Last year's break-up of upstate New York's Marathon was a blow for a lot of fans who felt that band had the potential to be the "next big thing." With the band appealing to different crowds (both the melodic/skatepunk crowd as well as hardcore kids loving them), one could go on for hours about this possibility. However, from the ashes of this great band came not one but two former Marathon members (guitarist Nate Morris and drummer Emmett Menke) joining fellow upstate New Yorkers Polar Bear Club; months later came the official debut (at least in the live show circuit) of vocalist Aaron Scott's new sometimes-solo, sometimes-acoustic project, Attica! Attica!.
Officially released this past September, Dead Skin / Dried Blood is a bit of a departure musically from the former vocalist of both Marathon and Brooklyn, NY political pop-punks De La Hoya. Instead of the fast, scorching yet melodic punk rock of his previous two bands, Scott and his friend/producer Chris Antal recorded an album of both mellow numbers and electric rockers, as well as lyrics that are both political and personal.
Some of the lyrics and songs themselves were written while Scott was still in Marathon, which is evident in some numbers -- "The Party Party," for example, sounds like it would have fit right in on that bands' recordings, albeit done acoustic-style. Lyrically, the song takes a tongue-in-cheek look at the current American political offices, painting a hilarious mental picture of what it would look like if everyone who worked in the U.S. government had an all-out rager; "Rick Santorum's got his shirt off / I think he's grinding Michael Chertoff / we'll play dress-up with Obama / he looks good in Bush's pajamas." Also equally as funny (though a bit disturbing and cringe-worthy at times) is Scott's graphically detailed trip to the dentist's office as showcased in "Tires and Mint."
However, it's certainly not all fun and games within this record. Scott has mentioned that some of these songs were also written during a period when Marathon was close to breaking up, which resulted in him traveling the country trying to figure out what to do with his life; subsequently, the themes of motion and travel is frequent on the album. The slow piano ballad "Motion Sickness," the album opener, is one of the tunes that showcases this overall theme, along with a second piano number, "Blackout," which shows some interesting imagery in the form of Scott musing about a small-town gathering together after the power shut down (he admitted at a recent show that the song was inspired by the blackout the northeastern U.S. experienced in the summer of 2003). Also of note is one of the album's standout tracks, "We'll Always Be Home," which Scott does a cappella when performing live, but its recorded counterpart here features him backed by an organ. Beautiful and haunting, this song definitely reaffirms Scott as one of the most unique vocalists in modern punk rock, as one review on this site has stated before.
Scott's political leanings leftover from his Marathon and De La Hoya days are still prominent, specifically in the form of a fast country jam such as "Way Down in Gitmo," as well as one of the record's acoustic numbers, "The Kids' War." In "Gitmo," Scott pokes fun at Americans who automatically assume every Muslim is a terrorist, as well as making numerous references to Guantanamo Bay and the media's assumptions that the Fourth of July is cause for alarm of a possible terrorist attack. "The Kids' War" brings out Scott's experiences as an elementary school teacher (another topic discussed in the Marathon song "Some Lovely Parting Gifts"), this time taking on his opinions on the reciting of the Pledge of Allegiance in the classroom. "Flamethrower" closes the album to the same tune (though, except using piano, this one features acoustic guitar and a drum machine back beat) as the record's opener, but lyrically ending on a much more positive note than the first song: "Because I'm ready to march up to the battlefield today / and my tongue will be the flame / that torches their campaign / oh yes it will be one great afternoon" (the "one great afternoon" chorus appears in "Motion Sickness" as well).
While musically, the album is clearly a departure from his previous bands' work, Dead Skin / Dried Blood is an album fueled by Scott's voice and lyrics. Attica! Attica! may not join the ranks of fellow punk rockers-gone-solo guys/projects such as Chuck Ragan, Tim Barry and Sundowner, but it is one of the more ambitious and underrated albums of 2007.