Eat Skull - "Stick to the Formula" (Wild and Inside)
We here at Dusted came before you exactly one year ago and proffered the notion that the lo-fi garage-pop movement, then steadily gaining momentum, was a sound that “belonged to everyone and no one,” and that Eat Skull’s debut Sick to Death was an interesting case in context because of how they were seasoned enough to understand their place in history. Rather than getting swept up in the media’s zeal for the rise of lo-fi, the band cursed the idea that any of these kids – from Times New Viking to Blank Dogs to Sic Alps – could remember the last time this exact calamity overcame the press. Eat Skull were a kind of self-knowing wink to those with enough of a memory to connect Crystal Stilts and the Crocodiles with Guided By Voices and early Royal Trux acts.
But in listening to their second album, Wild and Inside, the uncertainty with which Doug Mosurock left the first review seems to be answered. Is this band going to lead the youth out of the funk it’s in? Is Eat Skull therapy for frontman Ron Enbom? Is Eat Skull consolation for those of us who remember the last birth of this movement and the naďve hellspawn it’s mutated into? There’s a clear desire among press hacks to want to believe that this album (and band, by extension) is notable because of their lack of historical blinders and more nuanced musicianship. You’ll likely read a lot of reviews explaining how this album is ‘cleaned up’; that it’s not really lo-fi at all; that the diversity of the songwriting is a milemarker for how far this band has come since its debut last year, and how far they still have to go; that this is different because they are treading alongside bands of 20 years ago rather than in their wake. To wit:
“The … quartet works with the basics to produce a simple, hooky garage punk racket, yet delivers a surprisingly multi-layered mixture when everything is said and done. The songs themselves resonate with substantial energy despite the lackluster recording and reveal … jamming out from a foundation of garage-punk anarchy and post-punk non-structure. Until the second coming of the grunge aesthetic settles in on the mainstream, this tactical distortion is as important as the ability to write the perfect pop hook. [Eat Skull] has the apparent capacity to harness both. You catch a glimpse, occasionally, of the liquid beauty … trilling through the industrial waste … with ethereal grace, and it’s like spotting a ghost, hair-raising, mysterious and fleeting.”
Do you have a better feel for the spirit of this album now? Great! Unfortunately, every single line in the preceding paragraph comes directly from a previous Dusted review (Eddy Current Suppression Ring, Psychedelic Horseshit, Wavves and Zola Jesus for those following at home). The point here is that, unless you read through the paragraph and thought, “Wait a minute, I wrote that” (sorry, guys), you’d have no idea that Eat Skull are in such an important position regarding the long-term legitimacy of the current underground. As you read this, the critical zenith of these sonically similar bands is happening out there in record shops (where 7”s sell out the day they arrive) and on the Internet (where Rapidshare links go down in hours after overtaking a band’s official MySpace page on any given Google search) – we are but one of a legion of websites advocating how one scuzzed-up bunch of kids is somehow different and more exciting than another.
Eat Skull is supposed to matter because they are turning their noses up at the doe-eyed excitement of fans following Nathan Williams and showing the kids how self-awareness is an advantage rather than a handicap. But listen to these songs. There’s nothing different going on: “Cooking a Way to Be Happy” sounds like it has cooking utensils being dropped on the studio floor. “Nuke Mecca” is basically Reagan-hating three-chord punk. “Surfing the Stairs” is a creepy surf instrumental. “Dawn in the Face” is about not getting out of bed. What might have been seen as lyrically clever on Sick to Death no longer feels revelatory or even interesting.
If you’re fed up with the all-consuming enthusiasm for this movement, you’ll be able to relax soon: The end-times are upon us. Mosurock suggested last year that there may be no answers to the questions he proposed – I suggest it doesn’t matter anymore. It’s no longer clear whether Eat Skull are assuming the responsibilities of a link between old and new in seriousness or in jest, and even though that’s the most worrying aspect to Wild and Inside, I suspect the band doesn’t care what’s going on beyond whatever stage they’re playing tonight. In shirking a role of leadership, they’ve doomed every band angling for what they’ve already accomplished with just one album. Eat Skull isn’t going anywhere; they and their discography are an end unto themselves. At what point do we say enough is enough with all of this? I don’t think Wild and Inside is it, but we’re getting close. Fine with them. If Eat Skull laughs about anything, it’s that they know nothing follows “the great freedom in being wise enough to know you’re not reinventing the wheel.” For all the suckers born in the last few minutes, Wild and Inside has a message: Here’s to further reconsideration of the wheel.