SKIP THE MIDDLE MAN – Skip the Middle Man
Skip the Middle Man has been playing around the Madison area for about a year and this is their first EP, a seven-song, thirty-minute affair that will leave you wishing it were twice that long. A self-described progressive rock band, SMM are actually a bit more accessible than that sounds. The twin lead guitars of Eric Roob and Nick Stanecki blend together beautifully to produce very melodic tunes in the mold of the best instrumental Wishbone Ash and Djam Karet. They don’t have to compensate for a lack of a singer, they simply don’t require one.
Skip the Middle Man was recorded by the band in their own facility with cardboard serving as the drum isolation booth. It’s a very good-sounding album, though, with fat, juicy guitar tones and a driving rhythm section in bassist Sean Ellis and drummer Andrew Zubknow. Almost everything was recorded live in the studio in a single take. Though this authenticity is an excellent indicator of what they sound like in performance, it still underestimates the power and prowess these guys bring to instrumental rock. Originally a four-song project, once the lads got going they added a few new tunes and made a proper EP.
This disc barely left my CD player for several days and it still sounds fresh after endless repeats. Maybe I’m a sucker for great guitar rock but so be it. The standout tune is perhaps “R Cig,” a seven-minute rock episode that at first blush seems herky-jerky but builds to a tremendous climax of ferocious lead guitar trades between Roob and Stanecki. “Broken” is also an impressive song, leading off with some E-bowed riffing before breaking into a highly memorable melodic statement. There is nothing cooler than two guitarists that can properly harmonize with each other, swirling together in the same expressive phrasing, a feat at which Wishbone Ash particularly excelled at. “Fat Mama/Night Ryder” gets a little blues-y and “E Blues” brings in some slide guitar to great effect and its repetitive refrain is glorious.
This EP may not be a perfect recording or performance but I love its warts-and-all approach and the quality and spirit of the songs far outweigh any detriments, which are few and far between anyway. These guys have a killer album in them, and really need our support at their live shows to help get there. Long live guitar rock.