Skeletons and The Kings of All Cities “Lucas”

[Ghostly International; 2007]

Styles: experimental, noise rock, neo-psychedelia
Others: Animal Collective, Gang Gang Dance, Excepter

Eccentricity as the new authenticity isn’t really that late of a phenomenon, but it has been the badge of honor for the new, weird Americans and freak-folkers for the better part of the Naughties. While I mostly try to disregard this and concentrate on the core elements of music, I find Skeletons’ quirks inescapably endearing. Using a plural noun for his nom de plume, Matt Mehlan has already produced three solid albums of diverse sounds with a varied mix of conspirators. “Lucas”, his fourth outing and second for Ghostly, swaps backing groups from “The Girl-Faced Boys” to “The Kings of All Cities,” and is just as idiosyncratic as previous releases. Perhaps the eccentricity works for me because the inventiveness of Skeletons always matches the potentially frivolous identity-play going on at the surface.

The continuous thread through Skeletons’ catalog is non-complacency; each track manages to shuck conventions in at least some small way. The overall sound has changed considerably for “Lucas”, with little of the prior IDM or folktronic tendencies cropping up. The closest resemblance to those earlier preoccupations is on “Sickness,” where a looping keyboard melody and a metronomic bass thump lends the song a subversive danciness that befits its place on Ghostly. The majority of the album is otherwise an acoustic affair, with constantly shifting instrumentation: guitars, brass, strings, bells, drums, and various percussive implements. It’s easy to imagine these songs arising from practice sessions among talented multi-instrumentalists, and as such, “Lucas” sounds much more like an actual group effort than earlier releases.

Granted, “Lucas” will be a love-it-or-hate-it affair for those who even give it a chance, but as is the case with many polarizing artists, the fans who cluster around the love-it end of the spectrum will likely be completely enamored with what they experience. The affectations, the wavering and delicate vocals, the absurdist poetic lyrics: they’re not for those who want consistency or who need to connect on a directly emotional level with their music. However, if you find yourself looking for something slightly leftfield but still traditionally cohesive (and even fun), Skeletons are there for you in a way that few others are.

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