Huge call, but Skegss' new album Rehearsal may be their best work yet
After helping pioneer Australia's surf-rock era, the Byron Bay trio share a second album that keeps them looking forwards.
At one point, it felt harder to avoid a Skegss gig as it was to attend one. That isn't a drag in any way, but rather an example of their dominative presence in Australia over the last few years, since the release of their debut album My Own Mess helped pave the future for Australian surf-rock and with it, placing Skegss on an untouchable pedestal they've held ever since.
My Own Mess built upon the surf-rock experimentation defined by acts like FIDLAR and Dune Rats and transformed it into concise, anthemic tracks full of Skegss' natural charm and energy - something they've had no problems showing ever since. Naturally, the group blossomed into triple j favourites - hence their representation on every festival and every show under the sun - with a legion of fans that were seemingly locked in contract, travelling across the country to catch the Byron Bay trio at every opportunity they'd get.
When it comes to following up a pioneering album like My Own Mess, however, no-one was quite sure the direction Skegss would go in. Sure, they could basically rehash My Own Mess and its success (making them a tonne of money in the process of doing so), or they could do what they've proven to do several times since their inception, and switch their sound up in a way to keep everything moving forwards into the future.
Songs that littered the group's discography since My Own Mess have teased potential directions. Tracks like Smogged Out and Save It For The Weekend capture the group at their anthemic highs, albeit in ways that aren't the strict surf-rock explosion that's long soundtracked the band's evolution. Other tracks, however, have shown flourishes of new sounds and directions, like the wash of nostalgia that intertwines itself throughout Skegss' recent singles.
Last week brought the arrival of Skegss' second album Rehearsal, and while it may not have the punchy surf-rock that defined the group's early trajectory, it's arguably a clearer-cut and potentially even better across the board release from Skegss, who in the new decade, are exploring ways to further bring their sound to life.
Across the 40-minute duration, Rehearsal weaves between snapshots of Skegss at their best; past-best, present-best and future-best included within that. On one hand, there are tracks that pace with the rushing surf-rock that captures Skegss' trademark sound through a slightly updated, 2021-esque lens, while other tracks sway with a more nostalgic charm, as Skegss look backwards in time to influence the sounds they're making in the future.
The latter side of the album is a particular highlight. As mentioned, Skegss could've easily delivered My Own Mess Part 2, and while Rehearsal definitely still captures Skegss' trademark energy and charm, there are different facets of their work in this record that separates it from everything they've done. Take that wash of nostalgia for example, which gives some of Rehearsal an almost Americana-like twist; one that you wouldn't really expect from a group like Skegss considering their previous output.
Worked alongside Catherine Marks (Foals, Wolf Alice, The Wombats), there's a finesse amongst all of Rehearsal, and in turn, it feels a little more considered and thoughtful than what we've seen from Skegss so far. There are some obviously purposeful choices that came to life through the album's production - take the album's use of 60s/70s-era gear - and likewise with its songwriting and lyricism, which balances on a fine line amongst fun and intimate. Rehearsal has something for everyone really; for all ages of Skegss fans.
Despite the many changes visible throughout Rehearsal, one thing that hasn't changed - and something we continue to stress hasn't changed - is the charm and attitude that makes Skegss the loveable trio they are. The album has much of a 'fuck it' attitude, as shown through the polarising smashing together of sounds and the occasional whiplash-like qualities these transitions can hold, as well as being a core part of the album's themes, and how its name even plays a part in its ethos.
"I was working at a beer factory back when Skegss first started getting busy, but I was worried that I was going to lose my job if I kept asking for time off," says lead vocalist Benny Reed on the record's original inception, and how a chance encounter with a customer eventually led to the creation of Rehearsal - and Skegss as a whole. "I let him know about my predicament, I was stressed. He said, 'Mate, don’t worry about working here - this life is no dress rehearsal. So go and do your music, and work things out later'... It was something I needed to hear at the time."
It's something that lives on in Rehearsal, and in everything Skegss do. "This record is about being born into the world without a choice, and riding it out to the very end.
"How long's a lifetime? As long as a piece of string, really."
Take a dive into the album below, and grab it here.
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