National Skyline – Exit Now

Something about forwarded messages really irk me. You know what I’m talking about. You get at least two or three of them a week, lurking in your mailbox: long, boring, pointless. Maybe they’re so annoying because nobody you really like ever sends them to you: it’s always that not-quite clever person you met online 13 months ago who thought you were the coolest thing since sliced bread just because you’d heard of the Get Up Kids. Yippee.

As if they weren’t irritating enough, some forwarded messages reach new levels of annoyance. First are those that promise you money for sending this out. Sure. Then come the extremely long, completely narcissistic forwards in which the sender answers myriad pointless questions about themselves. Next are the “save the children” forwards: little Timmy will receive 10 cents for every person you send this too. Who starts these things?

Ah, but there is another. Falling under the “slightly less annoying yet gaining momentum” category is the “You know you’re a child of the 80s when:” forward. [I still get child of the 70s e-mails. I feel old. – ed.] In this particular forward, they send you repetitive statements that remind you of how cool the past was, as well as bringing to light how boring the present is. Yes, I watched Saved by the Bell! So what if I knew the names of all five New Kids on the Block! That was over a decade ago!

Well, as much as I despise these lists, I have one to add myself. You know you’re a child of the 80s when you enjoy File 13’s releases. This all started with the blatantly anachronistic Antarctica double-album. It continues with this brief, scattered EP from National Skyline (composed of a former member of Castor, a former member of Hum, and another person whose life apparently had no meaning up until this point). This label seems to just love programmed beats.

The first of four tracks on this release opens with an organic (albeit programmed) beat and an airy acoustic guitar. The track’s breezy, pretty melody calls to mind Pavement and/or the late 70s more than anything in the 80s, but the tracks incessant rhythm and layered effects keep that new wave feel alive. “Identity Crisis” is just that: it tries desperately for that Dismemberment Plan feel, but sounds more like it’s a weak B-side for Beck’s Odelay.

The last two tracks on the CD differ substantially in that they are longer, moodier, and probably better. “Ghosts,” which probably runs at least a minute two long, references Hum in lyrics (and length?) if not in sonic texture: the repeated line “I love you in the shape of swirling gas” echoes like something straight off of Downward is Heavenward. The song’s light, minimalist beat patters behind bursts of gas and synthesizers as Jeff Garber spouts space-age heartache. The last track, “Karolina II,” a follow-up to the stand-out track from the band’s first EP, is a wonderful listen, and it hopefully reflects the path the group will continue along. It opens ominously with bass bursts, light guitar, and a synth line, leading into Garber’s voice. The pounding drums shove the atmospheres out of the way three minutes in and pound gloriously with the bass. It sounds for all the world like something straight off a 1985 dance floor. The track pounds on repetitively for over 10 minutes, though I never found myself bored of the propulsive, stirring rhythm.

You can’t help but feel that National Skyline have the right idea, even if they’ve got some misguided songs. Coming out of Hum and Castor, one would expect a sub-par emo side project. Any band who feels post-punk encompasses more than three minute Promise Ring sound-alikes should certainly be encouraged. All that, and National Skyline will make you feel like Transformers never left, like Milli Vanilli are still dancing around, and that maybe, just maybe, Zack and Kelly will hook up again.