The role of the EP is a precarious one; on one hand you want it to showcase what you do well as a band and on the other you want to show you have the range to fill out a full length album. The second can be a dangerous gambit, especially if your band has very distinct strengths and weaknesses. NFL Network contributor Michael Lombardi often uses the restaurant analogy when discussing teams, and I think it applies with the EP as well. The analogy goes something like this: the good restaurants – the ones you get excited to go to and frequent whenever you can – do one thing really well. That can be Italian, barbecue, pizza, whatever. The unsuccessful restaurants, football teams, and even EPs, try to do too much. They try to have good burgers, good Mexican dishes, and good wings and it just doesn’t work. Sure, TGI Fridays is successful, but the most interesting musicians strive to be its musical antithesis.
How does this apply to Skyscratchers? Well, this trio fromAustinhas released their-self titled sophomore EP and it sounds like a band who is still trying to discover what they do well. They are a restaurant that does really great hot wings and French fries, but shouldn’t have pulled pork on the menu. Their punk rock opener, “High Maintenance,” is the hot wings in the scenario. It is a furious three-chord fist pumping track that immediately grabs my attention and gets my blood pumping, as well as builds off of the great punk tracks from their first EP. The final track, “House of the Clean,” is the French fries – a cohesive blend of grunge and psychedelic rock that creates a compelling prism through which to view the two styles.
In the middle is the pulled pork. There’s nothing wrong with it, the three other tracks are Skyscratchers’ melodious grunge tracks, but I’m just not blown away by it and I feel like there are other bands who do it better. Plus, they are in the delicate position of playing music in a genre that hasn’t been around long enough to be retro – give it another five to ten years – and is still reeling from what many of the post-grunge era bands have done with it. If these three men want to be the standard bearers of the return of grunge, then I would challenge them to bring some fresh ideas to the table.
For Skyscratcher’s next EP, I would like to see them lock in on either their punk sound from “High Maintenance” or their psychedelic-grunge fusion from “House of the Clean.” Personally, I would prefer the “High Maintenance” road for their direction as I really like what they do as a punk trio. Stan Olano’s gravelly Scott Lucas-like drawl is a voice for punk. It comes across as a back-handed compliment, like saying someone has a face for radio, but it is meant in the most sincere way possible: it just doesn’t seem to mesh with the jangly melodies John Christoffel offers up, but punctuates a hard rock riff with a giant exclamation point.
Just like hot wings.