Sound: "Undervalued" is an interesting term for a band to be branded. Commercially stunting, perhaps, but creatively a chance to explore, or perhaps reason to be more confident. Here, on their 8th album, Boston's seminal Buffalo Tom create one of their most assured, concise albums in a long time. Building on the promise of 2007's consistent comeback 'Three Easy Pieces', 'Skins' radiates passion, tightness and confidence.
"Arise, Watch" follows the pattern of many other Buff Tom openers. Less immediate, it's a folkish, downbeat strum before an explosive bridge. "She's Not Your Thing", "Guilty Girls" and "The Kids Just Sleep" bounce along on sprightly melodies, whilst "Down" and the brilliant "Don't Forget Me" are in the great Buff Tom ballad vein - earnest, deep songwriting and towering riffwork. // 8
Lyrics: The blue collar rock of Buffalo Tom is always encased with brilliant, honest songwriting. The band, responsible for such beautiful lyrics such as "Tailights Fade" and "Wiser", deliver the goods once more, summed up perfectly in "Down"'s "I'm just an average Joe / just someone you would know." And it's true. Buff Tom's lyrics resonate with everyday life, from Bill Janovitz's powerful, sad lyrics such as "don't forget me / as the soul diminishes the body's need to love" and "if I were 15 / is forever, to remember the intervening years" muster sad, happy memories, but, ultimately, moments never to be repeated.
Bassist Chris Colbourn's often thought-provoking lyrics are also reliably fantastic, particularly "The Hawks & The Sparrows" and it's observations that "dusk we're retreating, then we're reading, the little books in your room" and "I have learnt life's lessons and tucked my tail between my legs" two of the great vignettes on display.
They never quite reach the sadness and brilliance of tracks such as "Thrown", but the lyrics never let up in any of the songs on display. // 9
Overall Impression: "Skins" isn't too dissimilar from "Three Easy Pieces", however it's certainly more bold and exciting, the ballads more aching and the rockers more raging. The band's interplay and musicianship is as tight as ever, and now two albums into their reunion, it seems they have hit something of a purple patch, and are delivering some of the best music of the career.
The tracks are all good, but "She's Not Your Thing" and its simplicity and humility make it the essential track on offering for its breezy melody, though the sparkle of Tanya Donnelly's backing on "Don't Forget Me", the emotion of "Here I Come" and the fizz of "Guilty Girls" make them further listening. All in all, another triumph. // 9