Mike Davies, Editor-in-Chief Ω
As I pushed Set Fire! into my computer getting ready for some screaming, unintelligible instrument bashing — admittedly judging a book (or rather album) by its cover — I key “GrimSkunk” into my search engine, and am pleasantly surprised to learn that the Montreal band formed in 1989, so if they’re going to hit their instruments hard and scream into microphones, at least they should be good at it by now.
I was pleasantly surprised when the opening track began and I found myself enjoying it.
Falling into Shadow has haunting melodic tones behind an intricate drumbeat, nicely harmonized vocals that I could understand perfectly — something I consider key to enjoyable music — and driving, distorted guitar lines and licks that I was bopping my head to.
It’s another song I found this summer to add to the “highway driving” list. Good work, gentlemen.
Unfortunately, I was all but turned off the band completely by Fuck Shit Up, the second track on Set Fire!
This is what I expected when I saw the name GrimSkunk as I pulled the CD out of the envelope that came from the record company. Unimpressed, gentlemen.
Then the band continued with Set Fire to the Nation, and I became thoroughly confused.
A not-unpleasant blend of late-nineties Rage Against the Machine and Beastie Boys efforts — with some Sublime mixed in for good measure — alternating heavy metal and ska-type guitar sections, I now had no idea what GrimSkunk was doing, and knew I must continue listening.
Sunless Summer opens with Beatles-like keyboard and vocals, and continues on this thread, confusing me all-the-more. It’s literally like they were trying to recreate a lost song off Seargent Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band.
What are you up to here, GrimSkunk? Certainly, you’re showing versatility, but there’s just no cohesion. Intriguing — but aggravating.
Moral Bigotry is mostly boring, cookie-cutter, Blink 182-type punk with sections of rapid screaming for some reason, followed by Green Pixie, which continues along that vein. At one point I forgot what I was listening to, and think a Simple Plan song slipped in there somehow. I almost gave up completely, but since I was reviewing the album, I felt obliged to finish it.
Snake in the Grass just sucks. They’re doing some interesting things in there, but it should not have been on the album. It’s not a good song musically. The other ones I didn’t like at least showed talent in genres that aren’t my thing.
Don’t Ask Questions is one of these. It reminded me of my Social Distortion phase in middle school. Good times.
Then comes Amnesia, which almost made me forget that I really wasn’t enjoying the album overall, followed by Un Jour, a fun, reggae-style ska song, which I think I would have enjoyed even more if it was in English — their Québec roots showing through by putting some French on the album. My lack of understanding the lyrics didn’t really take as much away from the song as it could have, which I realize contradicts an earlier statement in this review. GrimSkunk contradict themselves a lot on this album, though, so I’m okay with doing that in their review.
Parts of Stand My Ground wouldn’t be out of place on a Bob Marley album, both in style and message, and coming after Amnesia and Un Jour, I completely forget that the band pissed me off with generic pop-punk and nonsensical screaming only ten minutes before.
Then they immediately reminded me.
I’m pretty sure that Souriez, vous etes filmes would be in the same category with Snake in the Grass even if I understood what they were saying.
They close the album off with two more good ones, which they really needed to do to redeem themselves.
In fact, Everybody Hates You (which closes the album) is probably their best song on the album.
A light, well-harmonized show of musical talent with guitar lines reminiscent of Neil Young, it’s a good way to take my attention off some of the grossness that happened along my journey through the album.
Overall, GrimSkunk could completely lose a couple of songs from Set Fire! — and I could do without the generic pop-punk that rears its ugly head a few times — but it’s interesting and I don’t feel like I completely wasted my time, because I found a few songs I’d like to hear a few more times.