Sun Sex Sand and Charlie Chan

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You can tell there's some Celtic heritage in someone's background here, because the member of Skutch who writes the text for their website has definitely kissed the Blarney stone. His attempts to put a positive spin on their efforts are rather thoroughly tinged with malarkey, especially when he claims that they only ever get good reviews, and then presents Sun Sex Sand and Charlie Chan. Sorry to break your winning streak, guys, but this review only reflects what you are doing to yourselves, musically. Hopefully you'll snap back out of this slump. Sun Sex Sand and Charlie Chan is Skutch's third full-length album, and unfortunately, like the title, it's this group's most dubious effort so far. Some things are just a crime against the ears, and the falsetto singing on "Netquest" offers us multiple such moments. This is the kind of song they could get paid not to sing. At first it's rocking along, a little smug, a little predictable, but passable, until it gets into the dread falsetto. Not only does that sound make listeners flinch, the lyrics are Mark Howard in his scraping-the-bottom-of-the-barrel mode, and he scrapes it very hard, on this one. Perhaps it's not surprising that Howard gives us this loser's tale of Internet lust for an overgrown alien woman, and how it backfires, but oh, somebody make him stop! This one's just dreadful. About the only people this could be popular with is a bunch of drunken students still young enough to chuckle and elbow each other at the bleeped-out "f" word. Reality check -- with all the earthly porn available on the Net, who needs aliens for it? Guys, this is just tripe, and it's three-day-old-rotting-in-the-sun tripe at that. Bury it deep, and never again admit you wrote it. The review rating dropped way down because of this repellant ditty, and the mediocre quality of the collection in general. Skutch can do much better than this, and listeners can only wish that they rally themselves and get back to the more hopeful signs they showed on their earlier release, Spinning Around in Jupiter. Several of these songs are also released on Skutch, a sampler of materials from this longer version of the album, and as mentioned in that review, most of what Skutch is giving here is simply basic bar-band music, like the mistitled "Sublime," with its tired, hackneyed lyrics, and the equally unmemorable "Lax-A-Dazical." Then there's "Irish Ballad." Most of the time, original material is preferable to a reworking of an old song, but "Irish Ballad" is the exception. Skutch would have done better for themselves to have chosen a traditional ballad, one that tells a tale, rather than this vague bit of meandering that songwriter Mark Howard produces. Howard talks nebulously of his vision, yet never makes it clear what he's seen, and in a songwriter, that's sad. Musically, it's pleasant enough to listen to, but unlike traditional Irish ballads, it fails to get any point across. Unfortunately, other than Craig McGregor's violin playing on "Irish Ballad" and "Wasted Peace of Mind," this collection has nothing particularly good to distinguish it, and all too much that pulls it down. This is one to give a miss to, unless you're a rabid, die-hard Skutch fan.

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