If you can recall the names of obscure melodic hard rock bands like Shotgun Symphony, Arcara and Shoot the Doctor — and remember liking their music — you just might dig New Jersey's Skin Tag, which features players from those bands. The quintet's music wafts out of the speakers like an old friend who walks through your front door after years of absence. There is a warm familiarity to the 10 windows-down songs on Beauty Mark, Skin Tag's debut. Bereft of pissin', moanin' and bitchin', the album plays like an ode to a bygone era — one in which decent vocals, catchy melodies and something to say about love were the primary prerequisites for a halfway-decent rock song.
Led by affable vocalist Jimmy Lawrence, whose voice is neither too gratingly high nor too somberly low, Skin Tag kicks off Beauty Mark with "Brother," which boasts a confident riff that teases listeners with a heavy sound not carried out through the rest of the album, except on "You Gotta Love It," "Under My Skin" and "Forever in My Life." And kinda-sorta ballads like "All The Way Home," "Remember the Times" and "Standing in the Rain" impressively reach the top but don't quite go over it.
"On the Run" closes the disc with an upbeat performance that rivals anything from Bad English's 1989 self-titled debut — How's that for reaching back into the vault of band references? — as Lawrence sings with a swagger that recalls John Waite and Lou Gramm. Skin Tag break no new ground on Beauty Mark, but that won't make this record any less enjoyable for listeners who prefer their rock a little less extreme.