Chad VanGaalen

Skelliconnection

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Recorded nearly single-handedly in his basement in Calgary (there are some guest drummers to keep the modifier in place), Chad VanGaalen -- who even invented some of the instruments he played -- had over 100 songs to choose from when deciding the track listing for his sophomore album, Skelliconnection. Perhaps that explains why there's a great deal of diversity among the 15 that made the final cut. From the metal-ish guitar riffing on "Flower Gardens" to the fractured piano on "Dandrufff" to the haunting vocals on "Rolling Thunder," from the folky acoustic guitar on "Wing Finger" to the drum machine on "Viking Rainbow," it's abundantly clear that VanGaalen isn't afraid to explore different sounds and genres while staying in his indie rock realm. But while he successfully navigates himself through all of them, he doesn't really stand out on any, which means that though Skelliconnection is a solid album, it's not necessarily a great album. Like the Renaissance man who was sufficiently capable in many different things (coincidentally, VanGaalen also drew all the album artwork) but doesn't truly excel in any of them, so too do the songs on Skelliconnection never really distinguish themselves from the rest of the indie rock out there. It's all decent, even good at times, but it's not exemplary. And lyrically, VanGaalen seems to use words more for sound than for actual meaning, which just adds to the ordinariness of it, an exception being "Graveyard," which has the magnificent line "You let your ghost leak through the earth above your grave and ghost around," sung in a very Neil Young-esque vocal style. VanGaalen's a skilled musician, and compositionally the pieces are well-constructed, but there's nothing on the record that truly blows you away.

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