For Fans Of
Hailed as Matt Skiba‘s debut solo release, this is perhaps deceptive. This is the first release of Matt Skiba and The Sekrets, which features Hunter Burgan of AFI on bass, and My Chemical Romance‘s Jarrod Alexander on drums. A fan of Alkaline Trio, I’d always enjoyed their brand of humour and darker take on Pop-Punk’s sugary sweetness. I figured that a seperate band fronted by Matt Skiba would be something radically different. With the album art, the band name and album title, you’d be mistaken for thinking this could be anything from Dark Cabaret to Melodic Death Metal. But it was none of this, really. In fact, it sounds pretty much exactly like Alkaline Trio.
The album opens with Voices, and for the next three tracks that follow, you’d be forgiven for thinking these were to be Alkaline Trio‘s next couple of singles. They are very similar to 2010’s This Addiction, both musically and in lyrical content, as well as to their early work, which This Addiction was a return to. It seems Skiba is not willing to move out of his comfort zone. His juxtaposition of horror imagery with high-school romance, whilst charming in Alkaline Trio is somewhat grating when he’s trying to create a seperate project here. It begs the question as to why this simply was not the next Alkaline Trio album 2011’s Damnesia featured only a couple of new tracks, and it’s clear from this album that Skiba has plenty of writing left in him.
Tracks number five through to nine sound like a flashback to AT‘s 2005 and 2008 efforts, Crimson and Agony and Irony. It kind of almost plays like a retrospective… which is not at all the idea behind it. None the less, although his lyrical themes are grating to all but the new listener, Skiba retains the trademark warmth, whimsy and black humour he is known for. However, with titles like "Luciferian Blues" and "Angel of Deaf", they’re beginning to sound a bit old hat.
Ambition and similarity to previous material aside, the album is catchy and tightly produced. Full of memorable hooks and and the harmonies, (plucked straight from AT) the album is a pleasurable, if perhaps easy listening. Though tracks six through to nine make use of the same ideas that Skiba used largely in AT‘s Crimson, the use of Synths here is a very welcome addition, and are very snugly added in.
Whilst the second-last track, How The Hell Did We Get Here? is fairly typical stock, the final track, Angel of Deaf sits as the album’s absolute highlight. An acoustic track, with the album’s now running immaculate production, added with tight songwriting, and some of the most restrained lyrics makes it great as a pop song and a firework to set off after the dull anticipation of the rest of the album.
Don’t go into this expecting anything new if you’re familiar with Skiba’s previous work. It is very much the same, and not perhaps as original as it seemed when it first came from Alkaline Trio in previous years. The production is tight and clean, exemplary even. However, the album is let down by the lack of evolution shown in the artist’s songwriting, and the stagnation that has caused this. This is not perhaps the first album you’d show to your friend while trying to explain why you’re Matt Skiba’s number one fangirl, but if you are already Matt Skiba’s numer one fangirl, you may just appreciate this more than the general audience, or even AT’s fanbase. It’s really more of the same, but if you can’t get enough of the same, enjoy.
2. All Fall Down
3. Luciferan Blues
4. Haven’t You?
5. The End of Joy
8. Falling Like Rain
9. How The Hell Did We Get Here?
10. Angel of Deaf