The Future of Punk
New York is an inspirational city. This four-piece rock band is comprised of members hailing from other places, but who all now call the Big Apple home, and to celebrate has based their debut LP on one of its boroughs. Manhattan is a collection of eleven vignettes, interspersed with sounds of the city (recorded and mimicked), all chronicling what it’s like, as one song suggests, “To Be Young in NYC.”
Manhattan begins with the actual sounds of the subway, followed by a screech that brings to mind a cacophony of cars and horns. As “One of Us” kicks in, the music can best be described as “pre-punk.” That is to say, Skaters are not post-punk, which would imply a bow to tradition, but rather they are leading the way with new soundscapes, chord progressions, and melodies, all falling under the umbrella of simply arranged hard rock. “Miss Teen Massachusetts” is undoubtedly heavy, with an enticing drum beat, and singer Michael Ian Cummings’ youthful but smooth vocals cutting through it all. “Deadbolt” has a new-wave-ish verse and the chorus is pure pop-punk, though somehow it doesn’t sound jarring.
“To Be Young in NYC” allows us to eavesdrop on a girl’s bar conversation before Skaters interrupt with another raw-yet-deep composition, combining late Beach Boys’ and early Jesus and Mary Chain’s sensibilities in one song. There are times when Skaters’ desire to be different gets the better of them, though. “Fear of the Knife” unnecessarily relies on cute electronic beats before delving into a rock refrain. “I Wanna Dance (But I Don’t Know How)” can’t decide if it wants to be The Strokes or OK Go, and doesn’t really work as either. However, these weak spots are minimal and are remedied by gems like the fast and noisy “Nice Hat” and the bass-heavy album closer “This Much I Care.” Manhattan will stand out from the crowd with Cummings’ Chris-Martin-meets-Lou-Reed vocals combined with some innovative elements and creative and hooky songwriting. Manhattan could be one of those albums people are talking about ten years from now.