March 21, 2014

YOUTH GROUP’s Skeleton Jar turns 10!

Skeleton Jar turns 10!

This week 10 years ago the Coalition of the Willing had been in Iraq a year, Facebook was six weeks old, everyone was loving ‘Hey Ya’ by Outkast and not everyone had mobile phones (I didn’t. I was still using the home phone with mini answering machine tape).

It was also the week that our second album Skeleton Jar came out. We didn’t expect it at the time, but this record was to change lots of things for us. It brought us a bigger audience, a release in the States and Europe and tours that lasted longer than a weekend. It has remained many people’s favourite Youth Group album. I think it’s fair to say that Skeleton Jar changed our lives, but that wasn’t to happen til 2005 really…

I remember the day it came out. I went to do a slot on Sydney’s community radio station FBI where I picked two favourite songs and the Dj’s voted on whether they were duds or not. I chose something by Neutral Milk Hotel (thumbs up) and Graceland by Paul Simon (two thumbs down, noses turned…this was four years before the Vampire Weekend afro-pop re-revolution, remember). Afterwards I went to the Courthouse Hotel on Australia St and drank in the beer garden with my compadres under the frangipani. And then we went home. It felt satisfying, but certainly not life-changing.

Skeleton Jar was made at a turbulent time for us, and is a minor miracle that it was made at all. We went through several line-up changes during the recording. When we began it was Danny, Andy, Paul and I. Then Andy left, then Johnno joined, then Paul left, then Cam joined, and then Johnno left too. By the time we toured the album in August 2004 Patrick had joined. These changes were no bad thing: all these people put their unique musical stamp on Skeleton Jar and I think the record was better for all the different inputs. We were also lucky enough to have a record label – Ivy League – that championed us despite the fact they were going through trials of their own. And we were fortunate to have a producer in Wayne Connolly who was tirelessly creative and ceaselessly witty.

For me personally, it was made during the most turbulent period of my life. Some four months before recording it I actually doubted if I would ever make a record again. Making Skeleton Jar got me out of a very bad rut.

When I listen to it now I am surprised at how raucous it sounds. For some reason it has taken on a mellow quality in my memory. But in reality not so: Danny is hitting the drums hard, sometimes it sounds like I am yelping. I can see why Biddy drew the moaning bear for the cover.

Our deepest thanks to everyone who bought it, came to see us play, shared their enjoyment with us. I’m so glad we put this album out. Happy Birthday Skeleton Jar!



Shadowland was the first single released from Youth Group’s 2nd album “Skeleton Jar”. The album was released in Australia on 22nd March 2004 by Ivy League records, and subsequently re-released by Epitaph records in the USA in 2005.


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