Expanding beyond the title track of last year’s EP of the same name, SKATERS’ sophomore LP “Rock and Roll Bye Bye” sees the New York City rockers elevating their sound past the melodic indie-pop-punk fusion of their debut. Whereas their 2014 debut, titled “Manhattan”, saw the band attempting to fit the mold of typical New York indie rockers, their sophomore effort explores new ground.
The band incorporates elements of Britpop and ‘80s dance rock to complement their ‘90s indie alternative sensibilities. “Rock and Roll Bye Bye” is as much influenced by Pavement and the Pixies as it is Blur and Big Audio Dynamite.
Beginning slowly with a reverb-drenched beeping reminiscent of the start of a Mario Kart race, opening track “Just Like Your Mother” mutates from droning ballad into fast-paced indie punk race to the finish line. The jarring shift serves as a preview of what’s to come. Immediately following this is “Northern Soul,” a jangly, upbeat number that’d be right at home on a Primal Scream record.
It’s clear from the opening tracks that the band has developed a willingness to try something new. This point is compounded by a brief instrumental interlude as the third track, cheekily titled “Clip Art Link 1 Bubbles,” that ends with – you guessed it – the sound of something bubbling cartoonishly.
Whereas their debut “Manhattan” was a record explicitly dealing with living in New York City, “Rock and Roll Bye Bye” sees the band exploring beyond their New York City bubble. This record finds them questioning their place in the ever expanding landscape of modern alternative music and its never-ending, revolving door of success, failure, and obscurity.
Lead single and standout track “Head on to Nowhere” is emblematic of this notion. It’s an upbeat track tinged with a sense of melancholy. On it, frontman Michael Ian Cummings muses about the possibilities that wait while heading nowhere in particular. It’s effective in its simplicity, eliciting a sense of hope and optimism in the face of an existential crisis.
The album is loaded with stray observations, reflecting on issues societal and personal.
The rest of the record follows suit, dealing with themes of purpose, place, motivation and drive. The album is loaded with stray observations, reflecting on issues societal and personal.
Another standout track, “Respect the Hustle,” sees Cummings revisiting the New York setting that dominated their debut, lamenting the struggle to make it in such a cutthroat industry where millions try and fail every single day.
“Rock and Roll Bye Bye” doesn’t let up in its second half. From the dance-pop of “Criminal”, to the the psychedelic Eels-esque alternative of “Mental Case,” to the indie anthem title track, there is nothing on this record to be missed. There’s no filler material to beef up the runtime.
Upbeat album closer “In Your Head” is the most contemporary-sounding track from the record, but it still fits among the classic-indie sounds of its musical companions.
With “Rock and Roll Bye Bye”, SKATERS have capably defied the odds and created a sophomore effort that not only rivals their lauded post-punk debut, but surpasses it in every way.