Wild and Inside
By Alan Baban | 6 May 2009
As a rock fan and average consumer I enjoy being stratified. I guess I like tape hiss, noise (though not for noise-sake), those little residues of melody that crinkle and let off gas when we’re off on our ratchets, at-one-with-the-speaker, just treasuring how a lot of this hip stuff makes us feel. Like, aw c’mon rock bands—I know you’re out there, let’s do this together. You and me. Let’s rediscover that rush, that real now I’ve woken up! sensation— sinking in a beanbag outside a friend’s room, just coming to realize that whatever happened before “Debaser” didn’t happen. I want bass lines to communicate elan and severity and humour and allsortsa multifarious round-types without just copping off Kim Deal’s four-finger intro. Eat Skull’s Dead Families EP from last year led off with one such track—‘cept let’s swap bass for loud fucking guitar, and rhythm guitar at that. The title track off that EP was bust-out, inflamed and just off-the-wall in terms of how energetic this band sounded ribbing into the Velvet Underground then self-limiting into New Order for a four-minute outro as if it were nothing. If you haven’t found Dead Families, now is your time to, uh…find it. On the Internet.
Since then this band’s released one record and one comp but neither, in their approach or production, really hints at the depth jumping deep out of Wild and Inside. Don’t get me wrong: this isn’t a revolutionary statement, nor is it some zoo of that wild banana-boating pop shtick that charges past genres at a wary distance. There’s an underground current flowing through this, but it’s a current that’s splattering over all the edges, finding funny courses through styles we thought were uprooted or gone to waste. Eat Skull play their songs like a true band on the run. And as much as their second record sounds slight—sounds, almost, like a group recording on the fly, in spare moments, with spare parts—it’s in the end only to add to the exasperation of these songs. This is their edge.
Progressively dirtied by the years, dimmed through experience and boarded up by whatever fads or economics had them noticed in the first place, Eat Skull are, first and foremost, a band of people who like to write snotty songs and play them in front of people who could care less, and maybe do, and maybe then ask for cigarettes during the smoke break. Sick to Death was a lived-in debut; Wild and Inside is more scattered. Some of the songs here are what I guess we’d call “perfect pop”: at least within our scheme of imperfection, “Heaven’s Stranger” and “Oregon Dreaming” are as good as any of the classics people compile lists out of. The latter, weirdly, even ties them to the Replacements—Rob Enbom howling, “The worst people having the best time / The old rules still apply.” It’s “Bastards of Young” territory, in the best way.
The more subdued, sleepy stuff (“You’re With a Thing”) just goes to highlight the peculiar, honest feeling that courses through this. It’s true that there’s less distortion here, more acoustic-ness, but the point is that Eat Skull’s sound is basically self-encroaching. Wild and Inside is a weird mix of being tomahawked by a psycho killer and then stitched back together by a backroom surgeon. Occasionally said tomahawking and stitching happens at the same time (check: “Stick to the Formula”), and when it doesn’t, the band cleverly sequences their shit to throw the listener off balance. The hardcore stampede “Nuke Mecca” is followed quickly by the gang round a campfire, smoking, singing, “Who’s in Control.”
Speaking of which: this frickin’ band! There’s a number of good things I want to say about this record—but, I hear you. “What does it sound like?” Here’s another annoying and equivocal answer: Wild and Inside is a loud, quiet, sharp, dull, stabbing, choking, tightening and in the end just bloody liberating vagary of noise. It’s something of the antidote to the slew of bedroom and lo-fi bands that’ve been popping up since people decided that was the done thing. Wavvves (2009) is about as outsider as a newborn designer baby.
Fact is that when it comes to Eat Skull I want to even avoid using the word “lo-fi.” Eat Skull are moving on, are in the process of moving as we listen. Wild and Inside is no masterpiece, but there’s enough ingenuity and heart here, at least, to build a career out of—one made of solid records and happy fans and that weird sense of community we all get when that voice in the channels runs through a dozen-or-so variations of exactly what you want to be hearing right now. It rocks!