THE SKINTONES – This is Science
(2007 Crustacean Records)
The Skintones have become one of the ubiquitous voices in Madison’s rock ‘n’ roll community with their trademark guitar tone and heady sense of humor. Their previous album, Never Get Better, is one of the best rock records to come out of this town since Killdozer’s 12Point Buck. The next chapter in the great book of the Skintones has been written, and its solid production, sexy guitar lines and silly banter are poised to both augment their impressive fan base and keep those of us already bowing at the altar of the ‘tones reaching for the volume knob to crank it up just one more notch.
This is Science is stacked with riffage galore. Pete Ress’ signature guitar tone balances the low-frequencies generated by bassist Gavin Lefebvre. From the initial hits of “Wasteland” and the scream of “It’s the end of the world / A descent into flame!” the Skintones announce their arrival. This tune may be the most characteristically Skintonian tune of the lot, with their delayed progressions feeding into the next tune, the formidable and hypnotic “Don’t Do It.” This is the best song on the disc and one of the most entertaining to catch live. The refrain keeps you screaming along and pounding your fist in the air while the guitar hums the riff with a truly compelling atmosphere. But it’s Tony Leskinen’s driving drum work, taut and slamming, that establishes and broadens the mood quickly and deftly.
However, these first few tracks don’t really tell the whole story. Through “BJs For Free” and “Freak on Me,” the Skintones explore their emblematic musicianship, hitting on even more solid riffs and hilarious lyrics. But it is “Down South,” with its twangy guitars, a taste of banjo and a distorted harp solo, delivered by the terrifying and legendary Mr. Blues, that takes the Skintones into new territory. When a band has crafted an image and a sound over years of writing, recording and performing, the inevitable rut rears its ugly head. But the ‘tones shrug off the routine and forge a different sound with a quality and texture that remains decidedly theirs while breaking new ground. They continue their sonic exploration in “J the Crow,” which adds more spooky sounds into the mix before pulling out one of the most melodic choruses they’ve ever written. The production truly highlights the strengths of this band, and Master Blaster Studios has added a fantastic-sounding album to their growing catalogue.
From the humurous drunken rants introducing “S.L.A.” (“We drank five million-thousand gallons of whiskey and now we’re fucked / And now you want me to go to work / And I can’t go to work because I’m un-fucking fit / Just tell ‘em I quit / Tell ‘em to shove their job up their fuckin’ ass / I don’t give a fuck / I ain’t working no more”) the album pushes back into familiar, rockin’ terrain with the requisite lyrical hilarity that we’ve all come to expect from these boys. The album pummels until the end, with Ress’ solos and delayed tone conjuring riffs from thin air and keeping the whole album rolling arrogantly and audaciously forward. The attitude is right up-front and the sounds keep it hitting, with the strongest stoner riff coming on the final tune, “Murder Plots.” And the final words of this newest creation say everything all at once. There is no room for equivocation or intellectualizations. The message is simple and direct: “Wake Up!”