Junkyard Rockers: Skeleton Key

skeleton key

While reading the on-line version of The Village Voice  an article about NYC junkyard-percussion noise-rockers Skeleton Key

plotting a long-awaited comeback album

caught my eye.

Formed in 1994, Skeleton Key was the brainchild of former Lounge Lizards bassist Erik Sanko and guitarist/vocalist Chris Maxwell. Rounding out the group was drummer Stephen Calhoon and scrap-metal percussionist Rick Lee whose

 "junk kit" consisted of an old table, propane tanks, chairs, film reels, a red wagon, and pots and pans..

The quartet proved so popular on NYC’s club scene that they became “the object of a 1995 major-label bidding war.”

In a review of their eponymous EP (Motel Records 1996) Rolling Stone said it

"shows how pop culture and high culture can bring everyone to the same place."

Fantastic Spikes Through Balloon, their full-length debut was released by Capitol Records in 1997. The album

was nominated for a Grammy for its artwork, that featured a booklet with holes punched through it in a grid pattern.

In support of the album the group would tour both Europe and the US, opening for acts that included

The Melvins, Girls Against Boys, Cibo Matto, The Jesus Lizard, They Might Be Giants, Morphine, Brainiac, and Primus.

before headlining their own US tour. After two years on the road and one half finished album original members Chris Maxwell and Rick Lee left the band.

With the addition of drummer Matthias Bossi and percussionist Tim Keiper the band signed with Mike Patton’s Ipecac Recordings to release 2002’s Obtainium. Again the band hit the road, touring with the likes of

Tomahawk, The Melvins, Alien Ant Farm, Cessation Bustle and Sleepytime Gorilla Museum.

Matthias Bossi joined Sleepytime Gorilla Museum following the Obtainium tours and Keiper left as well. Sanko and Obtainium sessions and tours guitarist Craig LeBlang then recruited drummer Sean Sankey and Benjamin Clapp ("Junk" percussion) and that line-up released 2005’s The Lyons Quintette EP. 2007 saw  another change in the band’s line-up with Sankey leaving and new drummer Bob Vaccarelli debuting on a tour in support of U.S.S.A. and Chemlab.

Among Fantastic Spikes Through Balloon 11 tracks the groups flirts with industrial on “Dear Reader,”  funk, punk, “Vomit Ascot,” the blues on “Big Teeth” while channeling Captain Beefheart and the Magic Band on “Nod.”

 

Discography

Albums:

Fantastic Spikes Through Balloon (CD) Capitol Records  1997   
Fantastic Spikes Through Balloon (2xCD) Capitol Records 1998  
Obtanium (CD) Ipecac Recordings 2002 
Roughs
Live at Metro (CD, Digital) Skeleton Key 2004

Singles & EPs:

In My Mind (7") Dedicated 1995  
Skeleton Key (Maxi CD) Motel Records 1996 
An Elipse (CD) Exquisite Corpse Records 2001
The Lyons Quintette (CD) Do Tell Records 2005

Compilations:

"Watch the Fat Man Swing" Surge Songs (CD) EMI-Capitol Music 1996
"Solitaire" God® Bless™ America© (CD) Capitol Records 1996
"Scratch" CMJ New Music July – Volume 47 (CD) College Music Journal 1997
"Drown (Transistor remix)" Strange Bedfellows (CD) Capitol Records 1998
"Wide Open" Certain Damage, Volume 78 (CD)
  CMJ

 

Fantastic Spikes Through Balloon (1997)

Playing time: 34:37

1. Watch The Fat Man Swing 3:27
2. Wide Open 2:36
3. Nod Off 3:19
4. All The Things I’ve Lost 2:55
5. The Only Useful Word 3:57
6. The World’s Most Famous Undertaker 3:05
7. Vomit Ascot 1:53
8. Dear Reader 3:16
9. Scratch 2:37
10. Big Teeth 3:36
11. The Needle Never Ends 3:56

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