Alien Skin – Put Your Lips On My Lips – Album Review
Another highly productive year for the music of George Pappas and Alien Skin – Put Your Lips On My Lips would be the second record I’ve reviewed from this dude in 2021, following the release of Cold War Pop. I’ve spent more than five years listening to this guy’s tunes at this point…chances are if you’ve been following along here at our pages, you’re well familiar with the name Alien Skin by now, so I’ll skip the lengthy intro. Tons of music out there by this solo synth-based project, and lots for you to catch up on.
The reality is, he’s spent over forty years now as a professional musician…he knows his way around the studio boards and he knows the kind of music that he wants to make. Alien Skin has been pretty damn consistent in that way throughout the years…I wouldn’t at all deny the continual evolution that’s been occurring within this project as its carried on over time, but it’s also fairly safe to say that if you like something you hear, you’d quite likely enjoy the entire catalog that’s out there. On a personal level, I feel like 2021 has arguably revealed either the best I’ve heard from Alien Skin to-date, or perhaps the most accessible – in either event, both Cold War Pop and this new record have treated my speakers real well this year…and I’d be willing to bet on the amount of catchy cuts he’s created, I’m not alone in that.
Pappas is one of those artists that throws themselves completely into what they do, and I’ve always admired that. At times, there’s not a doubt in my mind that he’s gotten so far into what he does and gone so far down the rabbit hole that he’s flown straight over many heads and left a few listeners struggling to keep up to him, or behind altogether in the process. We do that sometimes as artists, sometimes by choice, sometimes unintentionally because we’re just in the middle of doing what we truly love to do without thinking a second thought about it…the trade-off that occurs between adding more art versus accessible sound is a battle that’ll continue raging on long, long after I’m gone. All this being said, it’s records like Cold War Pop and Put Your Lips On My Lips that seem to be shifting Alien Skin further out of more niche terrain and right into cuts that just about everyone out there can dig on 100%.
We’re talkin’ about seriously addictive sound straight off the bat with “Kiss Kiss Kiss” and brilliantly wild synth-bass lines that stand out for all the right reasons. Rollin’ through the beat with the icy cold sound & distance that Alien Skin tends to bring to even the most intimate & personal moments of its catalog – we get a whole lot of what we love from this project as Put Your Lips On My Lips begins. Effective stuff, all around…ultimately I’d tell ya the main hooks are found in the music here, but I dig on what George has done with the vocals as well…all I’m sayin’ is that the whole vibe of “Kiss Kiss Kiss” is pretty much irresistible right from the get-go. I dig the subtle samples he’s worked into the final minutes and how that all plays a role in what we hear, giving us just enough to know it’s there without actually being able to make out much of it at all – as odd as that might seem on paper, it certainly works well when you hear it in action. Not hearing any issues here at the start, that much I can tell ya for sure – George has got this record dialed-in straight away to deliver the goods through the pulse & rhythm of “Kiss Kiss Kiss” and starts this new set off in the right direction when it comes to the amount of accessibility on display.
“Cleopatra (I Don’t Love You)” should land favorably enough in the court of public opinion I’d reckon, and for the most part, I’m with it. I’ll put it to ya this way…where the changes exist & occur, I’m loving it, and where things remain much more constant…I was never as sure. As in the main synth line that roams back & forth in its melody as it drives this tune and supports it the majority of the way – some days I’d love it, other days I felt like I’d leave it. Speaking of – “Leave” is one of my all-time favorite songs by R.E.M., and the very same exact conflict exists for me in that tune as well, so there you have it- what do I know? Music quite often comes down to when we’re in the mood for this or that, corresponds to the days we’re having, the places we’re in while we’re listening both mentally & physically – and similarly to your own taste buds, they can change over time…your palette can expand just as easily as it can contract, and there’s no rhyme or reason for that. I suppose that’s my roundabout way of saying that on some days, “Cleopatra (I Don’t Love You)” hit the mark spot on – and worst case scenario, I still enjoyed what I was listening to, but more addicted to the two tunes that surround it. That fair enough? Not a bad tune by any measure…it’s still another high quality cut – you can’t blame ME for Alien Skin being the one responsible for writing even more impressive tunes to go with it – that’s how this whole game is played y’all…we listen, we naturally make comparisons; we like what we like, and we love what we love. I suppose the most crucial component in looking at things that way when it comes to Alien Skin, is that you’ll never find a significant drop in quality overall…I’ve never heard a tune I felt like turning off, or anything I didn’t feel like was cohesive enough to fit in with the rest of its catalog.
It’s probably fair to say that Alien Skin dials it back a little in tracks two & three energy wise in comparison to where the album starts out, but you’ll find this gives Put Your Lips On My Lips a dynamic versatility to the way it flows that gives the record the kind of peaks & valleys you can get behind. “Formed By Your Hand” is darkly poetic…every bit as beautiful as it is heartbreaking as well if you dig into the meaning behind the words you’ll hear. Like most of what Alien Skin tends to write, it’s still fairly on the obscure side…but if you’re listening to this tale of admiration, that’s kind of what the experience itself was like. From what I can gather, it centers around finding a letter from his wife, written at an unknown time, but found at a moment where George really needed to see it. As he’ll detail in his lyrics, not all of it even makes that much sense – but seeing the words themselves, in her writing, after X-amount of time has now passed…it conjures up all kinds of beautiful memories that contrast the darkened synth vibes with a song that’s got a ton of heart at its core. It’s about treasuring those little things that mean so much…or in some cases, realizing that they do – sometimes this stuff hits ya in the strangest of ways…when the people we spent so much of our lives loving are gone, we soon learn there are endless reminders that float throughout the ether surrounding us, just waiting for an opportunity to be noticed. “Formed By Your Hand” is a lot like that to experience…and personally, I love the perspective that George brings to it – it’s obviously positive, loving, and tributary in its own unique way – we never know what reminders of the people we love will show up, but Alien Skin makes a strong case for welcoming those moments of vivid nostalgia back with open arms like the memory is still as fresh as if everything that transpired just occurred yesterday. You can see a song like this from the details it has.
For the audiophiles out there…whatever Alien Skin is doing to create the freakin’ amazing sounds in your speakers at the start of “This Happy Life,” is gonna float your boat to say the least – you’re crestin’ the waves with a sound that supreme. I have no idea how to describe it, but I know George knows exactly what I’m talkin’ about, so it’s all good – he gets it, and largely because he’s every bit the audiophile himself. Songs like “This Happy Life” have an incredibly insightful hybrid balance between gettin’ the real art of making music involved, while still finding that enormous degree of accessibility we all wanna hear. In fact, I’d go as far as to say, “This Happy Life” ain’t just one of the best cuts on this record – I’d put it right up there with some of the very best I’ve heard from Alien Skin to-date easily. It’s a major highlight, and about the most perfect example I could point to in terms of a song that’ll have you rabidly craving MORE – and I pretty much feel like that’s gonna be the universal reaction to it. It might not necessarily always have the most typical hooks when it comes to the verse & music surrounding it at all times – but I’d argue tooth & nail that it’s as interesting & compelling as a tune could be while still keeping you fully entertained and engaged; and by the time you DO reach the main hooks of the chorus, it’s just good game from there. I think the intensity of the electro-pulse in this cut is gonna be more than enough on its own to keep people listening along with the beat – but listening to Alien Skin shift into the atmospheric melody that guides the chorus…with the low-end RUMBLIN’ and the strings comin’ in afterwards to add the cherry on top? Like come ON – I cannot say enough about this song – it’s aces.
I like the title-track…same as I kind of felt about “Cleopatra (I Don’t Love You)” to a degree, sometimes it would come on and I’d sink right into its hypnotic vibe and it’d feel like perfect song…and at others, it was another solid track in the lineup. In either scenario, I don’t know that “Put Your Lips On My Lips” is gonna be the song that makes me jump up & down in excitement this time around…that’s just not the kind of energy it has…it’s much more of a serene & chill sample of Alien Skin’s sound. What I really like here is the melody in the music, and right off the bat too…I felt like “Put Your Lips On My Lips” never had any issues at all when it came to generating interest straight away as it starts, but I suppose with the vast majority of the energy in this cut kind of remaining in that main gear pace-wise, it might be fair to say a few out there might feel a bit more restless in sticking with this one. The beat helps out for sure – I think things change just enough around the 1:25 mark to add the extra spark needed to keep the people out there listening…and ultimately, I really like the way that George sings the chorus of this cut as well. I have my moments with the rest of it if I’m being truthful…he’s still on target enough to get a pass from anyone listening, but in having heard as much Alien Skin as I have, including the rest of the tracks on this very record, I felt like he seemed to be missing this one outside of the chorus by a fraction or two along the way at points. It’s a good tune…I ain’t ready to declare it’s a great one, but every second spin or so through this record, I felt like it continued to grow on me, and maybe that keeps on going as time goes on…I kinda see it going that way based on the strengths of the chorus in this song.
Slick grooves like “Yes She Does” work wonders when it comes to the music and melody at work; that irresistible synth pulse & beat combo is something Alien Skin does extremely well. Probably a bit more weighted here towards the chorus than the verses when it comes to my own interests…and once again, I feel like George really found a way to raise the stakes in order to achieve that. The chorus of “Yes She Does” is exceptionally cool…not overcomplicated; it’s actually a very straightforward moment in the music of Alien Skin when it comes right down to it, but it’s highly effective. Maximum value out of the existing potential, you dig? As “Yes She Does” began, I had no problem at all getting right into the thick of its pulse – but I did start to question whether or not it quite had enough for the rest of ya out there. Alien Skin flexes subtle moves throughout this track, and keeps it pretty consistent in terms of the dynamics you’ll experience…it’s mellow, it’s sleek, it’s fairly laidback in its energy despite the vibrant synths in the mix. Moments where the music take over around the 2:20 mark, or even how the music works in tandem with the chorus…that’s the real highlight in “Yes She Does” for me – that’s where everything seems to come alive just that much more through your speakers and the idea seems fully realized. It’s a tougher tune to love in some ways and I get that…I think on a lyrical level, it’s not quite up to the standard that Alien Skin typically incorporates with the selection of words & whatnot, but I do think there’s something to be said for the effect of repetition when it’s used as cleverly as he does here.
The songwriting on “The Greatest Lie” came out really well, especially on lyrical level – redemption came quick for Alien Skin following “Yes She Does” with this cut afterwards. We almost make a trade on a musical level this time around though – it’s a good tune, just a little thin in comparison to just about everything else you could cite on this record with a more airy atmosphere in its vibe. So…yeah…harder to say how the people out there might react to this one…I think those out there that really dig into it will enjoy what they find – but music is much the same as a really amazingly well written story, or in-depth film that’s shot perfectly from every angle…it’s not always what you’re gonna wanna reach for despite the incredible quality, you feel me? Alien Skin’s got a song here…no doubt about that…I don’t know that it’s the most addictive one in terms of hooks & all that, but I could certainly make an argument that it’s one of the album’s strongest songs in terms of concept – and I also think it’s more relatable in that regard than most of these tunes as well. If you’ve ever loved & lost, in whatever capacity that’s come about, you’ll feel a connection to “The Greatest Lie” and the questioning & confusion that comes along with it. To the point where, when George sings “Is this the greatest lie I ever told you?,” you have to actually wonder whether or not that’s him speaking to himself internally, trying to convince himself that he’s okay in the aftermath of his own experiences. Think of it – how many times have you said to yourself that you’re alright after someone you loved is no longer with you? That everything’s fine! That the sun comes up tomorrow and you will be SMILING, yessir! And yet deep down inside, you know that’s not only not the case, there’s a solid chance that it might NEVER be the case again. The push/pull of memories & how we want to welcome them back without the hurt that can come along with’em…the desire to be with someone we love again after they’re gone, never really goes away…and this song more or less exemplifies that in all the right ways tributary ways by venting a very real & justified frustration. We can try and convince ourselves, or someone else, as much as we want to – but at the end of the day, the heart wants what the heart wants, as they say…and I suspect “The Greatest Lie” confirms that’s true.
Each and every time “Beneath The Funeral Skies” came on, I was like…THIS! Do THIS Alien Skin! At the end of the day, y’all know I’ll take what I can get when it comes to great tunes…and more than anything else, I support the endless creativity in artists like George that are unafraid to explore just about every avenue, nook & cranny of their sound. So no…I don’t expect that every track is gonna come out with the grip that this cut has, or the addictive vibes of “This Happy Life” earlier on…that’s the nature of the game folks…highlight moments are what they are. “Beneath The Funeral Skies” isn’t what I’d probably consider a typical single, but it’s kind of hard to not justify its potential in that regard anyhow – there are elements of this cut that are savagely addictive…and again, if you’re anything of an audiophile at all, Pappas has loaded this up with texture & tone that you’ll be ranting & raving about for weeks to come. It’s one of those tracks that feels like it’s moving super quick & super slow at the exact same time…and while I have no idea how Alien Skin pulls something that remarkable off – I sure know I love listening to it. “Beneath The Funeral Skies” is vibrant in all the right places, smoldering & slow-burning to create the diversity in the structural dynamics along the way…Alien Skin puts in a genuinely mesmerizing performance on this track that I’d be willing to bet makes it a favorite for many listeners out there. The chorus is catchy enough to sing along with if ya need it…but I think if we’re being real here, it’s the main hooks of the music that are gonna pull you in to “Beneath The Funeral Skies” more than anything else. There’s just such glorious depth at work here in the sound Alien Skin is rockin’ with…and with all the subtle glitches & clever ideas that are placed in the mix too? This track fully demands to be listened to.
Which pretty much makes the next spot on the record the toughest to fill, and that proves to be true in this instance. I am kind of at a place of it-is-what-it-is with “Unborn” – I’m not entirely indifferent to it, but I’m just shy of that mark. George does so many damn cool things with his music from the synths to the vocals, that it’d be impossible to listen to Alien Skin and not find something redeeming in just about every cut you’ll listen to – “Unborn” included in that too – I think the drums pack in a lot of personality, I think the synths are responsible for a whole lot of fun at points along the way as well. I don’t know that it fits with this particular lineup; that could be in part to the burden of coming after “Beneath The Funeral Skies,” it could be in part due to the more radiantly neon & upbeat vibe it has…or it could just be that it doesn’t quite measure up to what we’ve experienced on the rest of the record so far somehow – maybe it’s a combination of all of these things. I never really found myself looking forward to it perhaps as much as I’d have hoped…”Unborn” kind of sent this automatic cue to my brain that it was missing what it just had prior in the track before…but as with all-things-Alien Skin, I never found myself turning it off. In the right mood at the right time…I don’t see any reason as to why a track like “Unborn” couldn’t still have its day in the sun I suppose…but I also believe that this record harbors a wealth of material that doesn’t need to be hummed & hawed over at all too, which I guess is something to consider. The fact that “Unborn” does really have its own vibe goin’ on means that it stands just as much chance as any of the rest at becoming someone’s favorite track from Put Your Lips On My Lips when it comes right down to it. That’s the advantage of a cut like this one…while its differences can make it a bit more of a jarring fit into this particular lineup of songs despite its smooth grooves, it’s still gonna stand out no matter what in the end to everyone listening because of that – so really, a song like “Unborn” WILL get noticed one way or the other. Chances are, this might very well be the most polarizing cut on the new record.
Because…what? WHAT am I supposed to do with a cut like “Unborn” when it’s sandwiched directly between two of my own favorite cuts on this record? “Halfway Cross The Sky” might be THE Alien Skin tune of all for me…I am very inclined to say this could be my favorite cut of the bunch – and as I’ve told ya, I’ve been listening to this solo project of George’s for quite some time now. We might be splitting hairs though at this point…the man writes great tunes and executes like the professional he has been for years and years – I could see myself declaring “This Happy Life” or “Beneath The Funeral Skies” or this final cut as the best I’ve heard depending on the hour of the day…and maybe that’s something we’ll all feel we share universally between us. I mean…I’m assuming you music savvy folks out there have the same great taste that I do, so of course we agree on all this, right? All three of my main favorites from Put Your Lips On My Lips have their own uniqueness to them…I felt like you get that perfect blend of atmospheric & mechanical vibes working together as one on “Halfway Cross The Sky.” There’s such a steady sureness to it all…epically stoic really…not a hair out of place or anything else you’d wanna add to it – I think this is a serious masterstroke for Alien Skin and an absolutely spellbinding ending to this album that’ll lead directly to repeat spins and multiple tours through Put Your Lips On My Lips for the listeners out there. Definitely not a bad note to go out on if you ask me – “Halfway Cross The Sky” is at the very least, another exceptional highlight on this record, but quite likely of the entire catalog at large.
Find out more about Alien Skin at the official website at: https://www.alienskinmusic.com
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