly free and sweet over her fuzzy chords while bassist Jason Shields (Julie's husband) and drummer Kevin Trevino give your feet a gentle right-left shuffle without interfering with the melody. The song's lyrics hint at something bitter, something lost, the way all great love songs do. And yes, if "Slideshow" had been playing when you held that person's hand out on the rink, you'd have sworn that it would have been your song forever.

That's because there is something about the Capsules and the trio's slightly retro, shoegazer sound that, coupled with Julie Shields' innocent, pure voice, just seems to evoke roller skates, first loves and the initial bloom of young adulthood. In fact, the "Slideshow" video happens to take place on a roller rink with the band playing in the center as faceless people skate around them. And the video for "Light the Path," also from the band's latest album, Someone for Everyone, features a game of Galaga in a dingy arcade. But Jason Shields insists the band didn't have a nostalgia agenda.

"The roller-skating rink from the 'Slideshow' video and the arcade from the 'Light the Path' video are actually in the same place," he says. "We had come up with both concepts independently, but when we were looking for a roller-skating rink that would actually let us film there, we were pleasantly surprised to see they also had a delightfully tacky and outdated arcade ... just what we were looking for. We just rented it out like we would for a skating party and showed up with a bunch of filming equipment."

Intentionally or not, Someone for Everyone is full of echoes. The guitars bounce and blur, and Julie Shields' deceptively simple melodies are often overdubbed. Her lyrics, usually delivered in the second person, cough up fragments of old relationships and remembered emotions. The album recalls the discordant beauty of the shoegazer sound of the early '90s -- not so much the majesty of My Bloody Valentine (whose Kevin Shields is no relation to the Capsules' lead couple) as the lush sounds of, well, Lush.

"We really don't consciously try to sound like this or that," Jason Shields says. "We grew up on bands like the Cure and the Jesus and Mary Chain, so I'm sure it seeped into us quite a bit along the way. But really, we just write what comes out naturally, and that ends up being our sound."

Julie and Jason Shields' ties to the shoegazer movement runs deep. They were the core of Shallow, whose '90s work carried the genre's torch in the Midwest. Shallow played the second stage at Lollapalooza '94 and was once featured in Tiger Beat. By the time the group disbanded in '99, the Shieldses had a strong desire to pare down their sound. The Capsules quickly rose from Shallow's ashes after the couple met Trevino at a friend's wedding.

The first instinct was to tone down the noise, and the band's debut album, Reverser, is consciously softer than its follow-up as a result. In fact, the band's first gig was opening for slowcore giant Low. But the subdued sound on the album gave the band more breadth in its live show.

"Reverser was intentionally very mellow, so when we play those songs live, naturally they're still very mellow," Jason Shields says. "Our new album is a bit more upbeat, so I think the live show and crowd are changing a bit as we incorporate more and more rocking songs. Our live show is pretty dynamic -- we do our best to mix up the pretty, mellow stuff with the noisy, rocking stuff."

But even the noisiest Capsules song isn't going to inspire the kind of slam-dancing, instrument-smashing chaos that got Ike Turner Overdrive disqualified from the recent Farmer's Ball competition won by the Capsules. In fact, if the folks at the Bottleneck are smart, they might rent out skates at the door this Saturday. There won't be any pushing or shoving, and the audience may not want to play "Crack the Whip," but there might be one or two lovelorn souls who are ready to gently collide to the Capsules. Ring Pops and suicides strictly optional.

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