Following their departure from Warner Brothers, New York-based SKATERS are back with the release of Rock and Roll Bye Bye, out on March 24 via their very own Yonks Records. Undeniably, tracks from 2014’s debut, Manhattan, have held up their refreshing vibrancy three years later, but this supernal sophomore release deviates from their characteristic high-energy grit, while maintaining the same artful authenticity of a true New York garage rock band.
Though significantly lower-energy, Rock and Roll Bye Bye isn’t a major departure from their repertoire, as previously released tracks like “Mental Case” have fit right into their setlists since 2015. Where the band’s growth comes through the most is via their sonic experimentation, like the seemingly strange synth-infused interlude “Clip art link 1 Bubbles” that effectively transitions right into another post-punk tune.
It seems like SKATERS are out to prove that DIY doesn’t need to be crass or rough. Rather, the back-to-the-basics air that has surrounded the band since their inception only makes it more engaging to watch them grow. For this record, they’ve also collaborated with the likes of director Shoot J Moore and stop-motion artist Cameron J L West for music videos as delightful as their cultivated sound.
Lyrically, the band proves that they’ve eased right into a simplistic sophistication. On the short and sweet “Song 19 (Revisited),” singer and songwriter Michael Ian Cummings groans, “And you cry on/While he just laughs along/And this is why I can’t help but choose to move on.” The apt self-consciousness prevalent throughout the lyrics on this record shine best on “I’m Not a Punk” where Cummings shows that he knows how he’s being perceived, speak-singing, “Something tells me I’m just not good enough/Can your mother understand?/I’m not a punk, I’m a punk rocker.”
A highlight of the record is “Criminal,” where bongo drums and piano riffs offer a flashy new layer to their innate lo-fi effortlessness. Enlisting producer Albert DiFiore (MGMT, Beck), SKATERS have refined a project full of nuance and meticulous crafting, with festival-ready songs that you’ll still want to experience in an intimate setting.
From the soft alarm sound in the opener “Just Like Your Mother” to guitarist Josh Hubbard’s swirling echoes that close the album’s last moments, Rock and Roll Bye Bye is melancholic but pretty, self-aware but unassuming, youthful but mature. Driven by Noah Rubin’s mod drum beat, the eponymous track defines the band’s apathy towards their path: “At seventeen, the band forms/all my friends moved onto higher education/By twenty-one, in the work force/On stage alone/Got stuck with rock and roll bye bye.” Though with a polished record that fights back against the sophomore slump, it sounds like these guys getting stuck with rock and roll doesn’t seem like such a bad thing.