It took an acoustic guitar and an appearance on MTV for many slow-thinking critics to get to the bottom of Nirvana's beauty. A few fans number The Cure's acoustic sets as its crowning achievement. Then again, Dashboard Confessional made unplugged punk rock all the rage again, as a slew of wannabes -- see Onelinedrawing, The Lyndsay Diaries, et. al -- have realized that an acoustic six string and a few open chords are the way into a generation's panties and pocketbooks.
Fortunately for Matchbook Romance and Motion City Soundtrack, their acoustic split EP -- which contains a mere two songs from each artist -- lands closer to Nirvana Unplugged as much as acousta-emo pose-down. A couple young acts weigh in with a pair of nice, simple and minimal songs that don't just give fans a few new cuts over which to obsess, but shows that underneath the clashing rhythms and buzzing guitars, both are stunning songwriters.
Although a couple cuts doesn't necessarily make the bands graduate into the world of superstar songwriters, this split should help the bands melt some of the icy reception new acts receive. Matchbook Romance fares the best, thanks to the band's sparse strumming and ear for dynamics that's not based on stompboxes -- check out the crashing climax of "In Transit," with its keyboards and careening ride cymbals for proof. Singer/guitarist Andrew Jordan leads his crew through a couple tracks that are no less emotionally wrenching and cathartic as if they were plugged in.
Motion City Soundtrack takes a different approach. With shaky power chords chunking their way through verses in "When 'You're' Around," the track relies upon vocals to keep it moving. "Sunday Warning" features a more elaborate arrangement, with lurking keyboards that flesh out the number. Although Motion City Soundtrack doesn't survive the translation to the unplugged world, this split lets the band stretch its legs outside the pacing and power of punk that casts new light on its songwriting.
- Will Stanford