Spinning Around in Jupiter

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Spinning Around in Jupiter is a real mixed bag when it comes to quality, which is sad because at their best Skutch is rather promising -- if only they could sustain that. But unfortunately, they have Mark Howard for a lyricist, and Mr. Howard at times appears to have made a commitment to reusing every single vocal cliché he can possibly reissue. The title song, "Spinning Around in Jupiter," is an all too apt example. Howard has self-billed it on the band's website as "about as funky as a white guy can get." Nope. Sorry, there's a really easy way to get funkier. Try some original lyrics. "Sing my song, it won't take long" has been overdone since the '50s. It could be forgiven if it were carried along by some righteous riffs, but the group's instrumentals in this case are on par with Howard's wording. Needs more work, guys. "Don't know why, I'm so high," burbles the song, and maybe that's the problem. Try composing sober, next time. The level of technical flaws included in these recordings also necessitates the comment that Skutch has the ability to do better instrumentally and needs to begin using it again. For instance, the song "Wind" opens with the sound of fingers slipping on the guitar strings, a glitch which could have been edited out, but wasn't. Which is a shame because this is a nice melodic tune, and the lyrics, though somewhat awkward, are not as painfully clichéd here as in other efforts of theirs. A little reworking and this would be a pleasant entry into the easy listening category, and hopefully Skutch will consider this for future efforts. Nevertheless, they do have some positive moments. Craig McGregor is a skillful violin player and his work on "I Will Wait for You" helps lift the overall performance levels a lot. The vocalist's voice is tremory on this one, and somewhat reminiscent of early Bee Gees ballads. There's also a bit of a Celtic tinge with the violin, and it comes off mellowly. This is a nice easy listening tune and worth repeat play, as is "Life Under the Sea." Fans may well find themselves wishing for more songs from Skutch like these two because the performances do show the band can pull it together on occasion. C'mon, guys -- give more of this! Although the quality levels on Spinning Around in Jupiter have their ups and downs, both casual listeners and regular Skutch fans will find enough worthwhile material here to consider adding this volume to their collections, as opposed to their more dubious follow-up effort, Sun Sex Sand & Charlie Chan. Skip Chan and give Jupiter a spin.

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