This is one of those albums that you have to give props to just for trying some new things, while admitting that it fails to satisfy. But it’s also one of those that suffers from an over inflated idea of just how groundbreaking it is.
For all that guitarist/songwriter/founder Gerry Owens wants to push boundaries, Skindive’s self-titled debut is an always interesting but ultimately unsuccessful attempt to integrate funk/rock guitars with drum loops, ambient sounds, samples and industrial noises-and in all honesty, we’ve seen more than a little of that sort of thing in the last 10 years.
What Owens has delivered is too strong to thoroughly dismiss, yet too weak to really satisfy my curiosity. The best track, “Tranquilizer” is of interest more for it’s samples and grooves than for any ideas presented. Singer Danielle Harrison is indistinct throughout, as is the rhythm section, and the songs given them by Owens are not enough to help put them over.
Skindive fails to reach me with whatever they’re trying to say either lyrically or musically. As though powered by a weak charge, they plow through the 12 songs here with reserved skill, always competent but never inspiring. Owens and the band are clearly not without talent, but perhaps lack some focus. If the production and skill with arrangements (which may well be the work of co-producer Adrian Sherwood) could be used to spotlight better material in the future, it could be truly gratifying. Even at it’s worst, this album is polished. It’s just that it’s a polished collection of “alt-rock” cliches with seemingly nothing to add and no voice to reveal. Owens has said that he wants his songs to be open to interpretation, and that’s fine. Unfortunately, what he has achieved from my point of view is songs that reveal nothing of himself and take the listener nowhere-it’s hard to interpret a blank slate. I would have preferred, if not something truly groundbreaking (because how often does that happen, really)? Then at least some more imaginative chord progressions than on such songs as “No More Good Guys”.
For now, suffice it to say that Skindive are not going to be the next big thing.
// Notes from the Road
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