Pittsburgh's original "Rickety Rock" groups, like Tiny Little Help and The Johnsons, combined the talents of several musicians who could have easily led bands in their own right. And now they do. Over the past decade, that close-knit crew has reconstituted into The Dirty Faces, The Bumps and Anita Fix, among others. And now, missing ingredient Chris Cannon -- organ player and one of the vocalists for the Johnsons -- has emerged with his debut as well, as Skinks.
Or is that The Skinks? Either way, Cannon's songs, written with drummer Will Dyar, provide Rickety fans with a different dosage than they're getting from the other bands. Skinks' forte is shuffling, country-ish pop, buoyed by Dyar's clear-as-bells production and perhaps informed a bit by Cannon's touring services in Boxstep.
These are solid roots-pop songs for indie rockers, but also nothing so unusual that WYEP listeners can't sink their teeth into 'em. Catchy tracks like "Still Thinking" wield enough jangle power to be reminiscent of REM and '80s college-pop (at least, until the distorted guitar solo kicks in). "Getting Started" is even more upfront about its pop intentions, and "Might Be Wrong," with its chorus of "it's all right, it's all right" has the nostalgic feel of a '70s AM radio classic.
Cannon's laid-back, detached vocal style prevents him from becoming as cloyingly emotional as some of those Triple-A frontmen. Not content with being just another in the endless litany of "singer/songwriters," he lets the totality of the music experience speak for itself.
So mellow out and put this one on. It's better than Olivia Newton-John.
Skinks CD release with Centipede E'est and Anita Fix. 10 p.m. Sat., Nov. 25. 31st Street Pub, 3101 Penn Ave., Strip District. $5. 412-391-8334 or www.31stpub.com