Pink Skull

Endless Bummer

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Endless Bummer is the second album-length Pink Skull release, but even though it has plenty in common with the woolly, chameleonic onslaught of 2008's Zeppelin 3 -- lots of percussion-happy, mainly instrumental disco-rock workouts, a pronounced psychedelic bent, nutty non sequitur track titles -- it feels somehow less like a straightforward follow-up than its own discrete venture, or even something of a reset. Perhaps that's due to Pink Skull's fluidity as a musical entity (live band/DJ collective/recording project), which has veered more in the full band direction in the intervening year and a half, or to the D.I.Y., project-like distinctness of each of their releases. (This one, for instance, was issued only on MP3 and vinyl, with an initial run of 1,000 copies in unique handmade letterpressed sleeves each emblazoned with a different "bummer" -- "Ingrown Toenail," "Fake Orgasm," "Ethnic Cleansing," "Emo," etc.) Arguably even less accurately named than Zeppelin 3, Endless Bummer is in fact both relatively concise and a considerably more positive-spirited and agreeable affair than its predecessor, with markedly less electronic wankery and only one true foray into all-out inscrutability (the noodly "Fast Forward to Bolivia"). Opener "Peter Cushing" is about the closest thing imaginable to a Pink Skull pop single, foregrounding Julian Grefe's self-harmonized vocals and a cheery flute riff with a simple sprightly beat and rubbery bassline harking back to the heyday of dance-punk. Predictably, things get a bit weirder and more expansive from there on out, but the basic template of organically fluid, disco-infused live-band grooves -- best exemplified by the hard-driving title track -- remains fairly constant, with just enough variety (skronking sax and chipper scatted doo wop vocals on "Chicken Dream Inside Egg"; glitchy electronic interjections on "The Inconsiderate Neighbor...") to keep things interesting. The flip side to this approach -- the album's other primary mode -- is the spacy, beatless synth exploration assayed on "Wheet" and "Fired So Fired," and on the two longer, more preposterously named bonus tracks, which achieve true ambient restfulness (another first for these guys) with no small debt to '70s kosmische musik. Pink Skull may not be doing anything all that new, but it's still a delight to hear the confidence and openness they've achieved here, settling into a groove without losing their appealing looseness and devilish sense of fun. If Zeppelin 3's itchy, dizzying eclecticism seemed desperate to make a statement and wound up barely skirting incoherence, Endless Bummer feels like it has less at stake but, paradoxically, something more to say.

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