Buffalo Tom

Skins

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Buffalo Tom were the sort of band that seemed to be on the verge of a major commercial breakthrough through much of their 1989-1998 recording career without ever quite catching the brass ring, despite the consistent strength of their music. When Buffalo Tom rolled back into the studio to record 2007's Three Easy Pieces after a nine-year layoff, it sounded like the work of a band that reunited because it was what the bandmembers wanted to do, not because they were counting on a major payday, and 2011's Skins even more clearly reflects this attitude. While Buffalo Tom can still rock out and their songwriting chops are in great shape, Skins is a personal and introspective work, where quieter numbers like "Miss Barren Brooks," "Paper Knife," "Don't Forget Me," and "The Hawks & the Sparrows" play as big a role as full-on rockers such as "Lost Weekend," "Guilty Girls," and "The Big Light." And as reflects a band of forty-somethings, Skins is an album that deals with the stuff of grown-up lives, from the tale of a father struggling to hold his life together on "The Kids Just Sleep" to the bad vibes and poor decisions of "Lost Weekend." Which isn't to say that Buffalo Tom have lost touch with their strengths; this has always been a group whose members have worn their hearts on their sleeves, and Bill Janovitz, Chris Colbourn, and Tom Maginnis sound as passionate on Skins as they ever have, if a bit more measured, and the dramatic pull of "Down" and the hooks and harmonies of "Guilty Girls" should register with anyone who ever cranked up Let Me Ever Come Over or Sleepy Eyed back in the day. Skins is the product of an older and wiser trio than Buffalo Tom were in their salad days, but it's unmistakably the same band, and if their attack and their concerns have changed a bit with the passage of time, that's a reflection of their innate honesty as much as anything else; they simply are who they are, and on Skins that means they're a gifted and grown-up rock & roll band.

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