Super Cool Nothing (2006)

Review Source: Super Cool Nothing
Artist: THINGS OUTSIDE THE SKIN
Release: You Knew It All Along
Label: Facility Records

Welcome to the new Supercoolnothing feature “underGROUND.” Since SCN’s inception, we have encouraged independent artists to send us a sample of their work for a little free publicity and hopefully greater exposure to the world at large. Now granted SCN is a little fish in a big pond–but what we lack in readership we make up for in enthusiasm for the genre and a sincere intention to spread the word about deserving artists.

The first band to respond to our challenge was an industrial outfit out of New York called Things Outside The Skin. From them, we received their latest disc dubbed “You Knew It All Along.”

Now first of all, I have to say that this CD is absolutely CRAMMED with music, spanning a boggling twenty-two songs. I sincerely doubt another note of music could be squeezed onto this thing. Ten of the songs are remixes, so it is almost like getting a free remix album with your purchase–which is a bit of a nice bonus. (Everyone knows that rivetheads are whores for remix collections anyway, so this will save you some green.)

How does TOTS sound? Well, it turns out that this is kind of a hard question to answer. Musically, it is all over the place–but what else would you expect from a band that names such diverse groups as DEVO, Run DMC and Ministry as influences? It also seems that Skinny Puppy might pop up as a common comparison, primarily due to the extensive experimentalism that goes on from track-to-track. They are plenty of dark electronics, samples and filtered vocals to keep most diehard industrialists happy, but you also have some relatively straightforward guitar/bass/drums elements making themselves known. Heck, even a bit of rapping pops up from time to time! TOTS also eschews Puppy’s lyrical ambiguities and presents a fairly direct message with each of their songs. For example, you have American Way’s political diatribes, Cow Tippin’s pro-vegetarian rant and Another Dead Comedian’s commentary on celebrity and insanity. TOTS is not completely serious though–we do have a DEVO and Spice Girls (!!!) cover to round things out. With a name like Things Outside The Skin, you have to expect social commentary is going to be a key ingredient to their songs.

Presentation-wise, the band scores points too. Professionally-done jewel case and minimalistic black n’ white artwork suit the vibe of the band. I also appreciate the fact the liner notes contains the lyrics to their songs, because unlike a lot of bands these songs strive to communicate important ideas to the listener–even if they be for the purposes of humor or irony. Personally I’m more drawn to bands like this than ones out to simply glorify rebellious behavior to be cool with the kidz.

As far as production goes, the levels seem to be appropriate for this style of music. The synth work is clear and crisp, and the vocals are prominent enough to be discernible. The only sort of snag one may run into while listening to this CD is perhaps a lack of flow between the songs. I got the sense I was listening to a collection of individual and unconnected singles rather than a cohesive album. For many this won’t be a problem, but my personal preference is for an album to have an identity or vibe that continues through every song until the end of the disc. The extensive number of remixes added to the end don’t really help with this feeling of discontinuity.

Final judgment: I’m grateful for Chvad SB and his crew for sending us their latest offering to absorb and report back on. Things Outside the Skin are a band that challenges your perceptions and expectations (which is something this webzine strives to do as well!) TOTS may truly be one of the more innovative bands in the genre of industrial, which is plagued with unimaginative sound-alike and copycat bands. If there is one thing you can count on, it is this band never repeating themselves. Some may see this as a weakness, but in the long run I feel it is more aesthetically satisfying to explore the sonic landscape to see what uniqueness can be cultivated. The journey will always be interesting.

If you are interested in checking out Things Outside The Skin, you can listen to a few of their tracks here: http://www.myspace.com/tots

TOTS also has a content-heavy website: http://www.outside-the-skin.com

Finally, if you like what you here, please support the artist and purchase their CD from CDBaby: http://www.cdbaby.com/cd/tots

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