Buffalo Tom – Skins

What I Think of When I Think of This Artist (part 5)

I had this CD in the “sell on Discogs” pile and then I rescued it. Perhaps I was feeling a kinship with the middle-aged (ahem) dudes of Buffalo Tom. This isn’t their best work but it is a far cry from their worst, and it’s clear that they love what they do. I respect that. By the way, Bill Janovitz is also an author and realtor.

What I Think of This Album

This doesn’t quite follow the familiar Buffalo Tom pattern of alternating rockin’ albums with quieter ones. Three Easy Pieces was generally upbeat, loud, and fast-paced, so naturally Skins should display the other side of the band. Instead, the trio mixes ballads with a fair number of energetic tunes here, resulting in something resembling balance.

Indeed, the band gets convincingly raucous on “Down,” a testament to the three old friends’ heart, grit, and talent; Bill Janovitz does some nice work on the guitar here. “Arise, Watch” revisits a Celtic influence that veers close to Connells territory, until Janovitz unleashes some ungodly guitar squalls all over the place.

Similarly, “Lost Weekend” is a dark, friable number that explores the narrator’s black heart with aplomb and some cutting guitar playing. More adult-onset desperation surfaces on the domestically-oriented “The Kids Just Sleep.”

“She’s Not Your Thing” is wise and tender and tuneful and sometimes that’s all you need (well, that and some cool harmonies, which this song also provides). “Guilty Girls” is another excellent pop offering. Deep cut “Here I Come” would’ve been a standout on Big Red Letter Day.

I’m not into the quieter material on this album. In particular, Tanya Donnelly’s guest vocals are sort of wasted on the forgettable “Don’t Forget Me.” Buffalo Tom adopts a soulful mien on the somber “Paper Knife” but again, it leaves me cold. “The Hawks & the Sparrows” is another miss. And “Miss Barren Brooks” is successfully titled so as to evoke the band’s New England roots, but unfortunately that is the most distinctive aspect of this okay-ish tune. Closer “Out of the Dark” is another clunker, plodding along in overtly maudlin fashion. 

“The Big Light” is dedicated to and about Janovitz’s uncle, who was a significant influence on Janovitz even after he was brutally murdered in 2009. This track builds and swells for over four minutes and given its importance to Janovitz, I don’t feel it’s appropriate to say more about it.

The Best Thing About This Album

“Lost Weekend,” maybe just over “Down.”

Release Date

March, 2011

The Cover Art

A near miss? I like the sharpness of the foregrounded cymbal A LOT and I am a fan of the lightning bolts coming off the ride, but the font for the band name and the graphic in the upper right do not work for me.

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