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REVIEW: Skull Smith - Lunar Panel

Updated: Jan 30, 2022

The synthesizer revolutionized both electronic music and instrumental music when it burst into the mainstream, originally through the pop music of the 60’s, then the disco of the 70’s, then the new wave music of the 80’s. The late 2010’s and early 2020’s have already seen an extreme revival of sorts with the synth finding its way back into popular releases such as Tyler The Creator,’s IGOR, or The Weeknd’s After Hours. However, with every musician that attempts to capitalize on hot trends, there are always some that miss their mark. I think the new debut EP from Skull Smith, Lunar Panel, Pt. 1, is a prime example of this scenario. This project is more or less an attempt at an 80’s synth-pop type atmosphere. Synthesizers and classic synth-pop instrumentation are present within all four songs on this short EP. One would think with an EP being so synth-based that there would be meticulous attention to the patterns that these synths are arranged in. However, I feel that on Lunar Panel Pt. 1 the opposite is often the reality. Half of the time these synth patterns are as simple as a 4/4 drum beat, but the snares and hi-hats are substituted for two differently pitched synths. The other half of the time they sound like what would happen if someone who isn’t musically interested, walked up to a synthesizer and joked “let me make a beat”. Then hit a random note three times, and hit another note one time. This isn’t an attempt to diminish the musical talent that Skull Smith might possess, nor an attempt to squash his vision. I ‘m sure the talent is there, but he didn’t utilize that ability here. The best example of this trend is on the track, “Throw a Little Money”, where the backbone for the instrumental sounds reminiscent of a barebones version of Van Halen’s “Jump”, yet the synths are simplified to the most basic pattern. I also feel as if the Vocals throughout the EP maintain a very flat quality that doesn't help the lack of melodic appeal. Overall I find Lunar Panel Pt 1 to be lifeless. There is no spark in this LP that gives it any energy worth remembering. In turn, it becomes easier to focus on it’s problems rather than what it attempts to accomplish.

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