Reviews

Lost Classics: Rollerskate Skinny “Horsedrawn Wishes”

:: ROLLERSKATE SKINNY
Horsedrawn Wishes // Warner Bros., 1996

For a band named after a phrase in The Catcher In The Rye and featuring percussion from the younger brother of My Bloody Valentine’s Kevin Shields—in other words, cultural references that might’ve forgiven the Dublin group the usual fortnight at the top of the pops, only to sink forever from view, Rollerskate Skinny’s handiwork has aged remarkably well. Constant press references to MBV forced Jimi Shields’ departure by the time of sophomore LP Horsedrawn Wishes. Like the Flaming Lips and Mercury Rev, the album contained meticulously constructed, extraordinarily druggy to-and-fro (the liner notes credited each band member with “orchestration”), with guitars of every shape and size poking through every available surface, its pacing a testament to a lysergic imagination.

Catching Up: Since splitting in 1997, all the Skinnies have remained in music. Frontman Ken Griffin moved to New York, released 1999’s Dead City Sunbeams as Kid Silver and formed Favourite Sons (with ex-MAGNET intern Matt Werth) in 2004. Guitarist Ger Griffin (no relation to Ken) and bassist Stephen Murray teamed up in Walker; Murray now leads the Radio, while Griffin records as Super Electric. Shields founded the Chicago-based Lotus Crown and, later, the NYC-based Wounded Knees.

 

electricwhipcrack.blogspot.com - December 13, 2008

10 CLASSIC IRISH ALBUMS: Number 5

ROLLERSKATE SKINNY - Horsedrawn Wishes (1996)

One of the great lost Irish bands, Rollerskate Skinny emerged in the early 90’s with records that garnered much critical acclaim, and though they packed it in after their second album, Horsedrawn Wishes, they still retain a considerable cult following. Their music is an invigorating, hazy, shape-shifting blend of distorted, MBV-like guitar textures (Kevin Shields’ brother Jimi was a drummer in the band for a period), gliding shoegaze washes, power-pop harmonies and melodies that call to mind the Stone Roses.

‘Swingboat Yawning’ and ‘One Thousand Couples’ utilise quiet-loud dynamics with pulverising, warped guitar assaults; ‘Cradle Burns’ is a joyously disorientating pop song, while all the ingredients come to a glorious climax on ‘Speed To My Side’, surely one of the greatest Irish singles ever recorded. They really don’t make them like this anymore: I’ve often said that no one will ever be able to recapture the magic of MBV’s Loveless, but Rollerskate Skinny came pretty damn close.

Daniel Harrison

 

onavery.blogspot.com - March 1, 2011

The revisionists are hard at work.

Rollerskate Skinny's place in the history of Irish alternadelica is as assured as Whipping Boy's. It is surprising now to actually realise how underappreciated they were in their heyday. Here, on our doorstep, we had a modern psychedelic band who were the equal of (if not the better of) Mercury Rev and The Flaming Lips.

'Horsedrawn Wishes' is a canonical thing that the Irish did well, like Ulysses. We took this gnarly inward looking nouveau-psychedelia that the Flaming Lips, Mercury Rev, Butthole Surfers, and Boo Radleys were doing - and we perfected it. There is no album from that sweaty scene that matches 'Horsedrawn Wishes'.

Like, none. (this is like a tabloid now, with single sentence paragraphs).

Not even 'Clouds Taste Metallic'. And that was a remarkable album from a remarkable scene.

Also, I love that every single time I get a bus home to Kells I queue up beside the plastic blind child from the album's cover.

 

wilfullyobscure.blogspot.com - October 30, 2007

Dublin's Rollerskate Skinny surely rank as one of the most artistically unaffected bands of the 1990s (or for that matter any decade) to enjoy major label distribution and support. Yes, Jimi Shields, brother to My Bloody Valentine's Kevin Shields peeled off avant guitar salvos aplenty in the Rollerskate's, but it was lead vocalist Ken Griffin who was the true visionary. The quartet opted for a congested, surrealistic canvas as opposed to the shoegazer-ish trend du jour, that resulted in two brilliant cult-classic albums, Shoulder Voices in 1994, and the slightly more approachable Horsedrawn Wishes in '96, before calling it a day shortly thereafter.

The band's aptly titled debut ep Novoice, saw it's vinyl-only issue on UK imprint Showbiz Records in 1992. It's two prolonged jams, "Complacency," and "Cushy Daughter" were rough noisenik sketches of what the Rollerskates would vastly perfect upon in just another years time.

Their second vinyl-exclusive offering, Trophy, brought to light the full extent of the band's prowess that would later pay off on their aforementioned albums. Amidst a startling sense of dynamics and oblique lyrics, later to be album cuts "Violence to Violence" and "Bow Hitch-hiker," benefited from Shield's unwieldy guitar theatrics that ricocheted and boomeranged throughout their collective twelve-minute time span. Sonically layered to the hilt, Rollerskate Skinny's sophisticated, indigenous wall of sound could beat Phil Spector at his own game any day.

 

WeAreNoise Rollerskate Skinny “Horsedrawn Wishes”

The first time I saw this album is forever imprinted in my mind; the way it felt, touching the strange textural painting on the cover and then flipping it over to read such song titles as ‘Violence To Violence’ and ‘Bring On Stigmata’. These were the soft and cuddly titles that put my heart a-flutter at the time. ‘Got to have it ‘, awkwardly excited standing in Freebird Records in Dublin.

I am from Galway, not a million miles away, but going to Dublin was like a pilgrimage for many years. It was a special occasion for me, my brothers and music loving friends. A record purchasing one whenever enough cash was cobbled together to get the bus or a lift and come back with a few gems to lock yourself in a room to. To live along with every lyric or beat, noise and nuance felt, inhaled then exhaled, then repeated. Sitting beside my dad’s record player or dancing like a mad one to the loud sounds blaring from the speakers set up to my brother’s decks.

After the initial listen came the assimilation. Mimicing the art work of favorite bands and doing my own version of the music on a dodgy Yamaha PSR keyboard.

On this occasion in Freebird, the album in my hands was ‘Shoulder Voices’ by Rollerskate Skinny. It was the beginning of a journey.

I knew the band were Irish, that Kevin Shields’ brother was in it and I was excited. My musical interests at that time were from mainly outside of this isle but some bands I fell for that deserve a mention were My Bloody Valentine, Engine Alley, Pet Lamb, Cathal Coughlan, Compulsion, Cane 141, Snowblindwaltz and The Plague Monkeys.

‘Shoulder Voices’, however, kick started something in me – the awe felt when looking at the fantastic cover work by Feargal Fitzpatrick – which led me to my favourite album of theirs, (rumors of band troubles and record company conflicts caused fear) but Horsedrawn Wishes arrived in my paws unharmed.

I had just moved to Cork when I heard this album. What makes it my favourite, is not only the music and its content, but what I have associated with it. Music always seems to weave itself into experiences – a soundtrack constantly being made and very time/place specific.

When listening to Horsedrawn Wishes, I am transported to Freakscene in Sir Henry’s, a weekly necessity for me – lollipop in mouth and a drink in hand. The joy of hearing ‘Speed to my Side’ blaring out, then dancing and singing like my life depended on it. From a couple of people dancing, to eventually a full room. I went on to meet my first ‘main boyfriend’ because we were both on the dance floor to this tune. I danced to it every week until it was then replaced by another tune and I was replaced by another girl.

The beautiful aspect of life and music is that it is constantly, like you and I, moving forward. The Irish music scene at the moment I think is proof of that. Currently in the running for someone’s favourite Irish album are the fantastic So Cow -These Truly Are End Times, Patrick Kelleher’s You Look Cold and CUBS’ The Whispering Woods. Hell yeah, it’s Yamaha PSR time again.

AnneMarie Deacy

 

Rolling Stone - Rollerskate Skinny

Sonically inventive, noise-pop artists Rollerskate Skinny are constantly trying to push the envelope of sound in a pop song format. The Dublin-based band, named after a turn-of-phrase from Catcher in the Rye, was formed in 1992 by singer/guitarist Ken Griffin, guitarist Ger Griffin (no relation) and bassist Stephen Murray. After adding Jimi Shields on guitar, Rollerskate Skinny released their first full-length album, Shoulder Voices, on Beggars Banquet in 1994. Later that year, the band released the Threshold EP, continuing to hone their self-described controlled melodic chaos.

In 1995 Shields left the band, and the remaining trio was signed to Warner Bros. Records. Their latest release, 1996's Horsedrawn Wishes, was a resounding critical success.

 

ROLLERSKATE SKINNY

Shoulder Voices (UK Placebo) 1993 (Beggars Banquet) 1994
Threshold EP (UK Placebo) 1994
Horsedrawn Wishes (Warner Bros.) 1996

Formed in Dublin in 1992, Rollerskate Skinny (named for a line in Catcher in the Rye) recorded its first album as a quartet, with Jimi Shields (brother of My Bloody Valentine's Kevin Shields) adding guitar, voice and drums to the manifold abilities of unrelated founders Ken Griffin (vocals/guitar/keyboards), Ger Griffin (guitar) and Stephen Murray (bass/guitar). A bit like Sloan's Smeared in its derivative variety, Shoulder Voices is a fascinating and delightful debut that jumps easily from intimate indie tunefulness (the vocals sound like Pavement) to free-fire pop noise, with plenty of wild and wonderful textures along the continuum. The constant gear-shifting makes its nigh on impossible to get a handle on the group's intentions, but the balance of strong, engaging songwriting (see especially "Bow Hitch-Hiker," "Bella" and the Beach Boysish "Shallow Thunder"), alluring atmospheres ("Miss Leader," "Violence to Violence") and raw sensual abandon (just about every song has some liberating blast of distortion, but the Robyn Hitchcock-like "Some Give Birth" bears a resemblance to MBV) obviates the need for such concerns. A great, imaginative beginning.

Shields didn't stick around (or get asked back; he instead formed a group called Lotus Crown) for the band's follow-up/swan song, but Horsedrawn Wishes — recorded with a hired drummer and a major reliance on keyboards and "orchestration" — is no less impressive in its riot of excellent ideas supporting, not disguising, worthy songs. If anything, the madly ambitious production raises the band's creative vision higher, making Rollerskate Skinny that much more considerable in its achievement. If the Beatles had reached psychedelic cruising altitude around 1995, this might be their kind of album: vivid, self-confident, innovative, too involuted to easily master and thoroughly entertaining. Very well done.

After Rollerskate Skinny called it quits, most of the alumni made good showings, artistically if not commercially. Best of the lot is Dead City Sunbeams, the only album issued by Ken Griffin’s Kid Silver, which is even more stellar than Horsedrawn Wishes. It’s an incredible album from start to finish, full of memorable tunes, eclectic and inventive arrangements and Griffin’s commanding, slightly cracked vocal presence. If Horsedrawn Wishes was a Beatles album for the '90s, Dead City Sunbeams throws the next generation Liverpudlian Julian Cope into the mix for good measure. The title track, "Hey Trespasser" and especially the outstanding China-meets-the-Caribbean "Breadcrumbs" are as good as any psychedelic pop of the period, and the album should have vaulted Griffin to the same level of adulation as Cope and Wayne Coyne. Very possibly the most unfairly overlooked album of the late '90s.

Shields can’t match Griffin’s pop hooks on Chokin’ on the Jokes, the sole longplayer from Lotus Crown, but he still writes a mean tune. Instead of Kid Silver’s toe-tapping melodies, Lotus Crown leans more towards the other Shields' world of hypnotic shoegazer noise. Produced by thpse kings of latterday psychedelica, Dave Fridmann and Keith Cleversley, Chokin’ on the Jokes gets better with each listen as the buried melodies of Shields’ songs (notably "Swallow the Bee" and "Blue Arse Fly") dig themselves out from under the layers of noise.

Rollerskate Skinny bassist Stevie M(urray) went on to start a project called Empire which morphed into the Radio, which released a debut album, Kindness, in 2004. With Caroline Lee Baker on vocals, the Radio creates a charming, sonically adventurous brand of '90s-style dream pop not far removed from Lush, if that band had been more willing to toss the kitchen sink into the proceedings every so often.

In 2005, Ken Griffin formed a new band, Favourite Sons, with members of the Philadelphia psych-pop band Aspera.

Ira Robbins / Brad Reno

 

"Sunny Delight"

Former Rollerskate Skinny vocalist Ken Griffin confesses his sins and talks about his old band's break-up, life in New York and his current project Kid Silver.

The void left by Rollerskate Skinny following their demise is one that still holds a hollow ring. It's been almost three years and there's still quite a lot of confusion about what exactly happened to the band that many held in such a high regard.

"I wanted to move to New York to shake things up" Griffin reflects. "We put so much into that last album 'Horsedrawn Wishes' and we suffered with the Record Company that we were with, so it all just kind of went stale.

"The passion for that grouping of people making music together just deflated. It fell apart really subtly; there weren't any blowouts or arguments. It was strange because we were held under contract and at the end of it we weren't Oasis with loads of people waiting for the next record."

It had been on Ken's mind to re-locate Rollerskate to America, so once the split was official he left Dublin for New York. It wasn't long before he started writing and demoing material for a project and later a band called Kid Silver.

"I wasn't considering other people listening to the music, I was just trying to find a different way of writing songs that would mean something to people. For recording, I played most of the stuff myself and put the band together later."

Following the album's release it begun climbing The CMJ (College Music Journal) Radio Airplay Charts, peaking at number seven in June of last year. This came courtesy of the album's affable melodies and some favorable reviews in magazines like The Alternative Press, Motion and Instant Magazine.

"Being in the Top Ten is supposed to be really significant, but I'm just so cut off from all of that" he say, after having a bit of a chuckle. "It was funny seeing The Roots at number six, then Kid Silver and then XTC a place behind us. Every Tuesday I'd get a call saying that it had gone up again, it was just a bit bizarre."

Has the past few years changed the way you view music?

"When I think about it, we've played with all these famous bands and when you get to a certain age it doesn't seem to matter. I'm just going to keep making records and if one of them is successful I'll deal with it at that stage."

Published by: Local Ireland
Year written: 2000
Copyright owned by: Daniel Hegarty

 

THE END IS THE BEGINNING IS THE END

The void left by Rollerskate Skinny following their demise is one that still holds a hollow ring. They were a band that drew influences from unorthodox sources and turned them into some of the most unlikely pop tunes.

Although the split didn’t involve any major blowouts or fights, it received little coverage from the local or international media. For many, all that remained was a long and unexplained silence.

In the three years since Rollerskate’s parting, the group's former members have all managed to come up with the kind of ideas that made their former band such an unassuming pleasure. The former vocalist Ken Griffin relocated to New York and formed Kid Silver, Stephen M and Gerard Griffin stayed in Dublin and begun the band Walker.

While Kid Silver have been picking up quite a bit of coverage in the States recently, Walker have been better known for their elusive nature. The band are currently working on an album called ‘Somewhere Between', and rarely venture into media range.

Finding their website came almost as an accident. It was the usual kind of thing, searching the web for information and stumbling across something that you hadn’t expected.

The demo they’ve been circulating contains some of the best material that’s been put together by an unsigned band in years. Tracks like ‘Walk on Water’ and ‘Summer Love’ have a distinctly Rollerskate vibe about them, but others like ‘Hurricanes’ could bring a smile to the face of just about anyone.

There is a shortage of bands with this sense of adventure and the ability to put past experiences to positive use. For Walker, the future could be something of a stroll; it’s all waiting to happen.

For more, check out the Walker website.

Published by: Local Ireland
Year written: 2000
Copyright owned by: Daniel Hegarty

 

Kid Silver review

Kid Silver is the monicker under which Ken Griffin recorded Dead City Sunbeams (Jetset, 1999), a surprisingly creative album. Alternatively operatic and romantic, David Bowie and Nick Cave (Punchdrunk), Brit-popper (Dead City Sunbeams) and latin dance-popper (Devils, Breadcrumbs), Griffin wreaks havoc of drum'n'bass (Keep Warm) and trip hop (24 Last Days Of The Lilac) the way a Captain Beefheart would have. The experiments peak with the Don't Bring Tears To A Table, a duet of Syd Barrett-ian guitar and Alen Raventine-ian synthesizer.

 

Stomp & Stammer's Record Review-O-Rama!

Rollerskate Skinny were not included on the Wire tribute album Whore, but more so than any other group I've heard recently, they approximate the meticulous electro-pop of Wire's second (late '80s) phase. So much does vocalist Ken Griffin resemble Colin Newman's whimsical musings that if it weren't for the Dublin trio's typically Irish tendency to go overboard on the "big" production, Horsedrawn Wishes might be mistaken for a Newman solo outing if not a full-blown Wire project. This is ornate, pristine pop for the information age, distorted by paranoia and isolation. Songs chug along like armies of lost engineers, mechanical in their precision, every element in its place as a myriad of parts build on top of each other in a strange sonic sculpture. There's a romantic lushness involved that tends to sand down the ominous edges these compositions could achieve, but the band's clear gift for intricate orchestration salvages most of the weaker experiments. While nothing here is especially groundbreaking, with Wire's apparent demise (or hibernation, for the hopefuls), it's at least encouraging to find new bands taking their precedent to heart, whether it's the undisguised thefts from their early minimalist post-punk era (hello Elastica) or Rollerskate Skinny's obvious inspiration from the later period. May they take this enthusiasm to new levels.

August 1996

 

Imprint: New Revolutions (October 25, 1996 (V.19, No.15))

As a musician, it's got to be a pain in the ass to find yourself riding off someone's coat tails.

For Rollerskate Skinny, this used to mean constant references to their lead singer Jimi Shields, who happens to be the brother of Kevin from My Bloody Valentine. Funny coincidence, then, that Rollerskate Skinny's first album Shoulder Voices was full of scary guitar noises put through a meat grinder (or something).

Now Jimi has left the band, and a three piece outfit consisting of Ken and Ger Griffin and Steve Murray has made its Warner Bros. debut with Horsedrawn Wishes.

Here's an album that no one is going to buy. Strange guitar wails permeate each track, the vocals are buried in the mix and otherworldly, and it's just way too scary for the vast majority of the music-buying public. Those in turn are the main reasons why the small minority out there who are still waiting for that elusive third MBV album should tide themselves over with Horsedrawn Wishes.

That's not to say that listeners should expect another Loveless. Rollerskate Skinny use their effects pedals on full volume, but this is first and foremost a band that knows its way around a tune, and how to work it into the noise.

That fact makes them closer cousins of the Boo Radleys and Mercury Rev-acts that create sounds that are at once braying and melodic, unsettling and soothing.

As well, all three use expanded instrumentation with wind chimes and horns that give their sound a admirable degree of humanism in the face of guitar chaos.

The opener, "Swingboat Yawning," puts together a loping beat, blasts of hard guitar and wind chimes in something that can only be called "catchy." "Speed To My Side" ends with a warbling choral workout by Ken Griffin, a melody only outdone by the wonderful "Angela Starling," whose chorus lifts the listener to pleasant places that the Verve might go for. And of course there's "All Morning's Break," a simple acoustic guitar strum that eventually fades into studio trickery with the lead vocal.

That said, this album is still way too inward-looking, lyrically and otherwise, to appeal to anyone beyond a hardcore audience. If some attention was given to intelligible or identifiable lyrics, this band would really be onto something.

As it is, it's still better than the many shelves of albums surrounding it at the record store.

Greg Krafchick, Imprint staff

 

Rollerskate Skinny - Horsedrawn Wishes

With the glut of polished "pop" alternative bands on the market, it's nice to hear a band that strides past the normal boundaries. Rollerskate Skinny is definitely a band that is wiggling its toes past the radio friendly limits. Fans of Lush who are bemoaning the "loss" of the band to commercial forces might find that Horsedrawn Wishes renews their faith in the major labels. Rollerskate Skinny fills their songs to brim with shimmering guitars, subdued vocals, and a beat that isn't in such a hurry to get wherever it's going. The first track, "Swingboat Yawning", is reminiscent of the whole "shoe gazer" genre that Lush typified in the early 90's, and it sets the tone for the entire album.

When they veer away from the "shoe gazer" sound, the band strikes of Love and Rockets in the way they experiment in the studio. Instead of just recording a song and mixing the levels in right, Rollerskate Skinny pokes and twists the basic tunes to a new musical plane. There isn't an instrument or voice which hasn't been echoed, distorted, or tweaked. In "Man Under Glass" and "Shimmer Son like a Star," alien whistles flutter peacefully underneath a thick layer of buzzing guitars. The ethereal vocals and acoustic guitars of "All Morning Break" are a welcome change from the full sound of the rest of the album and is the type of song which could have been an outtake from Love and Rocket's classic Earth Sun Moon album.

Other songs continue the studio exploration. "One Thousand Couples" reminds one of a Beatles psychedelica song, and "Thirsty European" even has hints of The Doors with a modern twist. "Bell jars away" is a faint throwback to the type of music Peter Gabriel made in the late seventies. It's a tender song softened with synthesized flute and punctuated with triangle chimes. The mood rises until it blooms near the end of the song in an impassioned display of layered vocal phrases. Lyrics like "I have thrown myself into your warm hold where you bless away the shivering" and "I'm weak with the rush of the chance I've taken" help make the song the silent gem on Horsedrawn Wishes.

Rollerskate Skinny definitely has an audience out there, and you know who you are. This is an excellent album that reveals something new on every repeat listen. Unfortunately, a new band like Rollerskate Skinny will have a tough time nudging it's way onto the radio. But, with the recent airplay of new songs by Lush and Love and Rockets, they might have a chance.

Jon Steltenpohl

 

Rollerskate Skinny - "Horsedrawn Wishes"

(Warner)

Rollerskate Skinny, it would appear, can't make up their minds. They suffer from an extremely bad case of musical schizophrenia - in each song. For example a pop organ riff occurs at the time as a prog-rock guitar lead while the drums play a bossanova. Which is very clever but ultimately pointless and lacking in direction. The 12 songs all suffer from a smothering over-production too. Here and there is some tolerable whimsical psychedelia like the tumbling Swingboat Yawning or the trippy All Mornings Break. But a vast majority is sickly guff with prog overtones. You have been warned.

Grant McDougall

 

VIVIDZINE - 'Horsedrawn Wishes'

(Warner Brothers)

Ken Griffin vocalist and guitar player for Rollerskate Skinny describes their music as "huge melodic music." Well, that's a pretty accurate description, but what's it mean, and is that all? - NO - for there's quite a lot of pop and a bit of noise too, making Horsedrawn Wishes a hard album to pigeonhole. Let's see, you could file it under pop, for the Brian Wilson (Beach Boys) influence. Alternative for the Sonic Youth, My Bloody Valentineish guitar fuzz (again (see Velo-Deluxe) I'm not totally surprised that Anjali Dutt has had her hands in the mix). And rock for the grimy Velvet Underground moodiness. Despite all these reviewer- imposed comparisons Horsedrawn Wishes is quite original, and it's been on my stereo since receiving it. So, file Horsedrawn Wishes under experimental, ethereal, indiepop/rock - or just get it and file it under whatever you want. *****

Shane

 

Rollerskate Skinny - SHOULDER VOICES

Beggars Banquet

I'm not sure why I find this Irish band's music so catchy, intriguing, and memorable. They have a strange sound, a lightly psychedelic, swirling pool of guitars and keyboards, tenor and falsetto voices, songs which veer from gentle rock to crashing noise. But I like it a lot. The lead track "Miss Leader" is one of my fave songs of 1994, so far. It's weird but not too off-putting. "Violence to Violence" and "Lunasa" are also cool. At times the band reminds me ever-so-slightly of early Pink Floyd, a bit of Lush too. But they certainly have a different sound, so let's see how time and the music business shape the Skinny sound.

Ellen Levitt

 

Rollerskate Skinny - Shoulder Voices

(Placebo PILLA 3)

I MUST ADMIT to being very disappointed with the overall quality of this LP which I bought on the strength of 2 great tracks heard on the radio. The general theme here is Mercury Rev on a more light-hearted Flaming Lips trip and a hint of hardcore guitars; lots of weird dippy rock which easily wears thin. "Bow Hitch Hiker" is by far and away the best track and it gets dragged out to twice its natural length because of it. "Violence to Violence", "Bella" with its Eastern chanting & simple melodies, and "Miss Leader" all get the thumbs up. The rest are decidedly iffy. Shame, really. Nice artwork on the sleeve though. **

 

The ArtShapes.com Ireland Story - Horsedrawn Wishes

Named in honour of a turn-of-phrase in the J.D. Salinger classic Catcher in the Rye, the noise-pop band Rollerskate Skinny was formed in Dublin, Ireland in 1992 by vocalist/guitarist Ken Griffin, guitarist Ger Griffin (no relation) and bassist Stephen Murray.

 

Dancing About Architecture:
Postmodernism and Irish Popular Music

Irish Music: Eclecticism (from Nina Simone to the Aphex Twin)

A different direction, but very much in the same spirit of experimentation and curiosity is some of the work by Dublin band Rollerskate Skinny. Shallow Thunder from their debut album Shoulder Voices featured an unusual melodic sound in the introduction. On further examination the sound turned out to be sampled from an anthropological recording of an African pygmy tribe, and speeded up. The effect is startling, with the melody being composed of many voices yet remaining simultaneously both unearthly and familiar. Not only is this an example of bringing together previously unacquainted forms, it is also an interesting thought provoker about where influences for a songs melodies can come from. One of the guitar parts for Shallow Thunder acts as a counter melody to the strangely altered tribal song, producing a result that is clearly more than the sum of its parts.

Stephen Ryan

 

ALL MUSIC GUIDE - "Shoulder Voices"

When Shoulder Voices was released in 1993, many people were interested in hearing Rollerskate Skinny's music, because band member Jimi Shields is the brother of My Bloody Valentine's Kevin Shields. Others were drawn to the vocals of Ken Griffin, whose voice sounds more than a bit like Echo the Bunnymen's Ian McCulloch. What nobody probably predicted is the ragged, pop glories of Shoulder Voices, which sees Rollerskate Skinny penning and producing some of the most original music of the early '90s. While the band's sophomore release Horsedrawn Wishes and Ken Griffin's album as Kid Silver, Dead City Sunbeams, would better focus the sound first heard on Shoulder Voices, it's an amazing debut album. What might pass as another band's best-of collection is simply Rollerskate Skinny making its genius start. "Violence to Violence" is a melodic, hook-heavy song that sounds like Killing Joke doing an Echo the Bunnymen cover; brutal guitars and dark lyrics seem radically out of tune with the sweet pop elements of the song. It's a contrast that the band turns to frequently. "Lunasa" sounds like Heaven Up Here-era Echo the Bunnymen as performed at a carnival sideshow. "Bring on Stigmata" is joyous ride, where pop vocals float effortlessly over all sorts of pace changes, chanting, and stunning harmonies. Shoulder Voices is undoubtedly a lost classic from the 1990s, to be filed to the left of one's My Bloody Valentine and Killing Joke albums or maybe just lost somewhere amid one's Echo the Bunnymen collection. No matter where it's filed, it's a rewarding, challenging listen.

~ Tim DiGravina, All Music Guide

 

ALL MUSIC GUIDE - "Horsedrawn Wishes"

Rollerskate Skinny's Horsedrawn Wishes is an amazing 60 minutes of music that sounds like a stunning, warped genre onto itself. All four band members are credited with orchestration, and it's a credit that seems completely appropriate. Swirling, wailing, and buzzing guitars intersect with each other in a melodic cacophony that's as successful and innovative as My Bloody Valentine's trailblazing album Loveless; it should be noted that Rollerskate Skinny previously had Jim Shields (the brother of My Bloody Valentine frontman Kevin Shields) as a member. Where the band's debut Shoulder Voices was brilliant without complete cohesion, Horsedrawn Wishes contains a similar, amplified brilliance in a pool of focused songcraft. Each song is a mini-symphony, built on stunning melodies, charming hooks, and powerful dynamics. Some listeners might find the songs too busy, but that's where the music's heart rests; guitars, keyboards, and seemingly any instrument at hand blend into one smorgasbord of joy. Likeminded bands such as Mercury Rev and the Flaming Lips were never able to achieve the glory of a well-executed vision like that of Rollerskate Skinny here. It's quite hard to pick any songs as winners over others on the album. "Speed to My Side" sounds like the Beatles and My Bloody Valentine caught in a space-time continuum; Ken Griffin's touching vocals and a drum's thumping beat coalesce under crazed guitars in a soup of genius orchestration. The song is quite noisy, but equally gorgeous. "All Mornings Break" reveals the intelligent-spooky side of the band's sound. Hushed vocals and acoustic guitar suggest the La's in an echo chamber. "Shimmer Son Like a Star" seems lifted from a Mercury Rev and My Bloody Valentine collaboration that never happened. "Bell Jars Away" is as delicate as it is compelling, before falling apart in a grand way. Rollerskate Skinny creates elegant sounds, masters walls of guitars (and walls of other instruments as well), and arranges its songs so the hooks have maximum impact. Equally superb is Kid Silver's Dead City Sunbeams, which sees Rollerskate Skinny's Ken Griffin taking the band's trademark sound to new levels of complex, spooky genius. Horsedrawn Wishes should be required listening for...everyone. It's one of the most original albums in rock and one of the best albums of the 1990s.

~ Tim DiGravina, All Music Guide

 

Lollapalooza, Second Stage 1994

They play brilliant pop songs with brilliant melodies, but combine the classic sounds of overdriven guitars like they've never been meshed before. Then they augment that holy/unholy sound with cello, Celtic beats, bodhan trumpets and more guitar. "Shoulder Voices could easily be one of the best and most important records ever"

...Melody Maker - From Dublin - Beggars Banquet - Shoulder Voices

 

Oxegen.ie - The Radio "Kindness"

harker has a listen to Kindness, debut album from Dublin threepiece The Radio, and finds himself nicely lulled...

The Radio are maybe as close to an Irish indie supergroup as we are going to get. Members Stephen M, Annie Tierney and Mark Dennehy have arrived at 2004 courtesy of [respectively] early-nineties critic-friendly art-rockers Rollerskate Skinny, angsty girlies Chicks and Johnny Pyro who kinda turned into the Republic of Loose.

Put these disparate backgrounds together, let them work off each other for a while, then put them into a studio, and out comes The Radio, with their new album called Kindness.

Kindness is excellently produced as well as being skilfully put together. Luscious strings, gentle guitars, warm dreamy melodies all studiously polished and carefully laid down and orchestrated into a beautifully layered and meticulously crafted 11 songs. There is a Mercury Rev, My Bloody Valentine kinda buzz going on. Other reviewers have also been reminded of 60s Supremes type pop, and I can see where they are coming from.

Tierney's voice fits in snugly as a bug in a rug. With her rawkouser Chicks days behind her she delivers an almost ghostly, pixielike innocence to many of the tracks and can take her place alongside, or maybe just below, Tychonaut's Carol Keogh and Alphastates' Catherine Dowling in the 'girl with beautiful voice fronts guys who play the instruments' burgeoning subgroup of current Irish bands.

Nothing happens too fast in the Radio's world. It's the kind of album you want to lie back and relax into. There are tracks called Sleepy Eyes and Hang On. That isn't to say there aren't plenty of catchy poppy hooks and sing-alongy choruses. Towards the end a hint of darkness appears especially on maybe the standout track Jaded Steps where Tierney's voice clearly comes into its own. But it's still nice and gentle.

If this sounds like your bag then The Radio play the Temple Bar Music Centre on Friday 8th Oct. Expect plenty of appreciative gentle swaying from side to side.

Tickets: €10.00 Doors: 7.30pm. Support is from Jimmy Behan. More info and ticket details from tbmc.ie and theradio.ie. Kindness is out on Reekus Records.