What’s in a name? Sometimes you can determine what kind of band you’re about to listen to just by their name alone. You know you aren’t going to get easy listening when you pop in an artist named Wormrot, you can be sure it’s not harsh noise when you click on an album by a group called Les Thugs, and rest assured after hitting play on a Trapt track you’re going to regret your life choices. My assignment was to cover Thin Skies, the fourth album from Brooklyn natives Bootblacks and upon hearing that band name, concepts of snotty, pretentious, “art” post-punk garage rock à la Murder City Devils and The Black Halos swam in my head. Luckily, the only part of my assumption that was correct would be the post-punk label.
Opener “Traveling Light” sets the mood with reverb laden guitar, echoey vocals, and dancy electronic rhythms which sees Bootblacks fit more with the new wave and goth influences of post-punk than the previously aforementioned art rockers. In fact, to me the album emulates the aural equivalent of the fashion and cinematography of The Crow with a beat you could groove to. And most intriguing is the unnerving feeling of desolation in the songs, as though being played in a lonely venue to a crowd of ghosts; truly encapsulating the 2020 experience. Take title track “Thin Skies” which features a very haunting, minimalist vibe on the guitar and synthwork that seem to have been captured as the sounds bounced off the walls of an empty hall. All the while, vocalist Panther Almvqist sings a haunting refrain of “I live on the other side…I live on the other side from you (so far away).” The track is immediately followed up by the upbeat, danceable track “Hidden Things,” which to this writer sounds like it was forged by the depressive younger brother of Bloc Party and Interpol, showing that it can’t rain all the time (see what I did there?).
The album closes out perfectly at just over the half hour mark with “Inextinguishable,” which sounds like a perfect ode to the mood and progression of The Cure without blatantly jocking their style and incorporating some of Bootblacks’ own unique flavor. This wraps up the record very well; long enough for you to whet your whistle yet short enough to keep you interested throughout. Fans of this genre will likely love the record and wonder why I only gave it a 7 out of 10 after saying such positive things. For me, it’s missing that special something to draw me in more and throughout my listens, I found my mind wandering to memories of how good She Wants Revenge and Radio Berlin were, and it took a lot of restraint to not switch the dial to those artists. Maybe they need to find their hook to keep listeners interested, maybe I need to stop mentally referring to artists I’m already a fan of, maybe it’s Maybelline. I dunno, man. All I know is this is worth the listen and a half hour well spent.
Written by Ted Berger
*Edited by Chris Aitkens