Rob Skane - Phantom Power Trip
“Rock’n’Roll the way God intended it.” Scott Kempner
Rob Skane is rock and roll.
Long one of the unsung forces on Capital Region scene, Skane returns to the fore with the release of “Phantom Power Trip” -- 11 smart, short hook-filled tunes from the left of the dial.
Skane grew up in Central New York with one ear on the radio and one hand on his guitar case. He was ready to move before he was born, landing in Albany just in time to leave again -- this time on tour with the legendary Dugans.
He gained a reputation as a gum-chewing wisecracker, but all the while he was studying the greats -- looking to Paul McCartney’s sense of melody; Paul Westerberg’s flair for adult angst; and Graham Parker’s extraordinary passion.
“Nick Lowe just kills me,” Skane says, “the way he can twist a phrase around. Three minutes, words and music, but it’s so much more.”
But life isn’t all pop songs for the son of a Utica cop, and following the requisite stints in road hog rock bands and 10 years of the solo acoustic grind, Skane went underground.
Into his Niskayuna basement.
Which became, almost overnight, a laboratory, a monk’s cell and a recording studio -- all adorned with the same array of condenser mics, restless notebooks and Mexican wrestling masks.
The result was a series of similarly-titled solo audio adventures, including “Nowheresville,” “SelfNoise,” “SoloFi” and “The Mouse Mixes.”
He calls his place Los Noise Floor NY, ascribing to the R. Stevie Moore ethos of do-it-yourself-or-bust. Moore, you might remember, launched the home-recording industry back in the late 70s with a mix of magnetic tape and madman’s glee.
Skane -- who’s actually worked for labels and studios -- doesn’t simply push the button on a Zoom recorder, He engineers. He EQs. He mixes.
“Phantom Power Trip.”
Just try made-for-radio stuff like “I Waited,” “Would You Be There,” “Girl Next Door” or “Let It Be Me.”
With drums (Peter Maine of Psychoneedles) and bass (Todd Haviland of Shu) tracked at Edie Road Studios in Argyle, NY, and imported into Los Noise Floor NY, Skane put on the mask or the bagel beamer or whatever he uses to make the magic happen, and he set to work.
The result is the album of his life.
In more ways than one.
“You Preach Peace” and “Army of Individuality” point fingers with punk intensity; “The Idiot Show” points the same acid finger in Skane’s bathroom mirror. “Untouchable” is unflinching. And “In My Room” is a late-in-life lament about lost love, marked with quiet keyboards and plaintive singing.
All feature remarkable, almost spookily symbiotic backing vocals from Dale Haskell.
Together the tales start to tell a bigger story -- childhood, work, kids, love, sex and death. But so do the sounds -- childhood, work, kids, Telecasters, Vox amps and pearlescent Gretsch kits.
“I remember seeing Joe Strummer on TV when I was a kid,” Skane says, “and he said punk rock was about more than just playing the right chords; you could sing about the big stuff, too. That left such a lasting impression on me.”
Now Skane’s making the only music that matters -- his.
“It’s a Great Day” isn’t kid stuff. You can’t sing “it’s a great day/for a breakdown“ with a smirk. But you can sing it with a hook that goes for a days, your left hand wrapped around the maple neck in one of those impossible British D chords.
And “Ballad of A Small Man” is not one of those songs penned by a whip-smart college kid with daddy’s keys in his pocket. It’s the stuff of an actual father making his way through this wicked world, looking for harmony while wrestling bills, memories and a real rock and roller’s lack of marketable social skills.
“I like to write songs that people can relate to,” Skane says, “and I find that most people can relate to songs that are about something other than being happy all the time.”
“Phantom Power Trip.” Take it. It’s Skane’s trip, but it’s yours, too.
“Rob Skane’s on his PHANTOM POWER TRIP
I’ve been out riding with the top down, cruising real slow, lookin’ for chicks, in my 63 Corvette Sting Ray, midnight blue, wearing my coolest blue jeans, got one you-know-what left in my wallet pokin’ through, Converse high tops, and a pack of Lucky Strikes rolled up in my white t-shirt sleeve, blasting Rob Skane’s new one, PHANTOM POWER TRIP loud enough to be heard several blocks in every direction & drown out the police sirens that have been doggin’ me for an hour.
Actually, the only part of the above that’s true is the cruisin’ around listening to Rob Skane part, although it was in a clunky 2007 Dodge and there’s nothin’ but a coupla fives in my wallet. But, it sure did feel like all that with Rob’s record, uh cd, playing and upsetting the neighbors. I kept thinking: you mean somebody still makes records like this?! Thank God! Rock’n’Roll the way you want it and the way you need it. Stripped down muscle car guitar rock and Rob testifying over the top. It’s just hook after hook, instant familiarity perfectly blended with the shock of the new. Rock’n’Roll the way God intended it.
However, I must cease this scribbling immediately and get back to it.
You better go get yourself a copy, pally. Like, now!”
(rock & roll legend, founding member of the The Dictators and The Del-Lords)
Rob Skane uses equal amounts of Robbie Robertson and Lou Reed to create his descriptive and personal vignettes.
ALL MUSIC GUIDE
Rob Skane’s “SelfNoise” has an intimate and often sparse feel that has as much to do with the album's production as it does with its subject matter. Skane recorded and mixed “SelfNoise” himself and played most of the instruments. His hushed vocals amplify the up-close-and-personal vibe, creating the sensation that the singer is sharing confidences with his listeners. Among Skane's straightforward and serious songs, "This Ain't Cool" and the tender "Mercer Street Breakdown," for example, stand out, as does the bitter pill "Hard to Understand" which shares a psychic resemblance to Grant Hart's Husker Du work. METROLAND
Singer/songwriter Rob Skane composes songs that draw you in, with lyrics that are heartfelt and at times heartbreaking and haunting. His music shows an intense interest in people and the reasons they do what they do. The Albany, N.Y.-based Skane writes great, catchy songs with smart, strong lyrics. A natural born storyteller, his songs tell about lovers getting away, Jimi Hendrix and Stevie Ray jamming together, watching the evening news and trying to understand what it means. DELUSIONS OF ADEQUACY
Rob Skane's music is lo-fi and lowdown. He sings his songs in a raggedly convincing voice. “SelfNoise” was recorded by Skane in his home and its intimate, unadorned sound suits it well. The quietly intense "Into Your Soul" talks of seeing through someone's lies. "$15.00 Room" describes an encounter with Jesus in a hotel room. It's a comic, yet serious minded song. It's not the only moment here that brings Paul Westerberg to mind. LUNA KAFE E-ZINE
Rob Skane has a timeless indie approach, an affinity for wordplay, tight, melodic guitar playing and undoubtedly compelling lyrics. An outstanding songwriter. THE MUSE’S MUSE
Rob Skane has shared stages across the Eastern United States and Canada with Dion, Jeff Buckley, Alejandro Escovedo, Jonathan Richman, Dan Zanes, NRBQ, Graham Parker, The Fleshtones, Jesse Malin, Jim Lauderdale, Juliana Hatfield, Pat Dinizio (of Smithereens), Grant Hart, Andy Shernoff (of The Dictators), The Silos, The Figgs and Jeffrey Gaines among others.