Skating Through Manhattan

There are a few albums that immediately demand my attention and keep it until their last note. Skaters’ latest, Manhattan, does just that with its stunningly pummeling yet incredibly catchy guitar-driven songs. The New York City-based quartet pumps out muddy and dance-inducing songs, accomplishing what most pop-punk bands only wish to accomplish.

I say that Skaters accomplish this task because, unlike most of their pop-punk compatriots (both past and present), they stay firmly rooted in both camps rather than preferring more pop to punk. Their songs remain a hypnotic amalgamation of seemingly simple parts that create hook after hook.

On of the first songs of Manhattan, “Dead Bolt,” bops along with muted guitar rolls that give each verse a driving undercurrent before exploding into droning and distorted chords. The drums pound themselves out somewhere between furious and the beat to “I Want Candy.” The lyrics stay gestural throughout the album—hinting at something illegal, a relationship, and generally the angst that comes with being told what one can and cannot do.

And this lyrical mode seems to dominate most of the album. Skaters seem to hint at rather than indicate what their songs are about. That said, there’s nothing coy about how the band composes each song. They leak enough hints that keep their listeners hooked while wanting more: more lyrical clarity, more sludgy riffing, more blasting drums.

“Schemers” bursts with these hints. The song has an energy that builds from its jumpy guitar work and lyrics that bounce from one association to the next with an ease that gives them the feel of an overheard conversation. The chorus sounds like best parts of Bruce Springsteen mixed with The Ramones. The bridge slows down to allow the instruments room to breathe before jumping back into centrifuge of the verse.

Uncharacteristic of the other songs on Manhattan, “I Wanna Dance (But I Don’t Know How)” begins with bass line and hyper-compressed drums (think 80s new wave pop). These elements stay throughout the song, becoming more of a base from which the song blooms. The guitar parts even diverge from the template that had previously been set up in the album: spacey and jangling strums interspersed with squealing leads. That said, the choruses bubble with the Skaters that have inhabited the past eight songs. “I Wanna Dance (But I Don’t Know How)” is a strange tune to include in the album, but it works well both as a counterbalance to what could be said is a repetitive song structure and a song in its own right.

Manhattan keeps its energy high and music catchy. There’s a constant tension in the balance between the pop aspects and the punk aesthetics the band combines in each song. This tension keeps the album interesting and good for multiple listens. In fact, Manhattan seems to be an album equally suited to be listened to alone or at a party. It sweats its nod-along energy from each track with an exuberance that’s hard to match.

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