“Punk rock died
When the first kid said,
‘Punk’s not dead, punk’s not dead'”
– David Berman (Silver Jews, “Tennessee”)
I’m in a bit of a mood this morning. Woke up too early, and had to wait far too long to see the sun come up. Winter’s coming, as they say. On top of this low rent dysthymia, the news, filled with tales of hateful men and their actions, stokes the flames. The world may well be on fire (literally and figuratively). Skin Tags feel this frustration and spit it back out, a cathartic caterwaul pushing back against those who push us around.
Mixing the personal and political – as if there were any difference – Skin Tags’ take on punk is as musically unrelenting as it is lyrically uncompromising. Hardcore tempos played with true aggression and righteous indignation, this brief album – 11 tunes in 20 minutes – burns bright at both ends before self-immolating. As the tape progresses, tempos get more frantic and there is near desperation in the purging.
Kicking off with “The Motions,” Skin Tags set the template for their onslaught. This is anything but going through the motions (sorry, couldn’t resist). Burning through this statement of intent in two minutes, the trio takes the tempo – but not the fury – down a notch, drums rockin the “west coast ride” (my college roommate’s term for using the floor tom in place of a cymbal as the rhythmic base) like Molly Neuman or Tobi Vail. “Hope To Die” ups the ante, brutal beats and riffing augmented by a near-pretty and damn catchy guitar melody in the chorus.
On songs like “Connect the Dots” I hear a more technically-proficient variant of Heavens To Betsy and the KRS riot grrl sound, heaviness more implied through the passion of delivery (the song is bookended by the lyrics “Connect the dots/from paycheck to paycheck/what do you expect?/I mean, what do you expect to see?/I’ll tell you what I see”). This is immediately followed by the ramped up Dischord hardcore of “The List”, rage bolstered by distorted vocals.
Elsewhere, “I Hate Life” touches on ‘90s chaotic hardcore, and I hear bits of various PNW punk strains, from the laconic rain-drenched hidden melodicism of bands like Lync to the single-note riffing found on the closer, “Today Something Happened,” replete with spoken vocals that conjure Sue Fox’s poetic contributions.
The group excels at playing super tight while simultaneously implying utter fucking chaos. This duality is a prime element in my digging this tape so – Skin Tags resist the urge to completely break down, even as every reason to fall apart is examined and eviscerated.
Music of this ilk can too easily devolve into nihilism. When listening to Skin Tags’ debut, I am both energized and injected with hope, even as they blaze through tracks with names like “I Hate Life.” There is a lot to fight against out there, but with people like Skin Tags out there, we are gifted both a soundtrack and solidarity.
– Bob Bucko Jr
Tapes are still available from Already Dead Records & Tapes, but are going fast. Also available as a digital download: https://alreadydeadtapes.bandcamp.com/album/ad314-skin-tags-skin-tags