When reviewing a local band, you tend to make comparisons to better-known national acts -- and not the other way around. But while listening through Money, by New York-based avant-rockers Skeletons, the similarity that kept coming to mind was Pittsburgh's own Centipede Eest. There can be only one Centipede, true, but I can readily imagine fans of the local group's extended basslines, cumulative rhythms and esoteric lyrics finding much to enjoy -- and some consonance -- in Skeletons.
Formed early this decade in Oberlin, Ohio, as a loose musical collaboration built around musician and filmmaker Matt Mehlan, Skeletons released a couple of albums through their eccentric Shinkoyo collective before signing with Ghostly International. On that label, they put out 2005's Git (under the name Skeletons and the Girl-Faced Boys) and 2007's Lucas (as Skeletons and the Kings of All Cities). Pitchfork's Eric Harvey, who gave it an 8.2 rating, described Lucas as "an outsize global-a-go-go mélange of unceasing polyrhythms, Afrobeat guitars, free jazz, and Timbaland's approach to kitchen-sink percussion."
The band currently consists of Mehlan, Jon Leland, Tony Lowe and Jason McMahon, and has just released the aforementioned Money on the Tomlab label. The album's opening is deceptively calm: the droning sounds of a traffic jam, with a tentative upright piano tinkering with a chord change overtop. The first proper song, "The Things," is a rousing groove whose guitar rhythms suggest both Captain Beefheart and Jeff Beck's Blow By Blow, and whose sonorous horns seem to borrow a bit from the old Batman TV theme. Synths, theremin and choirs swirl impulsively in and out of the frenetic funk, as the singer asks, "Why would I want to know ... these things the children of rich men know?"
Yes, legal tender proves the central preoccupation of Money, notably on "Stepper a.k.a. Work." A laid-back, soft-rock pulse and lazy strings suggest whiling away the hours on the clock, coupled with the lyrics "I'm gonna get paid, enough to survive / So I quit complaining, for once in my life."
The song actually titled "Booom! (Money!)," however, is a bit less obvious -- a furious 11-minute percussive jam over a two-note bass line, with dissonant jazzy touches. But Skeletons also know how to take it down a notch. "Unrelentingness" starts with smooth, melancholy horns that suggest an old film noir score, while "The Masks" conjures an almost Flaming Lips-style psychedelic wistfulness.
Recorded live in the studio, Money suggests Skeletons have plenty to offer on stage. Catch them on Sun., Nov. 2, at Garfield Artworks with Hearts of Darknesses, Discuss and Milk Infestor. (The show is organized by CP contributor Manny Theiner.)
Skeletons with Hearts of Darknesses, Discuss, and Milk Infestor. 8 p.m. Sun., Nov. 2. Garfield Artworks, 4931 Penn Ave., Garfield. $7. All ages. 412-361-2262 or www.garfieldartworks.com