Skeletons Money

[Tomlab; 2008]

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

When we last heard from Skeletons, on their 2007 album Lucas, a shift in sound was taking place, one that nudged the band from a laptop bedroom project to something more organic and lively. With Money, the transition appears to have stuck, and the role of mad genius Matt Mehlen is now actually shaping up to be what one might call a bandleader. Thankfully, imposing more of a social structure upon his creativity does not seem to hinder the expansive, exploratory instincts evident in his music.

Billed as a collaborative affair with his three bandmates -- including Jason McMahon, who has now been around now for three albums -- Money has a similar looseness to Lucas. On the new album, however, the tracks veer increasingly close to pop. Following the traffic-jam-cum-prayerlike-meditation of "Fill My Pockets Full," "The Things" is the first real indication of this direction. Coming together a bit haphazardly, the track eventually hits its stride with an impeccably smooth bassline that holds it all together. Mehlen's lyrics are poetic but not ponderous, questioning the necessity of yielding to social pressure while acknowledging the stealthy way that social expectations insinuate themselves into our lives: "You don't even notice, slide in all glacier like."

"Stepper a.k.a. Work" and "The Masks" also hold together in somewhat traditional ways, the latter of which features a gorgeously repetitious guitar line and a haunting vocal chorus that combine to make one of the most gauzy (and satisfying) psychedelic tracks I've heard in a long time. Yet, there's still plenty of obstinate kick to even these tamer songs: Skeletons is first and foremost a project that subverts pop formula while simultaneously embracing it.

Overall, however, Money is hit-or-miss. The less structured tracks often get lost in the shuffle, resulting in stretches of floundering in between the more highly developed tracks. Still, based on their live show, a lot of this inconsistency is amply made up for by their energetic performances. While Money may not be as strong as some of Skeletons' previous releases, their live shows indicate a potential for an even stronger channeling of their band dynamic.

1. Fill My Pockets Full
2. The Things
3. Ripper a.k.a. The Pillows
4. Stepper a.k.a. Work
5. Dripper
6. BOOOM! (Money)
7. Unrelentinglessness
8. The Masks
9. Lullaby
10. Eleven (It'll Rain!)

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