Abe Vigoda want to be Animal Collective, and Skeleton makes this plainly obvious. "Lantern Lights" and "Animal Ghosts," in particular, could be rough demos from Strawberry Jam. Both tracks bounce with those same Romper Room yelps, neon tribal beats and Looney Tunes melodies. But what the LA quartet want and what they can actually pull off are vastly different.
Despite early dalliances with what can only be tagged "twee noise," Animal Collective have always been whimsical indie kids dedicated to pure pop in terms of composition and production. If the boys bust some gnarly freakout, which they're prone to do, it's almost always in service of a sun-tanned tune inspired by the Beach Boys circa '68. Abe Vigoda, by contrast, are children of a different West Coast tradition: the chaotic hardcore and freak rock of Deerhoof, Total Shutdown, Antioch Arrow, Black Flag and so on, all the way back to Captain Beefheart. They don't lull fans into California dreams; they keep them agonizingly awake, employing laborious anti-grooves and sonic claustrophobia.
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Had Abe Vigoda abandoned their sound while chasing Animal Collective's tail, then Skeleton would be insufferable—a total fish-out-of-water experience. The band, however, wisely retrofitted their deeper musical heritage with current interests. Of course, fusing such divergent aesthetics makes Skeleton a schizoid listening experience. But that appears to be their goal as punk tricksters (there's a lot of them in LA these days). All the good stuff on Skeleton that sounds like Strawberry Jam disarms you with promises of good-time pop music. And once Abe Vigoda know your shields have been lowered, they then pummel your noggin like a special-ed spazz after three cans of Jolt and a Charleston Chew. If joy-equals-pain is your bag, it doesn't get much better than Skeleton.