1. Second Amendment
2. My Life, My Architecture
3. Diesel Vehicle
4. Rattle & Roar
5. Artist Arsonist
6. The Shining
7. The Story Is
8. 38 Minutes
9. My Distraction
10. Stop & Breathe
11. Cause for Chorus
12. Alister McAllister
13. Sometimes So It Goes
14. Any Resemblance To Actual Persons, Living Or Dead, Is Purely Coincidental
It has been quite a while since the release of 'The Devil, The Heart And The Fight' so Skinny Lister's fourth studio release is much anticipated. I was interested to see how they had evolved, having heard that this offering would be somewhat of a concept album. Their first album 'Forge And Flagon' was undisputed barnstorming Punk laden Folk. 'Down On Deptford Broadway' whilst predominantly Folk, had some Indie style songs, and softer moments featuring Lorna Thomas on solo vocals. The third album 'The Devil, The Heart And The Fight', was in a similar vein to the second album but they were released close to each other. So how had Skinny Lister evolved over the last two years?
The album had the trademark long list of songs, but is not an overlong listen as the tracks are generally a punchy 3 minutes or so. The first surprise was the opener, 'Second Amendment' which is obviously about gun ownership in the US. it is not overtly political, but is more tongue in cheek, with lyrics such as 'I love my gun, I love my Second Amendment'. What was surprising is that it is a Ska laden almost 80's new wave track with Jamaican style percussion and a choppy guitar ska rhythm. 'Cause For Chorus' is similar with a New Wave vintage up tempo bassline and Dan delivering a Billy Bragg style vocal.
The fist single from the album, '38 Minutes' about impeding apocalypse, was inspired by the sounding of a false alarm for a ballistic missile attack in Hawaii earlier this year. As you would expect, it is one of the stand out tracks with frantic fiddle playing and backing vocals. By complete contrast the second single and title track 'The Story Is...' features Dan singing a dramatic declaration, bordering on obsession, to the state of complete dependence on someone or something. It is a fun and very tongue in cheek song.
The album is littered with humour. 'Diesel Vehicle' one of the longer tracks, which features the brilliant line, 'I put unleaded in my diesel vehicle, on the hard shoulder for the near foreseeable.'. The very funny and clever lyrics are about being distracted at just the wrong time. This slow and melodic track is one of my favourites on the album. The first time I heard it I couldn't stop grinning. 'Artist Arsonist' is a very catchy Elvis Castello like ditty about someone fearing a fire is being set in the flat below him. The closing track, which is probably one of the longest track titles in popular music history is as honest as it is funny. 'Any Resemblance To Actual Persons, Living Or Dead, Is Purely Coincidental' is obviously about the inspiration the band, like many others, take from life and include in their music. It contains the line 'No one harmed in the making of this, I'm not taking sides, not taking the piss, it's just a story.
This album more than any other showcases Lorna Thomas' vocal range and versatility and she does shine throughout. She obviously had a lot of fun with the catchy up tempo Punk number 'My Life, My Architecture' resplendent with the catchy 'Hey, Hey, Hey'. She also seems to have fun with the almost Pop number 'My Distraction'. Lorna seems to go into full Pop mode with 'The Shining'. I was expecting something dark, maybe I have read too much Stephen King, but this is a catchy foot tapper with Nile Rogers like Funk licks on guitar.
Skinny Lister still deliver barnstorming full Folk classics such as 'Rattle And Roar' with it's Accordion intro and, typically, Folk percussion. The rhythm is totally recognisable and the whole thing is laden with fiddles. 'Sometimes So It Goes' is a glorious Folk ballad, with fiddle accompanied with acoustic guitar and Lorna's sweet vocal.
The tenderest moment of 'The Story is' is 'Stop And Breathe' which is a beautiful and simple song with acoustic intro and Dan and Lorna singing in harmony about life's hardest lessons. The message is clearly to stop, take stock and don't let it get you down. There are people around to support you. The hypnotic rhythm and simple instrumentation with key changes builds more optimism as the song progresses. This track stands out a mile and shows Skinny's softer side.
Some of Skinny Lister's hardcore Folk fans may be disappointed with this album, but all bands evolve, and this album provides greater variety then their previous three albums. Skinny Lister have given us more light and shade, combining hard and soft, and have mixed hard hitting comment with very clever humour. 'The Story Is' has demonstrated a dramatic evolution of Skinny Lister, and I for one, like both the Ying and the Yang.
'The Story Is…' is released via Xtra Mile Recordings on 1st March 2019.
Website - www.skinnylister.com
Facebook - https://www.facebook.com/skinnylister/
Review - Tony Creek