Re-Gen Magazine (2005)

Review Source: Re-Gen Magazine
Artist: THINGS OUTSIDE THE SKIN
Release: You Knew It All Along
Label: Facility Records

Now here’s something a bit different. Take a smidge of lo-fi new-wave, add a good dose of satirical, biting humour reminiscent of Frank Zappa (just listen to “Cow Tippin’” to hear what I mean), and put it into a mixer where anything can happen. Then let the inventive minds of Chvad SB, Blight Productions, and brilliantly-named drummer The 1-2-3-4 loose on it, and if you can get your heads around that little lot, then you’ll have some idea of what Things Outside the Skin are about.

It’s a mix that the band refer to as “agit pop.” While it is an unpredictable listen (in the best possible way, of course), it’s never over-indulgent, although some of the remixes do push their luck a bit, proving that original is always best. There’s a sense of discipline throughout which prevents the album from becoming experimental or just plain dull. Picking out highlights is no easy task, although the opening duo of “American Way” and “Mettle IV: Programmed Apathy” both demonstrate the trio’s knack for blending the dventurous with the easily accessible with gritty guitars, and some excellent bass in the case of the former, making for a late ‘70s feel. The freeform angry ranting vocals that provide an effective counterpoint to the slow-moving soundscape of “The Most Appealing Thing” are another standout point, giving this otherwise moody track an injection of energy and adrenaline.

There are a couple of covers too. While I can see where they’re coming from with the Devo influence, covering “Going Under,” the last thing I expected to hear was a Spice Girls cover, but here it is; “Spice Up Your Life” getting the TOtS treatment, transformed beyond recognition into an atmospheric electronica outing, with additional vocals from Animary. Also, I love the sick subtitle of the remix; pity they didn’t rewrite the lyrics and release it under that title!

This is what the band are all about, unleashing one surprise after another, but showing good musicianship in the process. To get the most out of this you’ll need toput yourself in the same open frame of mind as the band must have been in when they recorded it. So if you can drop your preconceptions and embrace an album that is most likely unlike anything you’ve ever heard before, then You Knew It All Along may be just what you’re looking for.

-review by carlj

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