This review is something of a Look Back, where I feel compelled to write reviews for albums long past their prime buzz period. Mostly because I’m a slouch who’s missed out on countless great records, but at least partly because the deluge of music made available makes keeping up with everything virtually impossible. The Look Back is a chance to shed some well deserved light on albums that flew under my radar.
Call Me Lightning – Soft Skeletons
I am two and a half songs into my first ever listen of Call Me Lightning’s Soft Skeletons and I’m overtaken with a familiar feeling. Instead of some flowery prose on how it feels I’ll give it you my current gist succinctly, “Holy fuck this is awesome.” And for some reason, instead of leaning back, turning up the volume a couple of notches and basking in the all out punk glory that is this record, I feel compelled to try something new: an in-progress-record-review. First, a summary of how we got to be two and a half (now three, I suppose) songs into this record.
We started with “Meet the Skeletons”, a pulsing back beat with a descending riffage gradually building tension. The song offers no release though, that’s what track two is for. “Billion Eyes” followed. I listened twice. It comes in a bluster, furiously grooves, slides out with energy high. “Bottles and Bottles” charged out of the headphones and into my fragile mind next and halfway through this song I feel it necessary to comment. So here we are.
You could argue, and I’d agree, that reviewing a record while listening is foolish, unfair to the artist, and that if I’m writing about the music, I couldn’t possibly be giving it the full attention necessary to have an informed and trenchant opinion on it. That this is an exercise in misguided exuberance. And you, faithful, hypothetical reader, would be right. But seeing as I have already set about writing about rock music, I would argue that my guide isn’t well calibrated to begin with, and seeing as I have now spent roughly two songs justifying this exercise it’s time to get to it.
Call Me Lightning are a rock (you could call them some flavor of punk if you’d prefer) band from Milwaukee. They make music that inspires either boisterous moshing or vigorous head bobbing while considering your existential insignificance, depending on the individual. Soft Skeletons is the kind of album that inspires speeding tickets, enthusiastic beer drinking, and vaguely drunken post-midnight conversations on the nature of fucking up and the universe at large. Drum fills punctuate just about every rousing chorus, spidery guitar figures meld with straight ahead hard charging riffs, the bass lines punch through the mess and accomplish the exceedingly tricky feat of buoying the rhythm section while melodically filling out the arrangement. And then the vocals. All manic energy and joyful desperation, the sound of someone on the brink of their grip on life lost in the catharsis that is the glorious noise this band makes. I am now on “Shook House Shakedown”, a distillation of what they are doing so well. The repetitive guitar riff marches with mechanical precision, the rhythm section is a drunken war elephant pushing ahead in a violent tumble, each beat recovering it’s stance before stumbling yet again. The bridge is all menacing bass drive punctuated with the singer’s last breaths of sanity.
Sometimes catharsis comes in the skyward release of sing-alongs, harmonies, and ostentatiously important lyrics. Often times more appealingly, rock and roll can give us release through the reckless abandon, boundless energy, and manic reveries this album provides. Not often do bands capture that feeling so well, but with Soft Skeletons, Call Me Lightning have done just that.