Album Review: Skinny Lister – The Story Is…

Tilly Wainwright reviews Skinny Lister's latest album

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Everyone’s favourite shanty punks, Skinny Lister, are back with their fourth studio album The Story Is…. I first saw the six piece band in 2015, supporting Frank Turner at the Southampton Guildhall alongside their fellow Xtra Mile comrade, Will Varley. Since, they’ve become one of my favourite live bands because of their distinct London-based brand of enthusiasm, charisma, and fearlessness.

‘Second Amendment’ opens the new album with a classically Skinny Lister sound. Politically charged, Dan Hepinstall’s voice is the first we hear on ‘The Story Is…’. The song certainly has a thought-provoking refrain; it’s a track with a lot of interesting imagery, given the current climate. It also has an unbelievably catchy bridge that stays stuck in your head a good while after listening. ‘My Life, My Architecture’ is Lorna Thomas’ time to shine and, true to form, she is certainly back and badass as ever. I would say that this is a slight departure from Skinny Lister’s previous style, but can I wait to watch Lorna throw herself around the stage whilst performing this? Obviously not.

they’ve become one of my favourite live bands because of their distinct London-based brand of enthusiasm, charisma, and fearlessness

‘Diesel Vehicle’ is another recognisable Skinny Lister track, seeing Dan return to the microphone. A swaying sort-of-ballad similar to ‘Carry’ from their previous album The Devil, The Heart, & The Fight (2016) The anecdotal nature of folk ballads comes across in a modern context within the song. ‘Rattle and Roar’ reminds me a lot of ‘Beat It From The Chest’, again from their previous album. It was the newest single to be released in anticipation of the release date on 1st March. For me, however, it slightly lacks the “punchiness” that I wanted it to have leading up the chorus. Perhaps the live performance will convert me. To be honest, I’m sure it will, I just wanted the studio recording to be turned up to eleven if that makes sense.

‘Artistic Arsonist’ has a sort of ‘Tragedy in A Minor’ (2016) vibe with some punkier vocals from Dan in instances. It’s a ballsy track that would definitely invite a nice little mosh pit for me to get knocked about by which, let’s face it, is the mark of success. ‘The Shining’ can’t help but feel like a darker, not-really-love-song while appearing quite complimentary to its inspiration. Perhaps I can’t get the frozen Jack Nicholson meme out of my head, but it feels more sinister than its lyrics might seem upon a first listen.

‘The Story Is…’ is of course the eponymous track for the album. It has a twinkling, almost ‘Christmas Calls’ (2017) sound to it. It’s self conscious allusion to its own “power ballad” status definitely casts the track as one of the more romantic songs on the album. My favourite thing about a Skinny Lister song is how effortless it can be to sink into a good foot stomp and/or head bang – which is true of this for sure. ’38 Minutes’ is my favourite. I’m committing. That might be because I have heard it a few times now, after going to Christmas show at London’s The Garage back in December last year. It was so much fun to hear live and I think that fun really came across in recording.

‘My Life, My Architecture’ is Lorna Thomas’ time to shine and,true to form, she is certainly back and badass as ever

I am loving the new guitar sections throughout the album that I wouldn’t necessarily expect from a Skinny Lister record. ‘My Distraction’ was also featured on the Garage set list. The lyrics and melody, particularly in the chorus, are strong and definitely stick in my mind from hearing it in person last year. ‘Stop & Breathe’ strikes me as the literal break I often need at a Skinny Lister gig, when the incoherent lyric-screaming and sweaty dancing gets a bit much. About the same time the security start passing around water, you know? In all seriousness, this song has a really charming nature that I think would translate well to a quiet, powerful moment at a live show.

‘Cause for Chorus’ is a good example of the male vocals in the band, which *hopefully* means this will be the part of the gig where Lorna becomes a spinning dress and a blur of red heels. Iconic. ‘Allister McAllister’ tells a modern love story – “bag of chips” and all. Conventional of most Skinny Lister tracks, it features a repetitive, heavier, but undoubtedly fun chorus along, but such is coupled with a fresh and relatable narrative full of intrigue. It fits the ambiguous album title very well. What is going on behind the scenes? Who’s to say.

‘Sometimes So It Goes’ is the spot in the album that really showcases Lorna’s gorgeous voice. If ever you need evidence for her awesomeness, turn to any of her solo tracks on any Skinny Lister. She is a powerhouse of a front woman. As if ‘Bonny Away’ (Down on Deptford Broadway, 2015) wasn’t proof enough, ‘Sometimes So it Goes’ certainly draws a big bold line (and several smaller, scribbly lines) under the word “badass”. ‘Any Resemblance To Actual Persons, Living Or Dead, Is Purely Coincidental’ ties the album up with a final mysterious bow, leaving each track on the record open to a great deal of speculation.

The Story is… is certainly recognisable as a Skinny Lister album, but incorporates some noticeable tributes to their heavier influences on a number of tracks. Overall, I am very excited to see how they bring this album to the stage over the course of their spring tour. I’ll be there. Probably muttering under my breath about how I’ll never be as cool as Lorna Thomas. Sad, but true.

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