Buffalo Tom: Skins

Buffalo Tom
(Scrawny Records)

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I’ve been in love with Buffalo Tom ever since the famous hallway scene in My So-Called Life when Jordan holds Angela’s hand while “Late at Night” (off of 1993’s Big Red Letter Day) plays. Despite generally favorable reviews from critics, the band to this day remains an underrated force in alternative American rock, and having formed in 1987, the band admirably still contains all original members.

Skins is the eighth studio album from this Boston trio, released through their own label, Scrawny Records. This deluxe edition features 28 tracks, with the first 14 being studio versions, the last 14 being demo versions.

“Don’t Forget Me,” featuring the vocals from fellow 90’s musician Tanya Donnelly (Throwing Muses), is a timeless track about how memories of love tend to fade with time. Like its subject matter, the song is weaved with instruments (acoustic guitar, brushed drums, mandolin, and piano), which produce a bittersweet affect.

“Down” (especially the demo version) is a sensitive, aching track, most reminiscent of the band’s early work, while “Arise, Watch” is a great opener, beginning with a sense of muted yearning (“Oh my soul…”) then shifting into a desperate wail (“Waiting…”).  “The Big Light” is my favorite track here, exemplifying the band’s trademark formula of addictive choruses with Janovitz on lead and Colbourn on back-up vocals.

Personally I preferred some of the demo versions over the studio, such as “Guilty Girls,” “Lost Weekend” (a stand-out lyrical track), and “The Hawks & the Sparrows,” the latter being a wonderfully rough cut with Colbourn singing amid a child’s voice in the background.  Overall, the band reflects through this album both the insight and anxiety that comes with maturity and experience. Buffalo Tom has created another record that’s modest yet unrestrained in its ability to express genuine emotion.

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