Professor Caffeine & the Insecurities are reinvigorating and the right kind of nostalgic on their self-titled, prog-emo romp that needs to be heard by all fans of the genre.

Release date: March 1, 2024 | Independent | Facebook | Instagram | Bandcamp

First, I gotta shout out my pally pal JP on the team real quick because, were it not for him sending me this album, we quite literally wouldn’t be here today. He sent it to me and said it has Moron Police vibes. All right, bet – I’m in. I put it on and knew I had to talk about it by the time I was halfway through. Immediately, you get military-grade charm from Professor Caffeine & the Insecurites. I get some people’s apprehension to bands like this – flamboyant vocalist, weird jokey name(s), lighthearted music, especially with a ‘nerdy’ background (I’ll get into that later) – but you have to realize, that’s what makes bands like this good! I live for this type of shit and it’s even easier to get on board when the music itself stands very well on its own, using an amiable, almost cute mixture of emo and mathy prog-rock, it has a ton of heart.

Sonically, it’s somewhere around Coheed and Cambria, Raiju, and Thank You Scientist, two of those three bands I have great reverence for. It’s mostly upbeat with a sunny, even silly disposition, with other moments being a welcomed outlier. The lyrics, however, can have a somber, relatable tone on anything from love (of course) to health, but mostly love and its associated feelings… oh, and a good pup with an iron will. The specific hook with Professor Caffeine is that everything, no matter what it’s about or how it’s presented, is catchy as hell. The anthemic opener “Brockton Panda” is endlessly singable, just as much as, if not more than, the poppier emo hits that hard carried you through your teenage years:

‘She said she needs space
As I watched her tie her hair back I’m feeling the same
And for one brief moment I found myself caring again
When the world stops spinning I’m haunted by these 24 frames
Moment I sold that ghost, au revoir to what could have been
And now you know
You know I ain’t that man at all’

Complemented by fluttering guitars and big drumming, it’s a great way to start an album that always has some surprises in store. “Wolf Fang Fist!” is the most dramatic song I’ve heard about playing fetch with a dog I’ve ever heard, the vocals and lyrics embiggening everything from the excited demeanor of an elated dog to equating a toy ball to a dog’s entire world, perhaps some light commentary about how we should find solace in the small things around us like dogs do. I love the overly serious, but seriously cool prog instrumental break in the middle of the song that wouldn’t be out of place in a conceptual space opera. I must also shout out “Dope Shades”, which is delightfully playful with its guitars and bold vocals. I would expect to hear this sort of fretwork on a Plini album, but it fits extraordinarily well here. Also, this is a great time to give some shine to the bass which is very, very audible on this whole album and colors in the rhythm section with cool leads and deviations that set it apart in the mix. So appreciated.

“The Spinz” is a more somber tale. Though the instrumentation is still rather cheery, the lyrics tell a much different story of medical anxieties, multiple ER trips, dwindling money from too many doctors reaching in for their cut. I’m lucky enough to have a relatively sound health profile, but it still captures what I would think those feelings of hopelessness, wondering if you’re dying, and being desperate for answers as much as help of someone in that situation and how quickly things can turn, all set to the tune of math/prog riffing that sounds way too happy for the circumstances. Another song that plays with expectations a bit is “Astronaut”. This is one moment where the lyrics and music seem to match up well with more subtly driving instrumentation with a post-rock-esque allure and build-up to the most emotional moment of the record at the end with amazingly layered vocals shouting, ‘Everyday I hesitate to let the daylight in/It’s so hard, it’s so hard to move on‘.

Professor Caffeine go full prog on “Oat Roper”, a sizable instrumental song with a lot going on. Strong intro, light piano parts, obligatory yet not hackneyed weirdo synth section, and a heavy presence throughout that keeps things moving along, progressively. It’s also one of the quicker tracks on the whole album with a higher average BPM than most, every instrument showing off while still integrating each other well, it’s just a good time and shows the musicianship and interaction the band has at the core of it all. It may not be something you’d expect from a band like this, but since I’m sure we can all agree it’s silly to prejudge people like that, we can chalk it up to the band’s multifaceted attitude toward their work.

It’s worth noting that this is the first full LP Professor Caffeine have produced. With three EPs prior – one inspired by video games with song titles like “DO A BARREL ROLL!!!!!” and “P.K. Thundah”, one inspired by comic books, and a small covers EP focusing on big ’80s hits like “The Power of Love” and “Burnin’ For You” – this feels like the culmination of their work up to this point, something the band touch on themselves when saying why this album had to be self-titled. I admit I don’t listen to mathy, emo stuff too often, but this is precisely how I like it to sound when I do. My Coheed comparison earlier wasn’t just a slight stylistic comparison, but also a personal one as this takes me back to the years I was really, really getting into them, drowning in the theatrical deluge of The Amory Wars and Claudio’s marred love life, lined with all the edge that we loved when we were young.

Professor Caffeine & the Insecurites is profoundly fun and heartfelt. The technical lovers and musicians out there will love how far it goes to feel well-rounded between simpler anthems and unassailable prog masterclasses. The heart-on-sleeve lyrics lovers and vibe monsters will find new songs they wish they could go back in time with and show their eyeliner-wearing selves to belt from the rooftops of their own minds. This is what we call a full package, and it ensures that as long as the band are around and doing equally interesting things, I’ll be there to check it out. If Professor Caffeine & the Insecurites have no fans left, then I’M DEAD.

Band photo by Erik Fralick

David Rodriguez

David Rodriguez

"I came up and so could you, and fuck the boys in blue" - RMR

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