Mrs Skannotto

Outlier

Written by: PP on 02/09/2014 23:01:29

Mrs Skannotto from Rochester, New York have reached their fifth full length with "Outlier", and based on the sounds I'm hearing here, it's difficult to believe they haven't blown up yet. They rely on a similarly complex and challenging third wave progressive ska format as RX Bandits and Catch 22 on their brilliant "...And The Battle Begun" and "Permanent Revolution" albums, respectively, and there are certainly moments scattered amongst these tracks where I'm thinking along the lines of "holy shit, this is good" rather than "what are these imitators doing copying two of the best ska bands of our generation". Take the high-octane "Phantom Pain", for instance, which delves between uptempo punk rock passages with killer riffs and catchy, A Wilhelm Scream style harsh but decipherable vocal work, and sublime trombone/trumpet sections designed to form atmosphere and to relax the pace of the song a little bit. The shifting tempo structure does wonders to the song and makes it easily one of the best ska songs recorded in 2014 so far.

Similarly, the title track and "The Zealot" could've easily been on either of the aforementioned albums considering their technically apt and intricate soundscape, which underlines that yes, it is indeed possible to write ska music without it sounding tongue-in-cheek and all happy-go-lucky Reel Big Fish style. This is in fact a common theme throughout the record, because the mood of the album is far darker than is common on ska albums, as is also evident on "Entropy", which draws parallels to Sublime during their less melodic material during the 90s. It's not that there isn't melody present here, it's just not as upbeat and happy, and instead, takes all sorts of jazzy directions halfway through the track.

It is this willingness and desire to explore outside the basic realms of ska music that makes "Outlier" such a solid record overall. It dares to experiment with different rhythms, time signatures, and melody styles to arrive at a detail-rich and textured listening experience that necessarily requires multiple listens before the album starts opening to its listener. But at the same time, it's not overtly complicated, because most of the songs are immediately catchy, even if they add layers upon layers of depth to the oft-shunned ska platform. And with no new Catch 22 album in sight, and the new RX Bandits album just having dropped after an extensive pause, I for one welcome Mrs Skannotto's approach with open arms. It's not often you hear progressive ska this well-written and solid through and through. Some more consistency is needed, however, because the gap between the highlights and the rest of the album is a large one, mostly due to the brilliance found within some of the songs I've noted earlier in this review.

Download: Phantom Pain, The Outlier, The Zealot
For the fans of: RX Bandits, Catch 22, Streetlight Manifesto, Stream City
Listen: Facebook

Release date 01.04.2014
Self-Released

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