So, it’s finally come full circle. Skeletons, the long term and ever-evolving project of Matt Mehlan, has gone from the humble beginnings of being merely Skeletons, to the Skeletons and the Girl-Faced Boys on Git, to the Skeletons and the Kings of All Cities on Lucas, finally settling back on Skeletons with their latest effort, Money. That there are no absurd suffixes in the band’s name should give no indication that the group has simplified their approach at all. In fact, it seems that with or without a complex moniker, Skeletons grow more ambitious and complex with each album, and Money is merely the next logical step.
On Money, Skeletons pick up where Lucas‘ Talking Heads-inspired post-punk art funk breakdowns left off, plunging headfirst into dense and abstract compositions that, in a very loose manner of speaking, are pop songs, just not easily digestible ones. That doesn’t mean they’re not good, however—aurally, texturally, arrangement-wise they’re stunning. One thing the band has always done particularly well is hide a great little pop song underneath layers of sonic bombast, but to take away that aural stimuli would be to sell these songs short—it’s often the external dramatics that make the songs that much better, such as when the squealing horns and clanging guitars crowd over the vocals and beats of “RIPPER a.k.a. The Pillows.”
Thanks to Skeletons’ methodical madness, Money yields some of their most rewarding work to date. Leadoff track is something of an anti-meditation, as chords repeat amidst the dissonant sound of traffic. “The THINGS” is a funk monster, built on a hard grooving African-influenced rhythmic bed and lots of scratchy guitar. The trippy “STEPPER a.k.a. Work” sounds almost as if it could have been taken from the Git sessions, its jazzy saxophone meshing with waves of synthesizer. Then comes the wonderfully named “BOOOM! (Money),” a distorted jam that’s danceably difficult, and brutally booty-tastic. And with “The Masks,” the band even eases into a soulful ballad, sans fucked-up sonic experiments.
With each album, Skeletons make great strides toward proving that the only thing predictable about them is how unpredictable they are. One can take solace in the guarantee that Skeletons’ music is never boring, however, often challenging conventions of just how far out there a pop song can be while still being called such. Money pulls off such a trick, and does it well, giving listeners not only a B-12 shot of noisy art-rock, but some great songs in the process.
Jeff Terich is the founder and editor of Treble. He's been writing about music for 20 years and has been published at American Songwriter, Bandcamp Daily, Reverb, Spin, Stereogum, uDiscoverMusic, VinylMePlease and some others that he's forgetting right now. He's still not tired of it.