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Eat Skull - III

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Artist: Eat Skull

Album: III

Label: Woodsist

Review date: Feb. 13, 2013

After a four-year absence, Eat Skull have returned. In certain sections of the pop universe, it’s something to hold up alongside the great comebacks in recent memory: Arrested Development, maybe, or the McRib, or Rasheed Wallace.

Right now is a far different scene, though, than the fractured pop hotbed that existed in early 2009, when Eat Skull released Wild and Inside. Times New Viking have spent the better part of the past couple years on the bench, aside from a Siltbreeze single (when Tom Lax comes calling, only a fool would hang up) and a live performance or three whenever an indie rock titan needs an opener. All of the bands from back then that you expected to clean up and cross over have done so (or tried, at least). God only knows what Psychedelic Horseshit are up to.

In a certain light, the fact that they’re one of the last bands of their kind left standing makes Eat Skull look like a relic. Under scrutiny, though, it ends up revealing that there wasn’t much of a reason to lump all of those bands together in the first place. For all the hand-wringing that got done over fidelity-as-trend during the beginning of Eat Skull’s existence, their message always seemed awfully close to their medium. Since their first releases, these Portlandians dealt in slapdash songs that sound — more than those of their onetime peers — as if they needed to be recorded as quickly as possible, lest they lose some of the dreamy, manic urgency that caused them to get written.

With that in mind: III, Eat Skull’s (you guessed it) third LP and first on Woodsist, doesn’t expand the band’s creative horizons much. One of the only large-scale difference between III and previous records is a newly increased emphasis on bandleader Rob Enbom’s vocals. His strained, expressive voice is equally capable of sounding like you just dumped him or like you just almost hit him with your car. He’s been Eat Skull’s secret weapon since their first couple of EP’s, saving a lot of their more plodding material from total tedium, and the way they get pushed front and center (and clean) on III‘s best songs works like a charm. That Enborm has a knack for a lyrical hook is gravy — “watching dead horses decompose,” the chorus of album highlight “Dead Horses,” is one of those fantastically evocative images that can be applied to just about anything.

For anyone who’s heard prior Eat Skull records, the highlights of III should come as no surprise. The band has made it clear from the get-go how good they are at crafting surprisingly soft-hearted pop songs in the Chills/Comet Gain mold, and III is no different. That the best songs on the record (“Dead Horses,” opener “Space Academy”) fit this description comes as no surprise. They’re two very effective pop songs, but they hit a very similar mark to Wild and Inside‘s “Oregon Dreaming” and “Heaven’s Stranger.”

They’re not exactly shooting the moon with III, but Eat Skull’s not the type of band you get into for their ambition. They’re no longer one of the torchbearers of a perceived trend, but they continue to grind out records of a style and overall quality that are still hard to come by (whether we need more of them is certainly up for debate). The opener of Wild and Inside was called “Stick With the Formula,” and, well, here we are.

By Joe Bernardi

Other Reviews of Eat Skull

Sick to Death

Wild and Inside

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Find out more about Woodsist

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