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Peter Hammill - Skin CD (album) cover

SKIN

Peter Hammill

 

Eclectic Prog

2.97 | 78 ratings

From Progarchives.com, the ultimate progressive rock music website

TGM: Orb
Prog Reviewer
4 stars (There's Something Out To Get You) Under The Skin

Ostensibly a half-dozen comparatively conventional pop songs heavy on synthesisers with some odd sound choices, an oddity or two and a rare genuine Hammill solo 'epic' (reason enough to get the album), this album is everywhere looking at the question of identity. While much of the material here is not as radical and daring as, say, Loops and Reels or as atmospherically intense as the K Group stuff, it is of a consistently decent standard and concludes *very* powerfully with perhaps Hammill's two best pieces from the 80s.

Following a three year break from studio work, Hammill has returned with Evans and Jackson as well as a few guest performances, and is heavy on sonic manipulation. While previous reviewers have focussed on the more obvious organ and brass synths (though these are often interestingly wrapped around Jackson's leads) and treated drum sounds, I think the pay-off comes on the bass parts (hitting sounds from the hardcore electronic in A Perfect Date to an almost classical disdain in Four Pails) and the wonderful tingling keyboard sounds on Now Lover.

Skin is an idiosyncratic pop/rock song with howling guitar, aggressive vocals and a neat vocal line. The lyrics are fitting. Synth-brass will probably be a deal-breaker for some, but (despite Hammill's reservations about the playing here) I'm still very fond of Painting By Numbers. Pop song three doesn't quite come off as well as either of those, I think; All Said And Done doesn't really pull together until the end, despite the neat lyric.

Two slower numbers: Shell and After The Show are slower and more atmospheric. On both of them, the detail of (I think, though the former includes some programmed sounds) Evans' part is quite valuable and Hammill's lyrics and vocals are especially haunting. The latter is basically made by Jackson's howling introspective solo; Shell features some of the album's more curious sound choices and lyrics. I'm still not completely sure about the lyrics and opening on A Perfect Date but the rest is solid enough. Hammill's many vocals include some of the lowest leads and maddest harmonies from the album and the use of a guest vocalist is something rather rare for a Hammill album. Anyway, the drum part is way cool, as is the almost Levin-like bass.

Four Pails (written by Chris Judge Smith and Max Hutchinson) is quite possibly the album's best piece. Hammill puts together a one-man choir and a powerful lead, a raw sonic backdrop sometimes drawing on his earlier musique concrete experience, a straight piano (rare on this record) and arranges both classical (Stuart Gordon on violin) and decidedly modern electronic instrumentation. The lyrics are very heavy, and for a cover it fits remarkably well into the album, reaching into both the questions, of identity and of time, that permeate it.

'Four pails of water, and a bag full of salts That is all she was all my lover represented That sounds just as mad As saying she will never die' Cheerful pop lyrics, eh...

Now Lover: dijeridu, treated sax, self-harmonies contrasting with lone vocals, Guy Evans, a searing lyric about sex with suitably mild but intriguing reference to science and philosophy, a drone incorporated into regular music, heavy use of sound treatment and synths of various descriptions... utterly, completely mad. And, start to finish, it's brilliant. Features one of David Jackson's finest performances. Not to be missed.

Rounding procedures off, at least on the remaster, is You Hit Me Where I Live, an obviously spontaneous pop/rock song with awesome vocal and guitar parts. Great song, but I'm not sure it belongs after Now Lover.

Much as the 80s aesthetic and pop structure of a lot of the material here will be an insurmountable obstacle for some, a look beneath the surface of this album shows the arteries and beating heart of a great musician. I personally think this is a damn good album, a rare genuinely experimental prog album from the late 80s by an artist still staking out new ground for himself, and there are at least two songs here that no Hammill fan should be without. 4 Stars. Get it if you don't hate the 80s.

Rating: 12/15, Four Stars. Favourite Track: Four Pails or Now Lover

TGM: Orb | 4/5 |

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