Skeleton Key – Fantastic Spikes Through Balloon

1997 Capitol Records

Another disc brought to my conscience by Mark Mohundro back in the grunge regurgitation glut of the mid 1990’s, and another one about which it’s a crying shame that the band didn’t get more exposure and sell a ton of pancakes.

From the first track, “Watch the Fat Man Swing,” you know you’re in for a wild ride as the introduction itself is an old-time radio “Hi Neighbor” commercial. Undeniably skilled musicians and tight as a new jar of anything, what amazes me is their gift of hooks…and they’re usually nothing like what you’re expecting, so by the end of second track “Wide Open” you give up on looking for the familiar and just appreciate a quite unpredictable and beautifully cacophonous collection of rhythm and surprising melody.

No kidding…no two songs are alike and they really flow together when conventional wisdom would dictate that they shouldn’t. Witness the almost abrasive “Nod Off” as it flows into the 70’s funky “All the Things I’ve Lost.” And the next track evokes psychedelic Beatles (complete with crowd laugh track and applause). Shouldn’t work, but it’s just brilliant.

Once you’re on board with what they’re doing (i.e. once you’ve given up trying to understand it), you can’t really go wrong with any of the tracks here. You’re bound to pick favorites (“The World’s Most Famous Undertaker” and “Scratch” are two of mine), but this is a real watershed of great hooks and a really unique band that I’d love to have heard more music from. Got lost in the shuffle in my 1990’s radio days, as did a lot of the best music.

Makes a great chaser for your favorite Barkmarket disc.

Sorry but I could only find the one live song from this disc online.

Rating:  4.5 out of 5