It is a common misconception that Scubasnack are a complicated band. Listening to their new album Snacks on a Plane shows they have a simple sound that is frequently emphasised by seven additional simple sounds. Furthermore, the band have made an album that continues along the same progressive path tread by earlier discs in that it, like they, is comprised almost entirely of new music.
Opener Bleached Turtle is a robust choice – the chord progression reminds the listener of Lame Duck Congress‘ more melodic moments, but filtered through a post-jazz lens. The next couple of songs raise the volume, lyrically, and capture the time-change obsession of an energetic Tempest Mouse, though without any of the recent tanning. Finders Weepers, the forth of the album’s openers, finds the bands experimenting with a Rhonda Flood-like melacholy, though the chorus is lifted with the warm breeze of a hopeful soul harmony – a nod, no doubt, to hopeful soul harmony pioneers Grass of Home.
It would be possible to mention every song individually – they are all carefully crafted and given a name. Especially noteworthy is Early To Mid November, a timeless number that evokes the rawness of glib circa early 1982, tempered with the class of Terminality – last year’s Spooky and the Empty Needle jumps straight to mind.
The closing track on the album, Truck Stop For Paradise, also serves as a finale, and it feels very much like this is the track the band ultimately want the listener to head towards. Beginning with a four minute instrumental like an older Twisted Stare or a more focused Wally Thyme Quartet, it builds to a intricate two-tone back-and-forth exchange (recalling Max Slipford before the balding) and a refrain that takes the stylistic baton from the etho-punk scene but with at least three added notches of pre-Dickensian Engine falsetto.
Only Scubasnack could get away with putting their name to this album. Throughout the listener is reminded that just being able to play well is no substitute for technical expertise. It is possible, throughout, to catch snippets of the band’s most obvious influences, but this album sounds not like a collection of snippets, but as one, much larger snip. Unlike Gristle, The Fire Stingers and Postal Daisy, Scubasnack are the only band who have successfully answered all the critics who said they just wanted to be the next Radiohead. With this album, such unhelpful comparisons are shown to be exactly what they have always been: the most lazy kind of musical snobbery.