Skeleton Key – Skeleton Key

5 out of 5

Label: Motel Records

Produced by: Greg Gordon (engineered by)

We’ll skip past my Skeleton Key origin story, of hearing a song on a “Surge” compilation – yes, the soda – and having a listening obsession launched. The important bit is that “Fantastic Spikes” was the first Key album I owned, and was listened to relentlessly, and then, years later, being able to travel back to the EPs that preceded that – this self-titled one amongst them. ‘Skeleton Key’ is the band’s sound in microcosm, boiling away some of the fun extremes in funk and aggro that made Spikes’ sequencing so perfect, but that, in turn, makes for a perfect EP: We get the finest in pseudo-rock and skronk in the form of album cuts The World’s Most Famous Undertaker and Nod Off, then on to the EP-only material, with the guitar-scale noodly Solitaire and grooving head-bob bass of closer The Spreading Stain, separated out by one of those Sanko-solo-eque mood pieces, You Might Drown. (Hoboerotica’s ambience is a nice little pause here, going alongside some of the unique samples found around Undertaker and Nod Off.)

I’ve never guaranteed to my satisfaction if these are the same recordings as on the album or not (Greg Gordon is listed as engineer and this was done at The Magic Shop, but no mention of Dave Sardy), but regardless, as we’ve seen in the post-Sardy albums, the core SK sound is the core SK sound, production teams aside; the EP sounds phenomenal, if perhaps a bit less “raw” as compared to Spikes, but with all the percussion and low-end stomp wholly intact and crystal clear. In other words, had I been hip enough to have nabbed this before their major label bow, there’s really no doubt it would’ve grabbed me in the same way as the album, acting as a condensed shot of everything the group excels at, while excitingly leaving ground for future exploration.