With The Story Is…, Skinny Lister offer fourteen vignettes pulled from a few years in disarray. Released through Xtra Mile Recordings, the band’s fourth full-length release ranges from romantic to sociopolitical, expressing complex thoughts with direct, personal wit and a positive energy key to Skinny Lister’s brand of rock-by-way-of-folk-punk. What’s more, the band goes farther than they ever have in exploring their genre boundaries.
Nodding to dub-style reggae, an up-stroked guitar riff rich with slapback echo opens the album to the dancy, driving “Second Amendment.” The sheer, joyous tone of “Second Amendment,” however, conceals a sharp analysis.
Juxtaposing an ominous instability in the verse leading into the unwavering conviction of the chorus, “Second Amendment” builds chaotic tension within an aesthetically playful soundscape. As a British band, Skinny Lister use fantastic subtextual commentary to criticize the USA’s cultural fetishization and legislative inaction in the face of an epidemic of mass shootings.
“Second Amendment” politically compliments “38 Minutes,” a song elevating the sentiments expressed by Hawaiian residents unsure of their safety during a false missile alert on January 13, 2018. The song is greatly humanistic, focusing on personal connections in the face of governmental failure and signs pointing towards war and death.
Veering towards personal territory, the piano-driven ballad “Diesel Vehicle” wonderfully captures the darkly comic absurdity of a single mistake turned domino effect. The simple hook, “I put unleaded in my diesel vehicle,” wryly shrugs at a day’s worth of missed travel appointments due to a mind wandering for want of a certain someone. This vignette captures the out-of-body experience when a difficult moment becomes a crystal-clear metaphor for something more existential.
“The Shining” serves a funky, mantra-driven jam whose constant, positive affirmation finds itself at the hearth of the soul. Simple, catchy, and pleasant, this song feels pulled straight from the heyday of 70s funk and soul.
The deservedly titular track “The Story Is…” sits sweetly at the center of the album. Its slow build, filled with humble, loving lyrics, slowly ignites every neuron with hope, and this is exactly what The Story Is… achieves with every step. Whether joyous, somber, or seethingly critical, the songs of The Story Is… pivot around the core principle of hope in the face of struggle.
The Story Is… constantly defies expectations. Whether it’s the punk rock “My Life, My Architecture,” the barroom shanty “Rattle & Roar,” or the mellow folk intro to “Stop & Breath,” Skinny Lister show mastery of musical form and composition. Never do their sonic explorations seem beyond their depth. The album’s lyrics are simple and memorable while remaining fresh and ripe with meaning.
With The Story Is… ,Skinny Lister render an album that’s witty, playful, and packed with insight. At no point does The Story Is… get lost in pretense or excessive deliberation. Through sonically explorative tracks, Skinny Lister expose their hearts in a display of what it means to truly live in the face of an uncertain future. This golden menagerie of genuine songs helps to simply understand some of the most trying times.