“From the moment we met / I was destined to feel your pain.” The first words from Tropical Skin Byrds heavy new EP, S/T, drag us under the current of its reverbed, dark waves to fill us in on painful vision of life. “Put your knife in me / Twist it ‘til I bleed,” it grinds forward, accompanied by even grimier guitars and crunchy cymbal crashes. These are not the Byrds, they’re something much more visceral— “Tropical Skin” perhaps denoting the iridescence of dead fish laid out at a market, or the crusty, red sunburns where sunscreen was forgotten.
With four riffy tracks and one tormented outro, S/T builds up to an eerie fall, refreshing in a world of increasingly sunny punk. It’s jeer instead of cheer. With artist Nina Hartmann on vox, ZZ Ramirez of Ukiah Drag and Destruction Unit on guitar, and Sean Halpin of CRAOW on drums, it’s a sort of “supergroup” without the fancy antics or glossy world tour.
Ramirez lays the tone of the entire album with intro feedback that morphs into a waterfall of sludge. It downpours. Halpin’s wet cymbals and dry drums recall the doom & gloom of the first White Stripes album. It’s begrudging, it’s cold, it’s coarse. A simple but not sweet set of songs from a group attempting to help us cherish a bit of darkness.
The feminine shriek of the group’s lead singer, artist Nina Hartmann, recalls Sheri Moon Zombie’s terrifying glee in her husband’s grindhouse horrors. On the final track, “Mondo Trash,” late night TV loops throughout, undeniably influenced by fright night & other haunts. A scratchy tape recorder on rewind leads into slow-mo echoes to let the EP slowly die.