The Eskimos are an Atlanta/Athens band who have
the distinction of being one of the few bands who have managed
to turn my opinion around. Normally if I like a band, I like
them from the start; similarly, if I donít like a band at first,
then I wonít like them. However, despite a very unpromising
concert in 2001, after seeing them a couple more times,
and upon recommendations from some of my friends, Iíve come
around and started to get The Eskimos.
Based on these newfound
live shows, I was looking forward to getting a copy of their
new album. Upon first listen, though, I thought it something
of a mixed bag. So I put it away while I tried to figure out
why some parts bothered me. I mean, normally I really like your
average 4 piece rock band of guitars, bass and drums (with a
few keyboard bits throw in). And, thereís nothing bad about
the musicianship of The Eskimos as a whole; you can tell that
all four members are quite talented and know what theyíre doing.
Furthermore, the recording in and or itself is quite good because
The Eskimos donít suffer from the
many problems you normally hear on self-produced albums.
Still, I didnít like parts of this album and I finally came
to the conclusion that the amalgamation of the two general types
of songs on Something Must be Transmitted Somehow
Specifically there are the exceedingly psychedelic short song
interludes which are interspersed throughout the album. These
are generally less than a minute long and mainly contain elements
like vocal samples, choral singalongs, or what sounds like 4
track, roughly recorded translations of ideas. Some people might
like this or think it adds to the mood; however these song snippets
donít seem to keep with the tenor of the other songs.
Still even my feelings on the rest of the songs as a whole
are mixed: I like some of the songs a lot whereas I donít care
for others. And although the writing duties are primarily split
between guitarists Drew Sinclair and Dave Weiglein, itís odd
how I donít seem to particularly favor one over the other. Instead,
my complaints arenít necessarily about the lyrics or melody
of the individual songs, but rather about the arrangement or
recording of the numbers. For instance, Satellite Blues
calls the listner back to the slowness of the opening number,
while the distortingly high vocals at times take me aback, and
remind to me of an early 70s power ballad, or perhaps The Who
Likewise, Sadie Maybe easily begins in the same marching
cadence as some of the good songs; however when the band hits
the bridge, they add a theremin-like effect that doesnít work,
especially since they add in some whispered vocals. Or thereís
the case where a nice harder rocking song (The Waves and
the Rays) suddenly contain a keyboard run that just demands
to be heard at a laser light showÖ So, as you can see, itís
not the music itself which bothers me at times, itís the perceivedÖaffectation.
Then again, I can see where these choices might convey exactly
what the band intends, even if I donít necessarily get it.
Still, I have to admit that for every song that doesnít work
for me, thereís another one which does. For instance, Can
You Hear Me starts off as a nice number which reminds me
of Itchycoo Park by The
Small Faces. Itís quite catchy and bouncy, and even the
vocal falsetto works well in this context. Similarly, The
Pills is another clean nugget of slightly psychedelic, happy
pop. I particularly like it when the orchestral production and
effects kick in during the chorus: it goes against the generally
clean production of the rest of the album, but Iíve always been
the kind of person to like echo and tremolo, you know? Finally,
the best song on the album, in my opinion, is The Rodgering.
Whereas the whole of Something Must be Transmitted Somehow
tends to recalls the late 60s or early 70s in its influences,
this song seems to be fairly straightforward 90s Indie Rock.
In fact, the last time I saw The Eskimos, this was the song
that stuck in my mind and lead to my comparisons with Ashley
Stove and Built to Spill. However,
after listening to the entire album, I donít think my above
comparison is particularly valid; instead, Iíd suggest that
The Eskimos remind me more of a male-led Bettie Serveert circa
So what to make of it all? Songwise, the album is fairly strong.
And while I think there are flaws in some of the recording choices,
I can see that these selections might be something which others
like and which the band intends. Furthermore, you can definitely
say that The Eskimos donít sound exactly like anything else
Iíve heard recently, and thatís a good thing in my book. Lastly,
Iíve heard that this release is going to be re-released by Brilliante
Records out of Chicago. According to the band, the new version
of this album will have some new material, and will be remastered.
I suspect that this new release will be an improvement over
the copy I have. Nevertheless, if it that doesnít happen, I
remain a convert to The Eskimosí live sound and look forward
to seeing what they have to offer in the future.