Words by Sean Moeller, Illustration by Johnnie Cluney, Sound engineering by Mike Gentry
I don't know about anyone else, but this is what I've always wanted Dave Matthews to sound like - not just so that he didn't sound the way he currently does and always has, but because he and his crack squad of musicians are good enough to pull something this freaky off and they could have single-handedly changed the face of American popular music for the better. That's if everything else would have happened exactly the same way and at the exact same time. It gives me shivers just thinking about how much better it would have been watching the Today Show this morning and instead of hearing them play a litany of their most dead-horse-beaten songs of varying degrees of throw up sappiness, along with the requisite new single, there would have been Matthews playing the kind of hungry and charismatic music that New York band Skeletons make. Lead singer Matt Mehlan has a combo sounding voice that really does bring to mind Matthews and Dirty Projectors' David Longstreth, flooring you with its wiliness and with its writhing fluctuations and gyrations and when mixed with real graphic and intense ruminations about capitalism and talking heads, that's when he's taking you out into leftfield, tying a blindfold around your eyes and then spinning you senseless. It's an exhilarating sort of clobbering that doesn't really sting at all. It doesn't leave a mark or a scar, just a bit of a strong impression - of a man who might actually believe that the government's spying on you through all of those digital television converter boxes (why else would they give you a coupon to get one basically for free, he might ask) and who is definitely not paying his federal income taxes anytime soon. It's not that simple to pinpoint the cause of the concern that stretches itself out in these ambitious, jangly, sonic weird-outs of implied stratagem. Money is the root (they don't say "of all evil" but it might as well go without saying) and this is an album that exposes that root and giving it the characteristics of a root canal - the drilling and the tunneling out every last hair of a root that there may be left inside, all done without any pain medication so that the bottoms of the teeth feel as if they're flashing yellow lights. Skeletons lock into grooves and then tickle them into different oddly shaped ripples - then locking them into their own grooves. The lyrics are engrossing riddles and logic bites that keep giving and giving, turning your head into taffy and fireworks. Mehlan sings in "Stepper aka Work," "I grow a mustache for a filter so I never have to know when I'm gonna have to keep moving," and this line is just accepted for what it's worth as he extrapolates more upon the age-old dilemma of the cursed job but the need for that paycheck at the end of the month to survive. Later on in the set, during the unreleased song "Grandma," he sings, "I tried to replace that cartoon in my face, but it's not easy," and that might just be the little devil that's always in our ears laughing at our slumped shoulders and the curvature in our spine, who cackles big barks at all of our struggles to keep up with the rat race and that need for more money and more acceptance by those with even more money.
Skeletons Official Site