CD: Rob Skane’s “Phantom Power Trip”

Rob Skane: Phantom Power Trip(Lofi Records, 2010):

I remember the first time I heard Rob Skane. Back when I was writing for Metroland (about 100 years ago), he was a young whippersnapper who sent me a cassette-only release by his Utica-based band – which shall remain nameless to protect the guilty.

It wasn’t very good. And in my review, I said so rather forthrightly, as I recall, although I also tried to point out the bright and promising elements – few though they might have been.

Since those long-ago days, Skane has become a longtime Capital Region music scene mainstay, doing his thing with such now-defunct, endearingly lo-fi bands as the Dugans (with Howe Glassman) and the Lawn Sausages (with Jim Barrett and Artie Fredette), which, in fact, was actually more of Troy street gang than a band.

Then he went solo, sometimes booking himself as Rob Skane & His Guitar. He practiced. He woodshedded. He played lots and lots of gigs. And over the course of a string of ever-improving, self-released, home-brewed solo albums like “Nowheresville,” “SelfNoise,” “SoloFi” and “The Mouse Mixes,” he found himself.

All of which is the preamble to “Phantom Power Trip,” a genuine gem of an album. It’s more low-key than lo-fi, and it’s got a tantalizing kick, somewhat akin to Nick Lowe’s work – obviously one of Skane’s primal influences – especially on the chugging “You Preach Peace.”

And like Lowe’s stellar oeuvre, Skane delivers profound insights in a casual, matter-of-fact fashion. His vocals are relaxed and resonant. There’s a crackling, deep-twang to his guitar playing that’s part surf-rock, part Richard Thompson without swinging for the fences.

He’s bolstered his sound on this album with a rhythm section that features drummer Peter Maine (of Psychoneedles) and bassist Todd Haviland (of Shu), as well as some exquisitely placed backing vocals by Dale Haskell (of Street Corner Holler).

Recorded at Skane’s basement lair, Los Noise Floor, as well as Edie Road Studios in Argyle, the album isn’t sonically perfect. I wish the drums had more pop and snap to them, for example.

But the songs… There’s a deceptively simple sound to the yearning but wary, hook-filled “Untouchable.” A new wave churn to the frustrated “I Waited.” A vintage ’60s garage rock reverb provides the shimmering backing for “Would You Be There,” which comes complete with a psychedelicized backwards guitar solo. “It’s a Great Day” takes spooky chordal turn as Skane intones such lyrics as “Feeling sharp/Looking razor-thin/The pills I’m taking/Are finally kickin’ in.”

No question, this is Skane’s best work to date. It’s full of confidence, burn-into-your-brain hooks and grown-up insights.

Rob Skane celebrates the release of “Phantom Power Trip” with a party and the performance debut of the Rob Skane 4 at The Ale House in Troy at 9pm on Saturday. Admission is $5.

ENTER HERE: And if that’s not enough, is giving away copies of Rob Skane’s new album, “Phantom Power Trip.” Just click on the “Comment” button below, and tell us your favorite song or album of the year so far, and you’ll be entered for a random drawing on Friday morning. One entry per person. Please leave your email address, too. We won’t publish it, but we’ll use it to contact you on Friday if you win. Good luck! Congratulations to Scott C. and Mykel!

  1. Matt Mac Haffie says

    Rob is totally rockin’ fer sure!

  2. TL says

    I agree.. Rob has come a long way since I saw him first perform (early’90s). In talking to him (which I did this past weekend for the first time in awhile) you can tell he truly has a rock & roll heart and is a hell of a nice guy! I already bought the CD, at the street-gang-named-Lawn Sausage clubhouse, last Saturday so no need to enter me in the contest… Rock on Rob! Well done!

  3. jsFox says

    Wow, now there’s a name I haven’t thought of in way too long! As in more than a decade before since I moved over the hill to North Adams, and that’s been a while. Thanks for rectifying that oversight of mine, nippertown!

  4. Gus says

    great job skaner! you’re a great friend and it’s great knowing you man. glad we met. congratulations on the album. great hooks and each song is an excellent story. my favs are “let it be me”, “in my room”, “would you be there” and “it’s a great day.”

  5. Jack Tors says

    Brilliant record, Rob. Some (well, one) might say, “Just the right amount of treble, Skaner!”
    The lyrics and wordsmithing is a thing of beauty and you’re playing has never been tastier. Elliot Easton ain’t got sh*t on you.
    I liked the updates of a couple old chestnuts, too. ‘In My Room’ has always been a favorite.

  6. Pete says

    Hi Cat People,
    Well you should get your claws into this album.
    I know its gonna make your tails stand up straight up. The Cat himself stalked it from front to back and it tasted great, so all u alley cats and tom cats, rock your rolls right off, Or should I say tails?? Love ya,
    Your silver-nosed tomcat,
    Peter Criss

  7. Kirsten says

    It is a great record, I can attest. Just finished writing up a story on Rob for Thursday’s Metroland. The Rob Skane 4 have some special treats in store for Saturday’s Ale House show so you all should go!

  8. Davey BLiSTeR says

    Rob’s new album is a rock ‘n’ roll masterpiece. Catchy three minute power pop gems from top to bottom. Do yourself a favor and go out and get this album…NOW!!! It will be stuck in your CD player for weeks.

  9. Mykel says

    I can’t wait to see Rob in October, in Utica, NY. It has been too long.

  10. Scott C. says

    My favorite song of the year so far is Cee Lo Green’s ridiculously catchy and memorable “F**k You”, but I’m open to having my mind changed by a FREE copy of Rob Skane’s new CD.

  11. LP says

    Rob’s song “It’s a Great Day” nice stuff ….my favorite LP of the year is “Dream Attic” Richard Thompson …live

  12. Alan G. says

    Rock it ’till the cows come home, boys!

  13. Paul says

    He is scheduled to perform at Proctors during November’s Art Nite… the 3rd Friday of that month.

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