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Skip Heller Trio: Mean Things Happening in This Land

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Almost every piece in guitarist Skip Heller’s press kit mentions his unorthodox song choices (“from the Jackson 5 to Dean Martin,” basically). So it goes with Mean Things Happening in This Land, which includes three tunes by post-punk bands. XTC’s “Dear God” has an infectious staccato melody played over an electric piano that leans on the off beats. X’s “Motel Room in My Bed,” originally a chugging rocker, becomes a contemplative ballad. And the Dead Milkmen’s “Punk Rock Girl” would win approval from most B3 aficionados thanks to Chris Spies’ key work.

If the song titles mean nothing to you, that’s not a problem. Heller’s point is not the novelty of the material but how the trio works with it. His originals make up the bulk of the album anyway.

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