The beauty of pop music is its simplicity. It gets to the point within a few words, keeps its duration to a length even those of us with ADD can handle and has the ability to mask sad notions behind shimmering, beautiful choruses.
However, these very same things can also be the reason why it’s so hard to get right. A misplaced or trite couplet, an ill thought out refrain or over-riding similarity to forebears means there’s a far taller scrapheap of ‘could have beens’ than successful achievers. And, truth be told, Skibunny teeter on the edge of both, unsure of which way they’ll go.
When they get something right, it’s vaguely wonderful. Hugs' title track has a slightly baffling intro that sounds a bit like something Rollo rejected off a Nineties Faithless record, but hits its stride shortly after, with a staggeringly catchy chorus and build up. It captures everything perfectly in a matter of three minutes from then on, including some infectious lyrics that stay with you for weeks now and the ability to rhyme ‘you’ and ‘do’ whilst getting away with it.
‘Stand up’ is also great, with a soaring central refrain and a totally unnecessary but successfully succinct guitar solo towards the end. Opener ‘Aah Ooh’ can’t quite decide what it wants to be - flirting with electronica and folk in equal measure - but is conversely all the better for it, partly in thanks due to its terrific outro. And when ‘Moving’ stops trying to be a Daft Punk floor filler 30 seconds in, it flowers into a fragile thing of bare beauty.
The collaborations are varyingly successful; the best is a hazy ode featuring Maps’ James Chapman, the other a quirky upbeat number featuring The Go Team’s Kaori Tsuchida which would be great if it were not for some fairly contrived and vacuous rhymes: “How I loved the winter sun / Spending time with everyone”.
The lyrics can be a recurring problem in fact. When the rhyme is staggered over a few lines they work far better, but too often they slip into that awkward territory where you – as the listener – will instinctively know which word is coming up. Cases in point: “Seems like a long, long time ago / Since we sat around and listened to the radio / Boy it’s been a long, long time / Since we talked all night with some good red wine” - (‘Stand Up’); or ”Sometimes all I wanna do is have the good times / Stay a little longer cos it feels good / Don’t listen to them I think that you should” - (‘Up Down’).
There is a fine line between success and failure in pop; the innocence of New Order, the nous of Ladytron and the honest fragility of Teenage Fanclub could all end in tears, but all three acts pitch it just right.
Skibunny still have a lot to learn in this department, and indeed in the simple business of making intros that don't jar with what follows. But promisingly for a debut record, on Hugs the hooks, ideas and ability are all there to come good next time around.
6Sean Thomas's Score