For their latest album and Thrill Jockey debut, Peer Amid, Swedish foursome The Skull Defekts recruited former Lungfish frontman Daniel Higgs, who brought with him a set of vocal chords as intriguing and intimidating as his ample gray beard. It's a refreshing and suitable move for the experimental rockers, and Higgs holds the spotlight firmly throughout most of the record. But unlike Higgs's previous band, Dischord punk rock this is not. In fact, Peer Amid sounds like a psych-leaning graduate of The Michael Gira School Of Aural Punishment. The album's self-titled opening track begins with Higgs chanting, not unlike the Swans/Young God founder in one of his gentler moments, before is unspools into a nine-minute Sonic Youthian jam, loaded with tribal flourishes. A few of Peer Amid's tracks overstay their welcome, getting locked into a post-punk-meets-jam-band groove they can't seem to find their way out of. But the band finds serious dividends in a little restraint, best exhibited in highlight "No More Always," where Higgs sing-speaks the words, "Nobody, nothin', nowhere, no more" like a mantra over infectious, classic-rock riffage. The future artistic potential here is so palpable, even in a single song that you can't help but hope for a relationship as long as Higgs's untamed facial hair.
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