August 22, 2005

Beautiful Skin "Everything, All This, and More"

Relatively speaking, New York-based Beautiful Skin seemingly did not accomplish much. In its lifetime, the band released a seven inch single and an LP, Resolve. They added two members and toured with De Facto and The Locust, and then promptly broke up in 2000, just short of the New York post-punk scene's popularity explosion. Front man Nick Forte had previously been in hardcore band Rorschach and synth-punk legends Computer Cougar, but Beautiful Skin didn't really sound like either. If anything, the music Forte made with his partner in crime, synth player Ross Totino, sounds like the bridge between mid-1990s new wavers Satisfact and Interpol.

Everything, All This, and More collects their debut single, "Sex Is a Triangle For a Perfect Square," as well as a good bit of unreleased material. One shouldn't think that because this material remained unreleased means it was inferior, because that’s certainly not the case. If anything, it shows that Beautiful Skin as a band possessing two facets: a pop side and a more experimental side, with the more experimental side definitely better than the pop side. At times, the band sounded downright silly: songs like “Skin” and “Lacerations” and their debut single blended heavy-handed goth-rock with outrageous, absurd lyrics, and they come across like a piss-take version of Joy Division. Though one might make a case that perhaps being absurdly funny and overly serious might have been the point, it’s a flimsy argument, especially in light of the bands more serious moments.

If anything, this conflict is a conflict between the lyrical side and the instrumental side, for when the band stopped being silly, their music became much more interesting; their sound blends New Order’s rhythms with Durutti Column’s solemn beauty, and surprisingly, it works. Songs like “Oslo Nightlife” and the title track are complex soundscapes that are moody, depressing and downright beautiful, and they’re enough to make you reevaluate the bands lesser material. So wonderful are these moments of instrumental bliss, one wonders why someone never told Forte to ditch his lyrics and focus on the music. On “Frontline”—a live recording from one of their last shows—Beautiful Skin seemingly discover the balance between the new-wave tendencies and the grander instrumental elements. That the band broke up before further pursuing that one glimmer of greatness is indeed tragic. One wonders, though, if it’s this duality that broke up the band.

Everything, All This and More is a compelling collection, and it makes a case that Beautiful Skin foreshadowed--and could have possibly innovated, had they stayed together--the post-punk trend that developed shortly after their demise.

--Joseph Kyle

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