Their most heart-warming effort to date, but you can’t help but feel that their newer ideas could be more subtly interwoven
Ben Miles
10:22 24th March 2021

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Skegss are a band who arrived in 2014 with the label of “Australia’s answer to FIDLAR” tied firmly around their necks. The sun-soaked garage rock bangers of debut album, Everyone Is Good At Something, did a lot to cement that reputation with a collection of hard-hitting fast-paced party anthems. But their latest offerings have seen the Byron Bay outfit slowly peel back the covers and expose their vulnerabilities to the world. Latest album, Rehearsal (via Loma Vista Recordings), is the continuation of that theme, standing up as the group’s most sensitive LP yet. Where they fall short, however, is in marrying the past and present together, with the borders between where they have been and where they are going often juxtaposed together. 

In large parts, the group have all-together forgone the lo-fi garage rock sound that was their trademark, choosing instead to offer up an album more influenced by folk and classical songwriting than anything else. ‘Running From Nothing’, for example, pairs meandering vocal melodies with guitar breaks that wouldn’t sound too out of place on a Johnny Cash record, all of which provides a neat contrast to the down and out lyrics. But when followed up straight away by the raucous rock song of old, ‘Bush TV,’ there is a noticeable jolt. Both songs work well on their own, but the blunt transition is symptomatic of the uncertainty the band possesses at letting go of their past. 

Nonetheless, there are still examples of lead singer Ben Reed's bright songwriting throughout, with the best being the stripped-back cut, ‘Wake Up’. Combining just an acoustic guitar and piano with his voice, Reed navigates the validity of his own emotions through the use of some neatly designed personification. “And the ghost he sings / wake up wake up, you’re allowed to let it out,” Reed intones in the song’s chorus, bringing a touching sincerity that shines throughout the course of the track.

The lyrical choices that Reed makes throughout the album are indeed striking, standing out as the thematic glue that binds the whole album together. “I’m not nervous, but I still shake,” Reed sings on ‘Curse My Happiness,’ before asking, “nothing’s happening, did you curse my happiness?”

In all, Rehearsal gives off the impression of an artist coming to terms with the content and consequence of his own emotions, and for that it certainly deserves commendation. Issues of alcohol addiction are a central part of this theme, regularly addressed in a tongue-in-cheek fashion, such as on the lilting ‘Picturesque Moment’. It’s only when the knock-on effects of paranoia and isolation are brought home in heart-wrenching fashion, as is the case with ‘Running From Nothing,’ that the true force of reality stares you grimly in the face. 

You get the impression this is a band navigating a transition. Their usually packed touring schedule has been understandably limited in the last 12 months and in that time some soul searching has clearly been done. While the group are still capable of creating festival-ready bangers that will undoubtedly set sweaty packed-out tents alight in the months to come, it’s clear that they have more to bring than just a good time. It’s a question of how they find a balance between the two that still eludes them. 

Rehearsal arrives 26 March via Loma Vista Recordings.

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