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the pathetic caverns - music by artist - Skiptrace

eclectic reviews and opinions


weather & oil

(Pedal Bark, 2004)

I received a review copy of Skiptrace's self-titled EP a few years ago, and it went straight into the ever-growing Guilt Pile. There was nothing overtly wrong with it -- it was competent enough in an indie/emo kind of way, if a bit too jammy for my taste. It clearly benefited from the work of its 3 excellent engineers. But it made almost no lasting impression. Songs like "Don't Support the Band" had hooks, but they tended to wear out their welcome before they finished (all but one of the tracks were more than 4 minutes long). I can't manage to write a review that says "not horrible, but kind of boring" in a new way more than once every couple of months, but hardly a week goes by that I don't get a new CD for which the sentiment applies. The Guilt Pile grows. Someday it may fall over and crush me.

So I can't say I was exactly excited to see the followup full-length appear in my in-box.

But the news is almost all good: the songwriting is sharper and more memorable, with increased variation in texture and mood. Singer Scott Sellwood frequently sounded strained on the debut EP and his pitch seemed tentative; he seems far more confident and relaxed on weather & oil. Returning producer/engineer John Agnello does a typically fine job of showing the band to best advantage.

There's one fly in the mustard: "Opposition Hope Theme," with its too-busy snare and meandering guitar lines, trips my jam-band detector immediately. Turns out it's a live-to-tape improv: definitely the sort of thing that should be saved for a b-side or fan-club release. But at least it's over in less than 4 minutes, and it's the only such exercise on the disc. I wish all bands had even that much restraint, and it doesn't stop Skiptrace from winning the innaugural Pathetic Caverns "Oi Got Bettah" award for biggest improvement between 2 recordings.

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