The Skins – What Teen Music Once Was and Still Should Be

The Skins

The Skins

Okay, I am now well beyond my teen years, so I guess that should be taken into consideration about my thoughts regarding “teen music.”  I put teen music in quotes because I suppose it can be argued that it isn’t really a genre, however I stand on the side of that argument that Disney is the creator and perpetuator of a genre of music that is geared and targeted directly at preteen and teen ears – thus “teen music.”

My preferred genre of music is rock and roll, I do have preferences in rock and roll, but, by and large, I am a fan of the genre on the whole; and let’s not forget that rock and roll blew up out of the mouth and sound of a nineteen years old Elvis Presley.  Almost immediately upon Elvis’s success, there were teenagers throughout the world who bought guitars, gathered in garages, or basements, and created bands.  While many of the early rock and roll music is decidedly tame, by today’s rock standards, there was always an element of teen angst in the music, so much so that many adults of the day thought rock music was dangerous, leading some radio stations to outright ban rock and roll music from their playlists.

Today’s “teen music” is decidedly lame, lacking much of that teen angst, and decidedly gooey in its prepackaged, mass marketed, overly managed and over-produced products (Hannah Montana/Miley Cyrus, pick a “boy band,” The Jonas Brothers, Justin Bieber, etc., etc.).  That isn’t to say that any of them are not talented, because they are, hell Justin Bieber is quite a talented musician, and The Jonas Brothers can play their own instruments too.  Nor am I begrudging them their success, more power to them.  It just seems, to me, that few of those products offer much in the name of real substance, and are like almost everything else in today’s world – disposable.

I imagine a room of executives in a product planning meeting, putting together demographics and spreadsheets, directly targeting the pre-teen and teen markets, hiring song writers, and studio musicians; then holding auditions for who the next star is going to be … That’s a far cry from forming a band in your parents garage and struggling to land gigs, and earn a little coin and make a name for yourself, isn’t it?  I think all of that prepackaging, over producing, mass marketing, focus grouping, over managing is one of the biggest issues that is hurting rock and roll specifically, and the music industry in general – music shouldn’t be created in a boardroom; but that’s just my opinion.

So, back to the title of this post.  Just as I (and I am sure many of you at this point) was sure I had reached the point that everyone reaches, where I just don’t get “it” anymore; much like my Dad didn’t get the music I listened (and still listen) to; just as I was willing to throw in the towel and be too old to understand, I heard The Skins.

The Skins is a Brooklyn Based band, comprising of siblings Bayli, Reef, and Kaya McKeithan, along with Daisy Spencer, and Russell Chell; recording on the Wreckroom Records record label; but none of that is what surprised me.  The thing that surprised me is this – The Skins range in age from 13 to 19 years old, and I can assure you that they do not make “teen music.”

Listen to their song “Surf,” and tell me that it is something that a Disney boardroom committee came up with:

Aside from the powerful vocals, and the decidedly fusion of funk, surf, and classic rock of their sound – did you happen to catch the homage to Black Sabbath’s 1971 song “Sweet Leaf,” in the guitar riff at the 3:03 mark?  That wasn’t sampling, that was knowing beyond their years – other than all of that they are just another teen band right?

Now listen to their song “Killer:”

The tightness in their sound and rhythm belies their age, as does their apparent knowledge of “older” sounds.  THAT is what “teen music” should sound like, not whatever some giant media conglomerate focused grouped and forced fed to us (or rather teens).  So, this “old,” out of touch dude just found a little ray of hope for the future of rock and roll, and their name is The Skins.