ALBUM REVIEW: Skaters ‘Manhattan’

Every ten years or so a band or artist comes out of New York to remind the world that the city is unequivocally the centre of the universe.  Bob Dylan sang out of the Greenwich Village café in the 60s, Lou Reed drawled from the CBGBs stage in the 70s and The Strokes drew eyes to the Big Apple once again in the 00s.  Skaters continue this lineage with a debut album that encapsulates the excitement and romanticism of the Big Apple’s wild side of graffitied subways and sticky-floored pizza places.

Comprising of members of noughties nearly-men from either side of the pond (The Paddingtons and The Dead Trees), Skaters take the sound of the “New Rock Revolution” of that time and drag it into the present decade.  Buzzsaw guitars reminiscent of The Strokes and anthemic choruses that bring to mind The Walkmen are ever present, but ‘Manhattan’ is also peppered with Calypso cuts and Afro beats courtesy of tracks ‘Bandbreaker’ and ‘Fear of The Knife’, bringing a more cerebral Vampire Weekend influence to the party.

If ‘Manhattan’ was a party, it would be a house party in an Upper Westside tenement: college girls dancing carelessly, junkies passed out in the kitchen and Skaters sizing everyone up while waiting for the pizza to arrive.  Anyone who has seen Skaters live will know they look like the stylish scumbags who populate the films of Larry Clark.  And that malevolence hidden amongst irresistible pop hooks is key to the magnetism of the band.

Early single ‘Schemers’ thankfully makes an appearance on the album.  The thrilling combination of witty lyrics, pop melody and effortless cool captures Skaters at their most potent but thankfully the 2012 single is only the tip of the iceberg.  Opener ‘One of Us’ maybe too similar to a track from ‘Is This It’ to be a highlight but it sets the mood perfectly.  Both ‘Miss Teen Massachusetts’ and lead single ‘Deadbolt’ are indie disco classics in waiting with Michael Ian Cummings’ reverb-soaked acerbic brogue fuzzing over Josh Hubbard’s relentless garage rock riffs.  Each song on ‘Manhattan’ has a chorus that lodges itself in your brain without apology.  Energy from the frustration of Skaters members’ stunted careers in previous bands clearly propels this record.

None of Skaters skate, instead the name is a nod to youth and all its fun and lack of worry.  The album is relentlessly upbeat and energising.   This is most evident in last year’s single ‘I Wanna Dance (But I Don’t Know How)’.  But there is much more here than carefree optimism and cool baseball caps.  Skaters may not be able to skate, nor dance, but they do make thrilling indie rock.  New York will proud.

Manhattan is out on Warner Bros Records on 24th February.