The Skeletons Are Breaking Through the Closet Door
Skeletons and the Girl-Faced Boys, led by Matt Mehlan, OC ’04, played in Fairchild Chapel yesterday night, fresh from last summer’s album release. Git marks the return of his Skeletons project, albeit with a slightly modified moniker (the “Girl-Faced Boys” suffix is new), a full backing band and what sounds like a drastically elevated recording budget this time around. The result is a marked improvement over past releases; unfortunately, a few issues I have had with Mehlan’s previous work still linger.
The album contains the best elements of the Skeletons’ last two releases and gives them a shiny new veneer. Mehlan’s application of sticky pop melodies to unique song structures, first explored on 2004’s Life and the Afterbirth, are further elaborated upon over the course of this new record. In addition, Mehlan’s use of whacked-out electronics and densely layered arrangements, touched upon in the mini-album I’m at the Top of the World, are much more ornate on Git, breathing a much greater sense of urgency into each track. The result is a set of incredibly catchy, meticulously produced original songs.
Git opens with the exceptional Ladytron-meets-Remain-in-Light-era Talking-Heads bounce of “See The Way.” Mehlan sings, “See the way your mouth moves when you talk / See the way your head tilts in pictures” over throbbing synthesizers (I especially like when that diminished chord hits) and a syncopated rhythm composed completely of digital percussion.
“See The Way” kicks Git to a roaring start with both an irresistible groove and melody, but ultimately, I feel like the track illustrates one of the major qualms I have with Skeletons: the discernible lack of cajones. This isn’t to say Mehlan and crew are castrado singers in an Italian boys choir, but if a legitimate rhythm section had replaced the wimpy digital percussion of “See The Way,” suffice to say, this jam would be unstoppable.
The title track, featuring lines like “Girl, if you’re leaving, don’t wake me up” and “Forget the headache, walk away from it” are cryptic enough to avoid being cringe-worthy. But the slightly warped Thriller backing tracks — although undoubtedly some of the catchiest on the album — leave me with a sour taste in my mouth each time I hear them.
Songs like “Y’Alls Thinks It’s So Easy,” (which opens with a righteous percussion blast) and the Soviet-choir-meets-Motown romp “We Won’t Be Proud, No No No” display some of the strongest, most memorable melodies Mehlan has written to date, while the arrangements drip with loads of invention, incorporating a host of diverse influences ranging from ’70s prog and soul to assorted ethnic music.
The most noticeable difference between Git and Mehlan’s previous work is the confidence with which the material is executed, but at many points the album becomes simply a facsimile of Mehlan’s past work with pricier production values. He certainly recycles a few of the same ideas used in past Skeletons records, most noticeably the notion of sticking aimless ambient tracks to break up the flow of his album. The self-consciously esoteric lyrics still appear from time to time (“There are seagulls who live in parking lots / there are people with perfect vision”) but are tempered by thoughtful lines and inventive musical arrangements.
One issue that I have had with the Skeletons since day one was that much of their music could not have been made without expensive equipment; past releases demonstrated a fleet of customized synthesizers and assorted bells and whistles set against rather lackluster songs. While Git is certainly no stranger to fancy synth squiggles and exotic percussion, the songs are usually strong enough to speak for themselves and the trimmings often accentuate their structures rather than overshadowing them.
Ultimately, Git is an all-around more assured affair than the
Skeletons’ previous work indicated — I should note that the vocals
have also improved considerably — and illustrates the progression of a
rather unique vision Mehlan began working toward on Life And The
Afterbirth. Mehlan’s getting better, and I am definitely curious to
see what direction he and his new band of merry men take next.