"Raw", "churning", and "aggressive" are adjectives I've used in the past to describe the beefy sound of fluid, heavily distorted guitar lines. It can be heard on tracks as varied as Pixies' "Levitate Me" and Mercury Rev's "Coney Island Cyclones". Rollerskate Skinny harnesses this sound on "Some Give Birth" and "Bow Hitchhiker", two of their up-tempo cuts from "Shoulder Voices", their debut CD. I snagged a copy of this when it was first released in '93, and upon listening to it the first time through noticed a superficial, corresponding resemblance to the tuneful discordancy of some of the tracks from Mercury Rev's "Yerself Is Steam". Apparently some music critics noticed this as well, accusing the band of aping Mercury Rev's sound. But place that comparison out of your mind. The sound of both bands developed along parallel lines on different continents, and there's a much richer texture to the songs found on "Shoulder Voices". Another crucial difference lies in the relative strength w/r/t the vocalists; David Baker 's baritone rasp and Jonathan Donahue's nasal projection simply aren't as accomplished and richly emotive as those of Ken Griffin.
"So Far Down Up From Heaven", "Lunasa" and "Bella" are all tracks that unwind at a moderate tempo, the last two using both chanting and offbeat instrumentation to advance their musical direction, while the first contains an coda driven by a bass-driven, snare-snapping percussive lockstep complemented by horns that anticipated Mercury Rev's "Everlasting Arm" by years. Most of the other tracks contain multiple guitar-driven transitional points that jump abruptly from quiescent passages to explosive crescendos pushed forward by aggressive riffing, and back again, with "Ages" the most perfectly realized final product. These moments of sinister riffing are often balanced by passages containing melodic arrangements of transcendent beauty.
Suggestive by its title of the negative impact that mental illness can have upon perception, behavior, and thought process, the CD contains lyrical imagery that is often dark and brooding, creating an eerie picture of a person in very real danger of a nervous, possibly psychotic breakdown, who is contending against impulses that might range from markedly aggressive , to self-isolating, to self-destructive, to religiously delusional, and to active contemplation of personal annihilation, just off the top of my head, working from titles like "Violence To Violence" , "Miss Leader", and "Bring On Stigmata" , among others, with the often haunting, atmospheric overtones of the music contributing to the power of the lyrics.
This is powerful and often disturbing music, for all of its moments of stunning beauty. It's not something that you listen to without becoming actively engaged with what you're hearing, so it isn't appropriate music for just chilling out and entering positive headspace. With that being said, "Shoulder Voices" is a work of art, and worth grabbing here if you can.