Wednesday, July 7, 2010

The Skeletons: Nothing to Lose (1997)

(As published in New Zealand's Real Groove ... )

The Skeletons
Nothing to Lose

One might expect a four-piece named the Skeletons to play bare-bones rock, but with this much spirit and humor? On most of these fourteen songs--twelve of which they wrote--the Skeletons begin with a '60's AM-rock riff, establish momentum by singing and playing like the inspired bar band they are (roll over J. Geils and tell Huey Lewis the News), and transform material that looks formulaic on paper into the stuff of really cool jukeboxes. Their nostalgia infatuation is palpable: The two-chord staccato strum of Lou Reed's "Heroin" runs through "Pay to Play," the dirty water of a thousand garage-rock rants runs through "Downhearted" and "I Ain't Lyin'," the theme from an imaginary western runs through the instrumental "Tubbs' Theme," and a chilly Bob Dylan organ (courtesy of the Skeleton key-boardist Joe Terry) runs through practically everything. Their tip-of-the-Stetson to country swing, "Country Boys Don't Cry," is no less spot on, and their covers--"On Your Way Down the Drain" (which Danny Kortchmar wrote for the Kingbees in '66) and "Teardrop City" (which Boyce and Hart wrote for the Monkees in '69)--are as worthy of becoming frat-rock shout-alongs as their untitled, roller-rinky-dinky forteenth track is of becoming the most-danced-to polka at Bill Black's high school reunion. And, to top it off, clever lyrics abound. Anyone hoping to make "bone(r)-pulling" jokes at this group's expense will just have to wait.

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