Album: The Five Stages EP
Label: Spectra Records
There was a time when this was a full band. Then one of the members attempted suicide and the band came crashing down. Now Skittish is a solo project of Jeff Noller. He has created an exceptional EP here that is all about the five stages of grief, probably a subject with which he’s pretty familiar. This is an extremely strong release that covers a lot of territory. Ultimately it probably lands somewhere in the vicinity of art rock or modern progressive rock, but there are plenty of other things going on, too. This is really extremely strong.
The opening tune “Running Lights (Denial)” establishes a fun vibe from the start. There is some world music in the mix. Added into that is some punk rock and some alterative rock like Camper Van Beethoven. All that is blended into a bouncy rocker that’s just plain cool. It’s a great way to start things on a high note.
The noisy bass-heavy sound that starts “Built to Break (Anger)” is awesome. The vocals come in over the top with some blasts of almost jazzy like singing. There is almost a Primus vibe to this number. It’s got some blasts of heavier sound perhaps akin to Diablo Swing Orchestra. This is a real powerhouse and weird as it is, it’s arguably even stronger than the opener. This is an awesome cut that shifts and turns and rocks like crazy. “The Fixer (Bargaining)” is set in a real pop rock sound. It’s got a bit of a Beatles vibe to it. Some horns at points lend some jazz to the mix. It’s another great song and another side of this band. One might expect a song that represents the depression phase of the process to feel like a funeral dirge. That’s not the case here. “Kerosene (Depression)” has energy to the music and almost a dreamy quality.
The vocals are understated, lending some of that depressive attitude. It is a pretty, dreamy tune that feels rather like something Porcupine Tree might do. There is a real trippy section later. That gives way to a rocking movement that is more in keeping with things like Radiohead. Weird psychedelic music opens “The World Needs Bartenders (Acceptance).” It works out from there in a gentle bouncy arrangement that again feels quite tied to psychedelia, but with a modern element at play. This works through several changes, but in keeping with that whole modern pop meets psychedelic vibe.
Then around the four and a half minute mark it works out to a percussion and voice break that is quite cool. That gives way to a return to the main song structure. There is some cool guitar work near the end, lending another angle to this. It’s a great way to end a great set.
Rating: 9.5/10 Stars
by Steve Rafferty