Rock critics, always fumbling for adjectives and superlatives, have used every word in Roget’s Thesaurus to describe Irish alternative-rock quartet Rollerskate Skinny.
Singer-guitarist Ken Griffin’s current favorite is “Echo & the Bunnymen meets ‘Pet Sounds’-era Beach Boys.”
He prefers this new offering: controlled melodic chaos.
“That’s fine, I like that,” he said recently from Warner Bros.’ offices in New York. “One of the things we wanted to do was something experimental that didn’t conjur up images of people in white coats trying to force square pegs into round holes.”
There’s no chance of that with Rollerskate Skinny’s expansive debut Warner album, “Horsedrawn Wishes.” From the wall-of-sound track “Swingboat Yawning” to “Bell Jars Away,” the Irish group creates static, elusive and often beautiful melodies with just the right amount of hook-sense – not unlike such contemporaries as the Trash Can Sinatras and Boo Radleys.
Their lush, far-reaching sound owes as much to Phil Spector as it does to Pink Floyd, hip-hop and Celtic music. But Griffin says even he and his band mates have a hard time putting a handle on it.
“You wouldn’t believe the conversations we have with engineers,” he said. “We produce our own music and work with engineers, and we’re totally convinced that everything we say is working in a completely logical, practical way. We think that everybody else thinks this, and then an engineer after like three days will make blase comments like, ‘This is really a crazy song,’ and we all freak out, ‘What are you talking about? What do you mean crazy?’
“One engineer said to me one day, it was the most depressing thing I ever heard, he said, ‘You have to remember, for a lot of people Oasis are weird.’ This wave of sadness hit me. I felt so sad about that. If people were given time to listen to this album, listen to it a few times in a row, it starts to make sense. I just hope people will give us a chance.”
In its native Dublin, Rollerskate Skinny’s second major-label album became legendary before it hit the streets. There were rumors that more than 160 instruments were used for one song.
“That’s physically impossible,” Griffin said. “I’m constantly amazed at how surprised people are when you try to do something different.
“We’re just trying to write good music, you know. We’re just trying to join the lineage of great bands. We want to be the 647th great band going back to 1956. We just want to keep making records.”
BWF (before we forget): Check out the band on the Web @ www.rollerskateskinny.com or send e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org.