in skeletal epAlthough their choice of band name might suggest third rate pop-punk, skateboards and girls ahoy, Wakefield’s terribly monikered One Day, After School… (complete with punctuation) owe no such musical allegiances. Sure, they’ve saddled themselves with a name that wouldn’t suit a band in their advancing years, but musically they’re pretty smart. Their earlier releases deliver indie rock fare that toys with Sonic Youth noise and Pavement‘s slackness, but often with an accessible heart. Their third release – 2016’s ‘In Skeletal’ – is much broader with experimentation from the outset, presenting some great instrumental work bookended by lyrical pieces.

Beginning gently, ’21st Century Winters’ starts the EP with something rather lovely. Sat at the piano, frontman Dean Freeman strikes soft and thoughtful chords as he opines he’d like to “live truthfully” as he finds himself amid “the silence of January mornings”. Like an early Keane demo, this wanders slowly, often tugging the heartstrings with its sparseness. A few bigger chords take place front and centre, while a soaring guitar echoes in the back and Freeman’s voice croaks like a man who’s lost somewhere in the cold, his face masked by a cloud of breath. Having pulled the listener right in and held their attention with this stark simplicity, the piano disappears and a huge Mogwai-styled post-rock guitar cranks a fat sound. The drums kick in and within a minute or so of crunchiness, it’s all over. This is so well crafted, the other four songs on ‘In Skeletal’ could be utter bilge…and the EP still would still be worth checking out. ‘Black Mesa’ is incredibly slight; shorn of the emotional edges of the opener, there’s still a resultant coldness, but nothing much of an easy melody. The bass wanders, the guitar plays a soft and slightly twangy tune and the treated vocals mumble and whisper. Hints of Slint at their quietest inform the overall mood – one of spookiness and wanton repetition – and across some near four minutes, the band’s approach and dedication to such moodiness never wavers. Bringing in the drums for the second half shakes things up a little – just enough – enough, indeed to leave the feeling things are about to explode. And they do. Following a brief wistful melody, the guitars shamelessly borrow from Thurston Moore with their lovable discord, before drummer Dan Hayes powers through the closing bars, striving for dominance over a quirky and tuneless lead guitar solo. Fading into a clattering finish, this was a job well done.

Following the driving alt-rock sounds, One Day… retreat into the shadows and tease with almost soundtrack styled work. ‘Higuera’ acts as a brief interlude where the piano theme from the EP’s opener makes a very welcome return, quietly drifting past the sound of late night crickets, before the beginning of ‘So You’re a Mother Now’ presents a structured rhythm, some pleasingly multi-tracked guitar work and thoughtful reflection. As with ‘Black Mesa’ this is a means to louder things and once this track finds its feet, the crunching riff – a post-rock belter, somewhere between Slint and (the) Melvins – lumbers with intent. Returning to a lyrical piece, ‘Somasphere’ ensures that all of the previous melancholia is swept aside and the last music the listener hears is far more upbeat and optimistic. This last tune owes more to The Charlatans and the poppier end of The Wedding Present and Jesus & Mary Chain than Slint or any of the other influences that One Day… favoured previously, but is none the worse for that. The rhythm section comes with plenty of bounce, while a clean lead guitar shimmers and jangles in a manner that screams 90s. Throughout the number, the three musicians sound like they’re having a great time and their enthusiastic performance is rather inspiring – in terms of retro sounds, this is top drawer stuff.

With a bulk of the material having little regard for hooks or even songs (something rectified with the closing track), ‘In Skeletal’ is the dictionary definition of “mood piece”, but unlike some post-rock and experimental bands, One Day… seem to value the importance of never becoming too self-indulgent. This EP sounds like the collaborative work of three different bands, but, bizarrely, that doesn’t make it any less enjoyable.

January 2016