SKATERS : Rock and Roll Bye Bye - Album Review
SKATERS, as their name suggests as subtly as a clout on the head with a brass pipe, are mad into grinds, baseball caps and saying the word ‘dude’. At least, that was the impression you’d get from their 2014 debut album , Manhattan. Like the work of a Nerf Herder support band that’d gotten lost in the post for two decades, it hit the modern crowds as a well-intentioned and cheerful release that, ultimately, felt a little too style over substance. There’s only so many times you can talk about being a bro in New York over Spin Doctors off-cuts before it starts to chafe. With that in mind, second release , Rock and Roll Bye Bye gets a much better balance. It’s still a love letter to 90s college rock, and still feels it ought to be bundled in with the Pokémon cards and Fresh Prince VHSs. But it’s chilled out a bit, and left itself open to the 21st century.
There’s still a fair spread of honest-to-Green-Day skater tracks to fill the sun-cracked pavements and halfpipes. Head on to Nowhere and Rock and Roll Bye Bye do the trick, though they carrier a spacier vibe then before , as if the years of gulping cola in the park have given way to bong-hits. Meanwhile, tracks like Criminal and the less-than-subtle Blur reference Song 19 show a growing influence of Britpop, with prominent upbeat pianos echoing Supergrass or The Happy Mondays. This may be down to the influence of guitarist Josh Hubbard, a fellow from dear old blighty himself who’s done time with The Paddington's and Dirty Pretty Things. Or maybe the New York inhabitants just spent last summer watching Glastonbury reruns on repeat.
Although these sun-kissed odes to the sub-urban skate-parks slap a smile on your face , it is the ones where SKATERS aren’t trying to be skaters that are most interesting. They show a band that’s more than just a throwback gimmick. Mental Case pulls heavily from Dirty Pretty Things, but , along with Restless Babe and Respect The Hustle manages to capture the sweeping, daydream feel that is washing into the SKATERS sound. Though the later two perhaps could have done without the not-quite Grandmaster Flash lyrics. It’s not all far out though, The lyrics aren’t meant to be Tennyson (if a skater rock song isn’t about girlfriends, radical moves, or a combination of the two, then it isn’t really a skater song at all). But some of the lyrics go past the source material and some songs struggle to defend their place on what is an otherwise extremely well put together record. Most notably, the brief Clip Art Link 1 Bubbles ( a minute of someone screwing around on a shrill-mixed synthesizer ) is more irritating than interesting and leaves you feeling frustrated as It’d be great if it’d ever become a song, and not left as a doodle.
All chit-chat aside, Rock and Roll Bye Bye is a step up for SKATERS. They’re breaking out of the shell they’ve built for themselves, and they seem to have found a sound of their own rather than one they borrowed from college radio. Although some songs still feel as if they’re stuck in the junior half-pipes, and haven’t had the guts to go for a jump yet, the majority of the album is an exciting full package, born out of dreamy summers spent in suburban skateparks and jamming in cramped apartments.