A four-year gap between albums is not as long as the nine-year hiatus that preceded 2007’s Three Easy Pieces, but Buffalo Tom fans are patient folk (as well as famous folk – US chat show host Jon Stewart is their number-one supporter). Not that it matters, as Skins, their eighth album in 22 years, is more than worth the wait.
One of the most reliable bands to emerge from the grunge era, this Boston trio have always winningly mixed power-chord country rock with Byrdsian harmonies, and were among the forerunners of the Americana boom.
Here, they’re very much playing to their strengths: highlights include She’s Not Your Thing, a wonderful slice of honeyed country pop, the Springsteen-style epic Out Of The Dark, the rollickingly good Here I Come whose four-to-the-floor basics are lit up by some spectacular playing, plus one of the bands best harmony hooks since 1993’s Sodajerk, and Don’t Forget Me, a fabulous ballad with Tanya Donelly of Belly, Breeders and Throwing Muses.
For all the familiarity of sound, there is a sense of a band trying to stretch themselves rather than rest on their laurels. If the new REM album isn’t quite as Automatic For The People-ish as you’d like, buy this instead.