our score: 5.0 out of 5.0
word "genius" is thrown around a lot in music. Well,
get ready: I'm gonna throw it around a little more. Mark Bandola,
who is Typewriter, has joined the club.
used to be in college-rock heroes the Lucy Show back in the days,
but since then he's been gigging and kicking around from project
to project. He's a member of London electro-rock trio Ausgang,
but Skeleton Key is Bandola's first album as a solo artist.
It's 67 minutes long, it incorporates recordings from 1978 through
2002, and it veers wildly between just about every single style
of music you've ever heard of.
And it's beautiful. It's not sophisticated or
"cool" in the least—if this record was peanut
butter, it'd be classified extra chunky. The transitions between
the tracks are sometimes harsh, and the musical styles butted
up against each other don't always make what's called "sense."
But that's just a good argument against "sense." Because
when songs are this good, nothing else matters.
in point: "When Our Lost Lamb Returns." It's got echoes
of Brian Eno's early-70s solo work (Here Come the Warm Jets,
for example, or Taking Tiger Mountain (Through Strategy)),
of late-60s garage-rock, of 80s synth-pop, late-70s Chic-funk,
90s indie rock—but it's So Much More than all that. It sounds
like it's been in my mental Walkman forever.
Case in point: "It's Everything." This
is a bastard child of Brian Wilson indeed, with its early chimes
and its wistful melody. Bandola's voice hides behind its own echoes
while a psychedelic phase-effect keeps us off balance. No clue
what he's going on about, but the various strands (which include
very similar synth and guitar lines) keep intersecting and coming
back together like a really cool hoedown.
Case in point: "City Lights Flightpath."
It's indie-rock techno, like if Bobby Gillespie didn't have so
many damned toys in the studio. A cheap-ass drum pattern gives
way to another one; a keyboard squiggle jumps on the back of another
one, and tension builds for two minutes—then, the bass kicks
in. And suddenly, it's really a nice little confusing little weird
little funky little dance song. And then the guitars start stabbing
in one by one. And then something starts to shimmer. Shall I really
explain how suddenly, on track 24 of a 31-track psych-pop-rock-avant-trip,
you actually get a satisfying funky breakdown?
There's even the exception that proves the rule:
"3 Lesbians and a Baby" is an awful song. The guest
vocal/lyric by Holly Penfield is, simply, awful; good-hearted,
perhaps, in its embrace of alternative lifestyles (one of the
"lesbians" is a cross-dressing guy), but I just can't
understand WHERE IS THE DAMNED BABY? She ends the song talking
about a baby, but where did it come from? I didn't know, so I
emailed Bandola, and he got right back to me, guessing that it's
kind of a "Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf" sorta thing.
He didn't know either, and apparently he doesn't even really care.
How cool is that? Pretty cool, actually.
Okay, I don't know if Mark Bandola is a genius
or not, and I don't really care. (If I had to guess, I'd say yes,
but it doesn't matter.) But I do think he's made a genius record
here, and I do think that my world is a better place for having
it in my collection, and I do think that your world will be better
for it too.
liked Skeleton Key...
High Over New Cross
2. Tyrants Destroyed
3. Swaying Symphony 1
4. Silly Girl's Ghost
5. When Our Lost Lamb Returns
6. Channel 12 Chiller Thriller
7. Always Comes Back To This
8. Damned For Sure
9. Damned Reprise
10. More Than I Deserved
12. Oblivion Now
13. Proof Dear
14. Up Against Ze Wall
15. It's Everything
16. Bottled Gas Direct
17. Emissions Oblique
19. Lemmings Night Out
20. Swaying Symphony 2
21. Mon Frere Tranquil
22. Charente Shortwave
23. 3 Lesbians & A Baby
24. City Lights Flight Path
25. On The Grill
26. Get Off
27. Saxy Stingray
28. I Hava No Home
30. 1st Things 1st
31. Baby Benediction