Rock critics, always fumbling for adjectives and superlatives, have used every word in Roget's Thesaurus to describe Irish alternative-rock quartet Rollerskate Skinny.
Singer-guitarist Ken Griffin's current favorite is "Echo & the Bunnymen meets 'Pet Sounds'-era Beach Boys."
He prefers this new offering: controlled melodic chaos.
"That's fine, I like that," he said recently from Warner Bros.' offices in New York. "One of the things we wanted to do was something experimental that didn't conjure up images of people in white coats trying to force square pegs into round holes."
There's no chance of that with Rollerskate Skinny's expansive debut Warner album, "Horsedrawn Wishes." From the wall-of-sound track "Swingboat Yawning" to "Bell Jars Away," the Irish group creates static, elusive and often beautiful melodies with just the right amount of hook-sense - not unlike such contemporaries as the Trash Can Sinatras and Boo Radleys.
Their lush, far-reaching sound owes as much to Phil Spector as it does to Pink Floyd, hip-hop and Celtic music. But Griffin says even he and his band mates have a hard time putting a handle on it.
"You wouldn't believe the conversations we have with engineers," he said. "We produce our own music and work with engineers, and we're totally convinced that everything we say is working in a completely logical, practical way. We think that everybody else thinks this, and then an engineer after like three days will make blasé comments like, 'This is really a crazy song,' and we all freak out, 'What are you talking about? What do you mean crazy?'"
"One engineer said to me one day, it was the most depressing thing I ever heard, he said, 'You have to remember, for a lot of people Oasis are weird.' This wave of sadness hit me. I felt so sad about that. If people were given time to listen to this album, listen to it a few times in a row, it starts to make sense. I just hope people will give us a chance."
In its native Dublin, Rollerskate Skinny's second major-label album became legendary before it hit the streets. There were rumors that more than 160 instruments were used for one song.
"That's physically impossible," Griffin said. "I'm constantly amazed at how surprised people are when you try to do something different.
"We're just trying to write good music, you know. We're just trying to join the lineage of great bands. We want to be the 647th great band going back to 1956. We just want to keep making records."
Rollerskate Skinny was an Irish band that enjoyed its greatest success during the 1990s. The band is probably most famous for containing Jimi Shields, the brother of Kevin, who fronted the critically acclaimed My Bloody Valentine. The sound of Rollerskate Skinny is similar in style to the aforementioned with swirling, buzzing guitars creating a thick sonic landscape in which luscious pop melodies and noise amalgamate in equal measure.
Founded as "The Hippyshakes" in the 1980s, the band became "Shake" and was characterised by a strawberry logo. In 1991, Jimi Shields joined the band and suggested a name change to "Rollerskate Skinny", chosen from a line in The Catcher in the Rye, by J. D. Salinger: "She's quite skinny, like me, but nice skinny, rollerskate skinny."
Rollerskate Skinny consisted of Ken Griffin, Ger Griffin (no relation), Jimi Shields and Steve Murray. Shields wrote material and played guitar & drums for much of the band's history but left due to constant media references to his brother which threatened to distract from the band itself.
After the release of "Shoulder Voices" in 1993, to much stateside critical acclaim, Rollerskate Skinny's four original members signed with the Sire imprint of Warner Bros. Records. Following Shields' departure the album Horsedrawn Wishes was recorded and subsequently released in February, 1996 to a great deal of praise, particularly in the Irish music press.
All of those involved with Rollerskate Skinny have gone on to other musical projects: Ken Griffin moved to New York City and formed the band Kid Silver, releasing the album Dead City Sunbeams in 1999. In 2004 Ken joined members of the former Philadelphia band, Aspera, to form his current band, Favourite Sons who are signed to Vice Records. Since Rollerskate Skinny, Ger and Steve worked on the project Walker. Stevie since started the band Empire, now known as The Radio.
"Named in honour of a turn-of-phrase in the J.D. Salinger classic Catcher in the Rye, the noise-pop band Rollerskate Skinny was formed in Dublin, Ireland in 1992 by vocalist/guitarist Ken Griffin, guitarist Ger Griffin (no relation) and bassist Stephen Murray. After debuting with the 1992 EP Novice, the group released the ten-inch Trophy before swelling to a quartet with the addition of guitarist Jimi Shields, the younger brother of My Bloody Valentine's Kevin Shields. After signing to Beggars Banquet, Rollerskate Skinny issued their 1994 debut LP Shoulder Voices, followed by the EP Threshold; upon Shields' departure to form Lotus Crown, the remaining trio signed to Warner Bros. and delivered the excellent Horsedrawn Wishes in 1996."
~ Jason Ankeny, All Music Guide