! = recommended
* = all-ages
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Sonic Youth. Right away that's my first thought, and as the first track "Scratching the Sunlight" builds through its first five minutes, that thought becomes more entrenched — the only thing that's missing is a Kim Gordon-like juxtaposing vocal presence. This Invitation is not as chaotic or hard as the 'Youf were in their prime, but they definitely have the right idea.
[I wish Sonic Youth still had the right idea… man, talk about a band that had it, then lost it… totally… anyone else see those Bumbershoot shows where they crawled up their rear ends and played like they were the bastard spawn of the Grateful Dead and… well, hell, any spawn of the Grateful Dead are bastards so far as this reviewer is concerned. Total crap. I mean I like experimental noise rock as much as the next guy, maybe even more than the next guy — unless the next guy is Chris from Kinski, all hail my personal patron saint of sublime guitar noise — but Sonic Youth used to write great songs that were interesting, avant, dynamic, unexpected and memorably catchy all at the same time — I mean Teenage Riot still blows my mind and kicks my ass every time I hear it. What the hell happened? (And by the way, were Murray Street or Sonic Nurse any good? I gave up on them a few years ago, but someone told me that since Jim O'Rourke signed on full time they got good again… send your opinions to firstname.lastname@example.org). Leave the aimless meanderings in the practice space or on your SYR releases and let the more simple-minded amongst us enjoy our rock shows… Now, where was I again…Oh, yeah…]
These songs meander gracefully, melodies dropping in and out, moods ebbing and flowing. The LP is book ended by two ten minute plus cuts, which are both highlights, and everything else runs over five, but the songs never really drag. The dynamics don't feel contrived, they feel very natural. The tone is often meditative, the tempos slow, but songs like the opener and the fourth track "Through the Window" bring the intensity up a bit.
The guitar interplay catches my ear repeatedly as I listen, but while the melodies are often clear, there are no discernible hooks to help these songs stick, certainly no help in this department from vocals which are buried in the mix and obscured by hazy production (as intended, I'm sure). On the whole, this is nice listening… reminiscent of Sonic Youth and more recent bands like Explosions in the Sky, but This Invitation lacks some of the dynamics and intensity that might really set the album apart. There are some great moments here and the idea is a solid, but in the end The Skin of Light just serves as pleasant background music to an often dreary world.