The year-old pop-stained quartet's songs are themselves the musical equivalent of doodles, perfect in their off-the-cuff hallucinatory tumult and—for all their buried hooks' rough edges and peculiarity—stubbornly unforgettable. There are moments on Sick to Death that fall comfortably into an identifiable genre—most often early hardcore and sunny '60s West Coast pop—but they invariably pass within seconds, as rapid-fire power chords, shouted chants, and pogo-inducing beats bleed into Phil Spector-style percussive sparseness, simple vocal melodies, and roller-rink organ drones in a kind of happy, disorienting vagrancy that underscores the essential continuity between punk and pop in their teen-driven origins. The casual, fluid manner of Eat Skull's frequent stylistic elisions, along with the discrete, one-off quality of each trebly track (to say nothing of the thick veneer of analog fuzz under which they all gyrate), recalls the spirit of the first unexpected singles of the early '90s lo-fi giants Pavement, Sebadoh, and Guided by Voices. Startlingly, the highlights of the album—"Shredders on Fry" and "Punk Trips"—fully live up to that legacy.
And then there is the production style: An intentionally noisy, first-take-loving, tape-based approach familiar to fans of Eat Skull's Siltbreeze labelmates and peers Times New Viking and Psychedelic Horseshit, who have been collectively identified by the press as the avant-garde of a neo-garage movement called everything from "New Lo-Fi" to "Shitgaze" to, oddly, "Clowning on Bitches." Depending on your ears' flexibility, the textural din will either seal the deal for you, or break it. In either case, it is undeniably a core element of the Eat Skull sound, and it belies the members' background in and love for abstract experimental music. Only—as vocalist, keyboardist, and guitarist Rob Enbom notes—"It's really fucking hard to party to that stuff." Consider Sick to Death the solution to that conundrum: an ecstatic, inebriated, punk party record for noise freaks.
Eat Skull celebrate the release of Sick to Death on Friday, June 6, at East End with the Hunches, Mayyors, and DJ Blackhawk. They play again on Sunday, June 8, at Twilight Café and Bar with Psychedelic Horseshit, Fabulous Diamonds, and Mayyors.