With rough-and-tumble melody mashing, drum clashing, and horn whirring, comes Skeleton$ Big Band's The Bus, releasing an orchestral mineshaft onto the world. The first track, “Numbers (1)” gets pumping with the garish beauty and urgency of a crying newborn child. Based on a long poem written on a Greyhound making the consistent roundtrip journey between Columbus Ohio to Chicago, songwriting front man, Matt Mehlan, gets improvisational backing from a 20-piece orchestra.
Petering in from the fade-out of the ambient first track comes the anticipatory-sounding drums and whisper-sinister vocals of Mehlan, breathing a sneer of grounding presence into the controlled chaos. Amid the orchestra are members of Extra Life, Little Women, TUnE-yArDs, NOMO, PC Worship, and The Dreebs. Drummer Mike Pride, saxophonist Darius Jones, and clarinetist-composer Jeremiah Cymerman, maintains a sense of balance on the tightrope of moving parts.
Packed within many of the tracks are the sadness, promise, and wonder of humanity, containing lyrics like “She was not a natural beauty / her face looked like a box of crayons / She tried so hard I couldn’t help but be nice to her / Even if you didn’t know why she got on the bus.” Within the context of a bus ride theme where inundation of human beings outside of personal realms exists, the 20-person orchestra makes sense. Communicating the individual pleas to be heard, the jagged, overarching melody strings together the sole existence of the need itself.
Stream the new Skeleton$ Big Band album below, and purchase the white-vinyl, limited edition LP with silk-screened jackets on Bandcamp.