Belles Of Skin City
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Belles Of Skin City


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The best kept secret in music


"Best Local CD's of the year so far 2006"

Technically, it's still a couple of weeks before 2006 is half over, but we got off to an early start this year.

CDs from P.O.S. and Plastic Constellations -- two of the most obvious choices on this annual midyear roundup of best local albums -- came out in January, when we music writers are usually twiddling our thumbs wondering what Paul Westerberg is up to (which, as it turned out, was something we wouldn't find out till months later). Other discs on this alphabetical list are only weeks old, though, including Mason Jennings and One for the Team.

Anyway, the point is that you shouldn't wait for end-of-year lists to discover these great albums.

Belles of Skin City, "You Do the Company Proud" -- To quote frontman Davey Matters' former band, Kentucky Gag Order, it's on. Putting this full-length debut into the CD player feels like walking into a brawl. Matters' diatribe-with-meaning words fly at you like bare fists. The band's wiry, needle-like guitars cut like a switchblade. And the booming rhythms have blunt-object impact. Hurts so good. - Star Tribune

""You Do The Company Proud" review"

Belles of Skin City certainly don’t chase the hipsters’ flavors of the month (although they’ve certainly gained critical praise around Minneapolis), instead chasing their own angry, poetic muses on You Do The Company Proud.

In the forefront are the lyrics and vocals of frontman David Joe Holiday (aka Dave Matters), whose abrasive, trebly voice is reminiscent of Paper Chase singer John Congleton—almost a wicked whine. His lyrics are—and this is the second time for this word in two paragraphs—poetic, although not beautifully so. Instead they’re cynically so, furiously so. “Ha ha boardroom think tank tantrums / Pencil in a fake orgasm / Oh, big business, come and carry me away!” Holiday spits beneath staccato guitar lines and herky-jerky drumming in “Robots Are People Too.”

The instrumental tracks in that song are maybe the best representation of the spirit of the music of You Do the Company Proud. They are built over non-stock parts, the oblong, clang-clap sounds of drums more essential here than there (there being all around here). Bass and guitars, mostly, but bells and what-have-you’s complete the backgrounds by repeating phrases and lines, never unison, but interweaving between one another in rough-but-serpentine tangles. Structurally, Captain Beefheart may be the best comparison, although it isn’t a perfect one by any means, as BoSC are not nearly so irregular and often more tuneful. And you might find Television here, but only if you turn your head just so.

It is all interesting, this collection of repetitive blocks battling for time and space. And more than interesting, it’s visceral: it’s music that can be felt more strongly when not considered, music that makes more sense as one analyzes it less. That isn’t to say the band doesn’t know what it’s doing at all—far from it. It’s saying they’ve been tremendously successful in recreating the real spirit of rock ‘n’ roll, making a physical-sounding record, in their own style.

Lyrically the songs are almost nasty, sexually-fixated jabs at corporate and consumer culture. “Armed with a gallon of spray-on hair / And an abundant supply of over-the-counter erections / The sad sack mack’s stab at yesteryear recovery / where pride by his ride / and his prize be catastrophe, / a crippling drought,” Holiday sings in “A Case of Rather Unfortunate Stage Presence.” Or “A pox to on the crowd / for giving merit to the catch phrase / you do the company proud,” in “Joni Loves Trotsky.”

Don’t get carried away in the hilarious song titles for which BoSC are becoming semi-famous—while “Patrick Costello: Putting the ‘Art’ Back in Smart-Ass” puts even Kevin Barnes’ titles to shame, there is a lot more here than these headers. These are oddly soulful stabbing songs (and you can put the comma wherever you want without being wrong).

"Picked To Click"

Years ago a very liberal friend told me that in his mind, the advantage of Republican presidents is that they inspire frustrated musicians to create great music. I waited and waited for this idea to come to fruition, and was just about to call him to tell him he was wrong when, on a fateful Sunday night in June, opening up for the Heroine Sheiks at Grumpy's, I saw the Belles of Skin City play their first live show. A new band in 2004, but with members quite familiar to the local music scene, this ridiculously talented five-piece creates music too interesting and unique to easily explain in words. The postmodern sound includes a little vaudeville, a bit of a fire-and-brimstone street preacher sound, and a dose of punk. Mix in a little Moog, and you have the Belles of Skin City. Talent this strong should not go unheard. If my friend's theory is correct, the next four years should be golden for this band.

Christine Petrich - City Pages (Minneapolis)

"Belles of social commentary -- and sex"

As if he's not intimidating enough to someone who's seen his wild genius onstage, David Joe Holliday laid down a few disarming ground rules before agreeing to an interview last week.

The burly, tattooed and genuinely wild-eyed frontman for Belles of Skin City (who's alternatively known as Davey Matters) insisted there be no "over-the-top metaphors,"hip lingo" or "75-cent college words" in this write-up on his unruly band. He poo-poohed a request for the Belles to get their picture taken. He even asked to avoid the usual musicians-hang-with-writer-in-bar routine.

Holliday feels strongly enough about these points to have turned down a request for a City Pages interview last year. And that was after CP named the Belles the top new band in its 2005 best-of poll. Some gratitude.

It's definitely tempting for a writer to practice literary foreplay on the Belles of Skin City. Their name alone (slang for a hooker) is provocative. Their sound, with its spastic but steady rhythms and wiry guitars, is truly unconventional. And then there's Holliday, whose Les Claypool/Gibby Haynes/Southern-preacher vocal drawl and dirt-under-the-fingernails sheen are the antithesis of all the pretty-boy indie-rock frontmen who often share the same stages.

After debuting with a scattershot but attention-grabbing EP last year, the Belles pieced together their puzzling sonic collage into a focused and ferocious full-length debut, "You Do the Company Proud," which they're promoting with release parties tonight (21 and up) and Sunday (all ages) at the Triple Rock.

They're proud enough of "Proud" for Holliday to commit to the interview. And as these things usually turn out, he and the other four band members turned out to be pretty nice, normal guys. They even settled on meeting in a bar, but only because Grumpy's Northeast happened to be near their rehearsal space.

"I drive a truck for a living," said Holliday, 32, touting his day job as proof he's no pretentious rock star. "I just happen to be a bit more literate than the average bear."

Belles of Skin City formed in 2004 after the untimely demise of Kentucky Gag Order, another spectacular group featuring Holliday and the Belles' bassist, Jeff Smieding. Those two friends hooked up with an old pal from their hometown of Eau Claire, Wis., guitarist Benny Solberg, plus a second guitarist, Ben Wells.

Drummer John Broms agreed to join after seeing Kentucky Gag Order's two reunion/farewell gigs at the Triple Rock in the summer of 2004. Anyone who saw those shows would've agreed to join a band with Holliday. He commanded the stage on those nights like an army general who everyone knows is crazy but still has everyone's respect.

"After that night, it was like, 'See you in the Belles?' " Wells recalled excitedly.

Of course, no one wanted to simply re-create KGO, especially Holliday, who said, "People were too into the schtick of it." The Belles were so insistent on being different that they initially had a sort of a down-tempo, moody sound like Low or Black Heart Procession, if you can believe it.

Eventually, the group took its present shape, adding a second drum kit with propane tanks and other metallic items attached. This is one band where the rhythm instruments play more of a lead role than the guitars.

But nothing or no one can compete for the limelight with Holliday, who rants his way through "You Do the Company Proud," spewing obtuse but evocative lyrics.

In the CD opener, "A Case of Rather Unfortunate Stage Presence," he starts out mildly howling, "I am field/ I am plow/ I'm the musk of the factory," before frantically screaming, "For [expletive] sake, don't envy the sane." Other songs alternate between cool observation and maniacal frenzy, from the painful burst of "The Swab" (inspired by STD tests) to the slow and scary "Joni Loves Trotsky."

Predictably, getting the singer to open up about his lyrical inspiration wasn't easy.

"Basically, I write social commentary that you can [have sex] to," he said, with no hint of irony. About the only other thing he'd say on the subject was that he often mulls over a specific line or two "for 10 hours a day while I'm driving a truck," then finishes the song around that.

He also confirmed what many fans have wondered: The band's often hilarious song titles usually have nothing to do with the lyrics. For proof, he pointed to the new song, "Patrick Costello: Putting the 'Art' Back in Smart-Ass," a sly reference to Dillinger Four's bassist. It follows two songs on the group's EP that reference real people, "Hey Dave King, Save Some for the Rest of Us" and "Lighten Up Katherine Lanpher."

"We don't even know Dave King or Katherine Lanpher," he said.

Those slapstick titles often belie darker themes in the lyrics, though. Holliday was reared in foster homes most of his life and is not too shy to open up about the abuse he suffered as a kid.

"I'm definitely not the poster boy for sanity," he said.

In th - Star Tribune

"belles of skin city live review"

By David de Young

In one of the best bills in town Friday night, Belles of Skin City held down the prime middle slot in a show opened by the “second coming” of Coach Said Not To and headlined by Fort Wilson Riot.

This was my first time seeing the Belles, and it was about time I did when you consider they were voted “Best New Band” by the City Pages earlier this year. But at least I wasn’t alone in being a newbie. Radio personalities Jason Nagel of Minnesota Music on Cities 97 and Mei Young of Drive 105's Radio Homegrown were also on hand to hear them for the first time.

Belles of Skin City started out almost casually. Lead singer David Joe Holiday even appeared to still be eating something when the band began. From the first song, “Illiterati,” from their new EP Ha-ha Boardroom Think Tank Tantrums I was reminded of a rhythmic and funky, not to mention far less gruff, Tom Waits like something from the album Real Gone, or specifically the highly percussive “Kommienezuspadt” from Alice. Immediately gripping and interesting, musically “Illiterati” appeared to be taking place as much in the space between the notes as anywhere else. Cyn Collins described them to me saying, “[they create] complex rhythm layers, yet their perfect phasing makes all the beats and vocals ring loud and clear.” One lyric was “are you actually convinced you’re re-inventing the feel?” intelligent and clever, if not frequently cryptic.

Holiday introduced the second song as “Owning a Volkswagon Passat does not entitle you to two parking spaces,” the short version of which might have been “Asshole Pass.” Though this title probably grew out of a specific incident, it still made me glad I didn’t buy a Passat a few years ago when I was looking at cars. (Toyota Corolla owners unlikely to have similar charges leveled against them.)

Helping to create the rhythmic complexity, a second drummer was usually up front playing some sort of contraption that looked like it was straight out of a Dr. Seuss book: a big white barrel with a light bulb inside, a clear plexi bass drum on top, and an empty propane tank hanging off the side. Sometimes the glowing monstrosity was played by Holiday himself, at others by Benny Solberg or Ben Wells. As the band switched off instruments frequently, it was hard to keep track, though I believe drummer John Broms stayed at his place behind the kit for the whole set.

David Joe Holiday plays the propane tank

The next song was the again cleverly-titled “The Phermones and the Damage Done,” also from the new EP.

My primary reaction to hearing Belles of Skin City was to smile. I can’t remember the last time I was so glad I had taken the time to check out a band I had not previously seen. And judging by the audience reaction, I wasn’t alone. I wouldn’t be overstepping myself to suggest this band is likely to go very far, very fast.

The next song was “More Rhythm, Different Penicillin.” When singing Holiday looked a at times like Ben Weaver might look after being tattooed and drinking a pot of coffee. He closed the song saying “Thank you,” sounding like Jim Carrey out of Ace Ventura, Pet Detective.

“Everything I needed to know about history I learned from Iron Maiden” generated a cheer from its introduction alone. Benny Solberg’s guitar served as a rhythm instrument rather than providing melody. This song was funky as hell, and I noticed the entire front row bobbing along as if the dance might break out at any moment.

The band made an odd reference to Chuck Norris at the end of the song, something to the effect that “Chuck Norris isn’t hung like a horse, horses are hung like Chuck Norris.” Holiday then described the hallway in the Dayton’s ramp downtown as smelling like a combination of Karmelcorn and tobacco, imagining, he said, that’s what a pedophile’s basement would smell like. How this related to the show, I really can’t say.

The final song was the scandalously-titled “Lighten Up Katherine Lanpher,” also from the EP. With a breathy, almost orgasmic rhythmic vocal close from Holiday, the Belles ended the set. Through the monitors, I heard soundman Dan Turnbull say what would be a nice summation of the whole show in just two words: “Oh wow.”


"You Do the Company Proud" CD
2006 Totally Gross National Product

"ha ha boardroom think tank tantrums" EP
2005 Totally Gross National Product


Feeling a bit camera shy


The Belles of Skin City exist solely out of midwestern proportions. Or they just can't afford to leave. 5 grown men make plans for the creation of music. They rent a practice space and buy a van. Said van is destroyed day of purchase by car thief in stolen car. Said practice space is broken into the first month of residence and most equipment is stolen. The Belles finally proceed to make music with what they have left and what they can piece together. The only thing to do was actually play.

Belles of Skin City released their debut EP- Ha Ha Boardroom Think Tank Tantrums on Totally Gross National Product records in the fall of 2005.
Being accused of having a "Sousa meets swap meet" style, The Belles' mixed themselves a Zoloft milkshake and proceeded to record a much more focused and precise follow up full length album-"You Do The Company Proud".

These fellas have plans of actually leaving Minnesota for a minute or two, to tour in support of the new release. Catch them soon before their van blows up.