Long Drive to Iceland Reviews


Long Drive to Iceland runs the risk of sounding more like a pastiche of Skyline Rodeo's influences than a coherent musical vision. Luckily, they keep a respectful distance from their rock forefathers (i.e. Fugazi, the Pixies, and Yo La Tengo), and instead of channeling those bands, they use them as tinder to fuel a set of smoldering songs.

“Tomorrow I'm Self Aware” and its fellows showcase singer/guitarist Steve Bumgarner's David Bazan-like vocals; sounds like a mild, knowing sage singing over a melancholy backdrop. The music never breaks into the full-on freak-out it continually threatens; instead, the band packs suppressed anger into every note and syllable. The effect is frequently beautiful, though its beauty is proportional to the ease with which it gives voice to deeply felt self-loathing. It's all the more arresting for that fact.

“Fire in the Hole” has no trouble finding its inner asshole, staggering and swinging at anyone within range within its first few seconds. Bassist Mike Alfano careens alongside Joe Dingerdissen's drums as Morgan Chen's spare, delayed guitar slashes away over the top. Yes, we heard this sort of stuff back in the '80s, but it's also viscerally, unavoidably of-the-moment and in-your-face.

Skyline Rodeo respect their influences as follows: they've wrapped the lessons of their forebears in razor wire and buried them in the backyard, where they bleed into the soil beneath the band's toes.

You know what else is long? Their guitarist/vocalist's name with a whomping Mingkao Morgan Michael Matthew Chen (talk about alliteration)! Mr. Big Name teams up with three others to deliver some whopping structure-based indie pop that will have people Hum-ming along in no time. “Long Drive to Iceland” could also appeal not to the geeky record store nerds but also the kids that love bands like Franz Ferdinand and their mainstream heroics. Check this dynamic post-punk quartet from Jersey now.

Mish Mash

A while back, I reviewed Skyline Rodeo's EP, and stated that I was eager to hear a full release. I am not disappointed, because these guys delivered. Their brand of dissonant semi-prog works nicely in the long playing format, giving them plenty of legroom to kick our collective rear ends.

There is no pop structure, and very little in the way of melody, as they concentrate their efforts on noisy guitar runs and angst-ridden vocals which ride counter to the aggressive rhythm section. Yes, it is a dynamic mess, but it works almost flawlessly. Where the EP left us wanting more, the full meal deal leaves us fully satisfied, along with an aching backside. Consider yourself fully warned.

MISH MASH Mandate: Assume The Position

Courier News

Two things bands should do if they want to keep things interesting: mix it up and always leave them wanting more. Skyline Rodeo, a modern-rock four-piece based in the Somerset section of Franklin Township, does just that on its full-length indie debut, “Long Drive to Iceland.”

On the surface, the followup to a 2003 self-titled EP offers indie guitar rock ala Sonic Youth mixed with the dark pop of The Pixies. But underneath, there's clever garage-rock on “George Bailey Complex” and a cool surf-rock vibe on the quirky “Cliches Work,” the closing “Rubber Chicken Circuit” and parts of the adventureous epic “Advent of Indie Yuppie.” There's also hints of Yo La Tengo in the opening instrumental “Peppermint Patty” and Nirvana in the melancholy guitar and vocal on the minimalistic “Tomorrow I'm Self-Aware,” which inspired the title of the nine-song disc.

Balancing radio-friendly blasts of fun, such as “Cliches Work,” with artistic statements, such as “Peppermint Patty,” the eclectic yet repetitive “Advent of Indie Yuppie” and the confessional “Tomorrow I'm Self-Aware,” Skyline Rodeo mixes things up nicely on the all-too-brief “Long Drive To Iceland.” It definitely will leave folks wanting to hear more, which they can do tonight at the Court.

Skyline Rodeo also will play March 14 at Luna Lounge and March 23 at The Delancey, both New York, and April 29 at The Fire, Philadelphia. I think this band should be given a spot opening for Yo La Tengo because their similar mix of artful noise and clever entertainment would make for a great bill.

Jersey Beat

SKYLINE RODEO - Long Drive To Iceland (Mighty Ming Records, 10B Kent St.  Somerset NJ 08873)  Skyline Rodeo's long-overdue first full-length excellently showcases the band's many strengths - an imaginative and solid rhythm section, anchored by the melodic basslines of Mike Alfano and Joe Dingerdissen's polyrhythmic drumming;  Morgan Chen's oddly deadpan but always entrancing monotone vocals; and Steve Bumgarner's understated but powerful lead guitar.  Delving headfirst into both spastic and more melodic styles of post-punk,   the band channels early Elvis Costello on “Cliches Work,”  the urgency of  Mission Of Burma's strum-und-drang on “The Advent of Indie Yuppie,”  and the sly insouciance of Pavement on Bumgarner“s “Tomorrow I'm Self-Aware.”    The band opens the disc with an instrumental, just to show off their chops, and ends with “Rubber Chicken Circuit,” my favorite Skyline Rodeo song that carries the listener along on the back of a driving melody, surfy drums, and cross-cutting vocals from Chen and Bumgarner.  I really shouldn't be comparing this band to anyone else though; they're a force to be reckoned with all on their own, and now that they finally have an album out, hopefully we'll be hearing a lot more from them. - Jim Testa

Pop Matters

Skyline Rodeo, Long Drive to Iceland (Mightyming) Rating: 7
You want to enjoy some records because they have an odd album title or there is something in the name that you think means greater promise or fine musicianship. Skyline Rodeo has all of this and a kettle of fish! The trio, led by guitarists Morgan Chen and Steve Bumgarner weave in and out of each other on the gorgeous instrumental “Peppermint Patty”, never sounding clichéd or old, instill extremely fresh. “George Bailey Complex” is a jerky indie pop tune in the vein of Violent Femmes finding their niche or cult status. They also are able to turn the mood of the album back and forth between hard moments and softer, reflective pieces such as “Trim The Fat” as well as a challenging but engaging “The Advent of Indie Yuppie” and They Might Be Giants-esque ”Cliches Work”. The last third of the record starts with another winding, creeping cult-ish tune entitled “Fire in the Hole” (no, not a Tragically Hip cover). And the sleeper pick is easily “My Commercial”. — Jason MacNeil

Erasing Clouds

With a combination of psychedelic 60's-style guitar riffs and sounds of 70's and 80's punk rock, Skyline Rodeo brings an interesting combination to genres of the past. Their release Long Drive to Iceland, on indie label Mightyming, fills the speakers with energy usually found while you're jumping off the stage-edge of an overcrowded club. Tracks such as "Trim the Fat" and "Clichés Work" have a funky-reggae sound flashing you back to old Bouncing Souls and Sublime albums, while "Fire in the Hole" is a clear homage to the sound of anti-icons Dead Kennedys. Singer Steve Bumgarner comes to tell his account of corrupt corporate yuppies and self-aware paranoia. His voice is reminiscent of Cobain, but the true spirit of the group comes forcefully from Matthew Chen's guitar, from Mike Alfano's bass, and then can only be molded by the timing of Joe Dingerdissen's drumming. The drive to Iceland or anywhere else may be long but the experience is quite enjoyable with Skyline Rodeo. -eric m. hoover

Ink 19

“Indie Math Noise Rock.” This phrase should bring fear and loathing to any music fan. Noisy, yes; but sloppy, dissonant, hard to listen to and filled with ragged time signatures, Skyline Rodeo is not Scott Joplin. A low point occurs on track five, “Advent of the Indie Yuppie,” which ends with a 60 second droning sound reminiscent of Lou Reed's “Metal Machine Music.” Ok, they have cool graphics, and if you want a CD cover to hang on your wall, this might do. But, unless you really grok industrial noise, or you grew up with these Brunswick NJ boys, this disc is more challenge than reward.

Skyline Rodeo tries to imbue a certain atmosphere on its listeners with the extended opening of “Peppermint Patty”. The track is firmly rooted in the early nineties, mainly taking its influences from the alternative rock of the time and also from “Cherub Rock”-era Smashing Pumpkins. Ending that quick soon after, a very angular style hits the listeners; “George Bailey Complex” has much more in common with Devo and Franz Ferdinand than the previous track had to do with the Pumpkins.

The retro style of this track really is apt to confuse listeners, as the band has came out from the gates with a strong application of the earlier alternative style. “Trim The Fat” is a track that seems to have commonalities with both of the two prior tracks; the interesting use of spacing during the track gives the song a different-sounding tempo from most else that has came out. There is a very Alice in Chains-type of feel to the vocals during “Trim The Fat”, but even this is not a definite; there are times during the track where the vocals approximate both Placebo and Suade. The most interesting finding on “Long Drive To Iceland” has to be “The Advent of Indie Yuppie”, which stands at the nexus of disaffected eighties rock and the cold, calculating sound of an Interpol. Still, Skyline Rodeo adds its own little twist to the track when the vocals achieve a sort of reedy sound that is not present in either influence. Each of the tracks have a slightly different skew on the general style of Skyline Rodeo the brooding style of “Tomorrow I’m Self-Aware” really seems to be couched more in the grunge style of bands like Nirvana rather than any of the previous influences that the band had made individuals aware of previously.

Even more than the brooding style, both in vocals and instruments, Skyline Rodeo really seems to have the pacing of the track down to the point that this could be a Nirvana song if the lead vocalist was just a mite more whiny. The disc is two years old, so I would want to hear where Skyline Rodeo has went in the meanwhile. The disc has a number of strong tracks, but what really seems to be the biggest problem here is that the band does not have any “Face” tracks that individuals would find out about the band with; no stand-out hits (even though the disc is studded with interesting songs) to really speak of.

Top Tracks: Trim The Fat, Fire In The Hole

Rating: 5.4/10

The HV Scene

Score: 7.5/10

Skyline Rodeo is a post-punk 4 piece from New Jersey. The band is: Joe-Drums, Mingkao-Guitar\Vocals, Steve Bumgarner-Guitar/Vocals, Mike Alfano-Bass. They draw influence from bands such as Fugazi, The Pixies, and Sonic Youth. The cd i got, Long Drive To Iceland, was recorded at The Space in Poughkeepsie in 2004. Overall, i liked this band.

They didn't sound like anything i had heard 100 times already, the same bands playing songs that all sound the same. The songs are well written. Really good riffs and funky parts. The guitars play completely different parts that fit well together. Bass has some standout parts. The drums fit the songs and aren't too over the top. Their musical talent really shows. I was really impressed with how cool some of the parts sounded. They used some weird time signatures on various tracks as well. The vocals were good, but they wore on me after a while.

Towards the end of the cd i was starting to not like the vocals so much, but then i listened to it again later and it sounded ok again, so i'm assuming that it was probably just me being tired. The lyrics are pretty clever too. Definite props given on those. The recording was of good quality, not done in a basement or anything like that. They're from New Jersey so if you want to check them out live it's not too far of a journey.

I'm sure they put on a great show. You can check out some of their stuff at: or on their website

Skyline Rodeo EP Reviews

Copper Press - June 2004

Catchy, absorbing and enthusiastic, this quartet from New Jersey genuinely conveys a sense of youth and eccentricity as rarely delivered in this self-titled EP. This perfect little record is three songs guaranteed to leave you breathless with each individual listen. What?s so gratifying about this creation is that fact that you find yourself discovering something new each listen to further satiate your musical taste buds. For example the daring and eccentric hook in the first track, "Live Free or Die," complete with riveting percussion statements by Joe Dingerdissen and brilliant counterpoint on the bass by Mike Alfano. Steve Bumgarner and Morgan Chen fill the record overflowing with dazzling, mind boggling guitar work. See track two for instance. "Fire in the Hole" has enough melodicism, witty lyrical flashes and dazzling instrumental work to leave you hungry, begging for more of this quite alluring, at times schizophrenic work. Don?t forget about the superbly effective use of dynamics and instrumental prowess, as proved once again the final track, a words-free piece entitled "Primer Premiere." Skyline Rodeo is currently working on a full-length and is making frequent tour stops throughout the northeast, playing gigs in New York and nearby their hometown Brunswick, New Jersey. An unbelievable band with charming qualities of musical dexterity, extreme creativity and plenty of bright ideas exchanged between members, their talents are at times immeasurable. Their performances live are surely sophisticated, yet they seem to still leave enough breathing room to catch the audience into their spell of pop escapism, without diving off into an abstract essence, something of which they are quiet capable. - Shawn M. Haney

Splendid E-Zine - 4/14/04

Skyline Rodeo's self-released three-song outing has a little twang mixed into its complex musical arrangements, which makes it sound a little like progressive alt-country -- if such an odd mixture is even humanly possible. Imagine if Rush had been raised on a steady diet of Lynyrd Skynyrd and The Allman Brothers Band, and you'll likely have yourself an approximation of what Skyline Rodeo sounds like. There's a distinctive disgusted emotion, not unlike old and angry Uncle Tupelo music, underpinning opener "Live Free or Die". In some places, Skyline Rodeo sounds like a jam band, albeit one that values pure precision over escalating varieties of loose dynamics. "Fire In The Hole" has a stuttering progressive feel, whereas "Primer Premier", at seven-plus-minutes long, sounds like a far more atmospheric REM. Given all this rootsy flavor, it's surprising to learn that these cosmic cowboy musicians actually hail from -- of all places -- New Brunswick, New Jersey. -- Dan Macintosh

Dance of Days (Austria) - 3/17/04

3 very long songs, the first almost 4 minutes, the second 4 and a half and the third 7 minutes. One song more and this would be a complete punk record concerning it's length. One could think that songs this long would be unbearable. But I have to admit this is cool. The official self discription uses words as "urgent guitars", "syncopated interweaving melodies", "asymmetrical rythms" and what nots nobody understads and well, you make up your mind, even if you don't know what these words exactly mean. To make something not easy a bit easier you can answer a question of self description like this "maybe the usual post-Fugazi stuff with some of this and that." - and tata, I can end this review right here, cause that's what i should have thought of. A good one this CD is. Thumbs up.(ad)

Mish Mash - March 2004

Here's a blistering set of three songs, and if you have any doubt, you should know that the first song is called Live Free Or Die. Skyline Rodeo delivers their punches with dissonant ferocity, fuzzy guitars and nasal-toned vocals. There's a hint of pop, but it's mostly jangly noise that rules the day.

The strongest tune is Fire In The Hole, a four and a half minute rampage that features a two-guitar assualt, which comes across with Fugazi-like furvor. It's a manic little song, which never quite settles into a groove, jumping in and out with rhythmically controlled confusion.

Strong and promising for a demo, would be interesting to see what they could do on a full release.

MISH MASH Mandate: Unforgettable Fire

EC Rocker, 3/3/04 issue

SKYLINE RODEO / self-titled / CD3
Sounding somewhat along the lines of Dumptruck-as-inspired-by-Television with a minor jazz and jam jones shaded by an offhand fondness for Luna-like spaciness, this New Brunswick quartet are all about counter melodies, abstract math, oddly played chord changes, coolly controlled chaos and a Feelies-fresh looseness. - Al Muzer

Tris McCall's blog on

Skyline Rodeo
Title: Skyline Rodeo

From: New Brunswick. Singer Morgan Chen lives in Plainfield, but all of these guys are Rutgers/Hub City rock veterans. Steve Bumgarner and Joe Dingerdissen used to play in the fiery Dewey Defeated, and Chen sang with Joshua Marcus in the pop-smart Makeout Party.

Format: Fifteen minute EP. There are only three songs here, but the last track is seven minutes long. Skyline Rodeo does not feel insubstantial. Yet since "Live Free Or Die" is the group's play for radio attention, you could also look at this as a maxi-single.

Fidelity: Decent, maybe a little thin-sounding.

Genre: Jersey indie rock. No curveballs.

Arrangements: Two guitars, one scratching out rhythm parts and the other squalling single notes and weaving patters in the treble range, bass guitar, standard small indie rock kit. No backing vocals. The last and longest track here is instrumental.

What's this record about?: "Live Free Or Die" has about six words in it, most of which are "fine time". It could be a celebration of hedonism, or a resignation to it; admiration of a dancing girl, or jealousy of her freedom. As a straightforward lust song, it doesn't require much more explication than what we're given. "Fire In The Hole", a more kinetic track, is a broadside about class politics. "Lower income out on their ghetto ass/favoring all the fat cats" sneers Chen, before deadpanning the tag line. On the second verse, Chen gets poetic, but hardly elliptical: "Hippies hide from the repo man/yuppies scream for the ice cream man/bullies preach 'these colors don't run'". Them's fighting words.

The singer: Morgan Chen is one of my favorite vocalists in New Jersey music. He can sound expressive, optimistic and assured, and then turn around and deliver a hectoring lyric with icy dispassion. If his performance on "Live Free Or Die" feels a little too cocksure, his pissed-off robot act on "Fire In The Hole" ought to be enough to humanize him. And if you like cocksure frontmen, Chen is your Jersey version: he doesn't swagger, he just stands there, hand out, holding the song in his palm. He reminds me of Tim Wheeler from Ash -- tuneful, a little bluesy, bending notes from time to time without being overly melismatic, rarely shouting, self-contained, confident, occasionally breathy, always human. In a state full of shouters, here's a rock and roll singer.

The band: Wow, drummer Joe Dingerdissen has sure developed from his days beating the skins for Dewey Defeated. He slams these songs all over highway 287, keeping mostly to rough stuff on the snare, but giving us a little of that rolling thunder from time to time. Chen underpins the songs with down a low, distorted rumble, and Bumgarner adds the pretty stuff over the top. Or is that the other way around? Hard they are, but this is not a heavy band; the "rodeo" is there in the name to let you know that they're here to rounding you up, not bludgeon you into submission.

The songs: Skyline Rodeo like long intros and outros -- "Live Free Or Die" opens with a signature riff (in 5/4 time, no less), and closes with thirty seconds of lead guitar. "Live Free" keeps to verse-chorus structure, and tacks on an end-of-song breakdown that essentially reiterates the opening guitar melody. "Fire In The Hole" -- built around one droning guitar chord and a shifting root note -- repeats verses and lets the band handle the release. When in doubt, Skyline Rodeo adds an instrumental section.

What distinguishes this record from other records of its genre?: I am not sure they're trying to be particularly distinctive. This recording is firmly within its tradition. See "recommended?".

What's not so good?: Jersey bands have an unfortunate tendency to underutilize -- sometimes even hide -- their singers. Considering what a winning presence Chen is, there's simply not enough of him here. I enjoy the seven-minute instrumental that closes this EP, but it's simply never going to be as meaningful as the other two songs. Even there, Skyline Rodeo takes too long to get to the singing, and dilly-dallies with instrumental bridges.

Recommended?: Among the many useful concepts entered into the rock critical lexicon by Jesse Fuchs is "The Steve Forbert". "I think the simplest way to put it", explains Jesse, "is that the Steve Forbert of a genre is that genre's acid test -- i.e., the signal that you value and enjoy the tropes and conventions of that particular genre. The trickier part is explaining why the Steve Forbert can't just be completely generic him or herself, and actually has to have some sort of distinctive personality, albeit a distinctive personality entirely circumscribed by the genre that they work in. To me, it's much easier to explain by simply stating that Boz Scaggs is the Steve Forbert of white soul." Jesse is a big Boz Scaggs fan. I'm a Skyline Rodeo fan, and a Jersey indie rock fan, too, and I strongly suggest that Skyline Rodeo is the Steve Forbert of Jersey indie rock recordings. It epitomizes the Hub City approach, while spinning out intelligent and thoughtful variations on it that always feel completely consistent with its core aesthetic.

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