Frenchkiss Records traffics frequently in the vein of late-night spazziness that Call Me Lightning calls home, with acts like Thunderbirds Are Now! and Les Savy Fav (whose bassist, Syd Butler, founded the label). It's a comfortable sound, like a worn-out sweater, for the boutique New York label.[more:]
Soft Skeletons, the Milwaukee trio's second album and first on Frenchkiss Records, is all jerky moves and frayed nerves. Frontman Nathan Lilley's frantic energy is plainly contagious and, as a point, there's seldom a sleepy moment. And the band, which is rounded out by bassist Bill Kutsch and drummer Shane Hochstetler and which has been together in various incarnations for almost a decade, clearly enjoy playing together. They fall away from frenzied crushes into breath catching lulls in perfect synchronicity.
But the type of indecisive thrashing that's a treat live fails on record. Plenty of agreeable points surface, but the musicians can't -- or won't -- keep their minds on one track long enough. "Can't keep my hands from fidgeting, and I don't know why," Lilley yelps on "Billions." It's not until the title track that he settles into a placated groove, resting his indefatigable wail. "Your kingdom is lost!" he announces, over and over, as the boys bash home the beat.
Call Me Lightning isn't exactly a sound-alike act, and Frenchkiss isn't exactly churning it out, but it's the type of thing that is miles more exciting in person, where Lilley's loose-limbed intensity can be soaked in completely. We're left with a record that does little to distinguish itself.
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