I am going to be up-front with you right now: This band is not for everyone. In fact, there are a good many of you that are going to straight up hate this album. There are quite a few reading this that would probably rather place nails in their ears than ever listen to this band. I, however, am not one of those people. In fact - I think this is one of the best albums to be released this year and one of the most creative and innovative bands to be creating pop/punk/rock music in our, or any, genre.
Combining a variety of styles, musical influences, lyrical themes, and utilizing a smorgas-board of producers, The Matches have crafted an album full of balls-to-the-wall anthems that are sure to raise the temperature on your adrenal gland. Taking the band's already established catchy-pop sound (see: E. Von Dahl Killed the Locals) and applying a few new layers on to the top of it, The Matches' new album starts strong and continually raises the bar with each passing track. The circus-like "Salty Eyes" opens the album and bleeds seamlessly into anthem, after anthem, of angst, grit, determination, and pure unadulterated fun.
Every song stands alone as a unique creation, yet when played together as a whole, the album flows and keeps the listener guessing. Stand out tracks: "Drive" raises your pulse, "Clumsy Heart" infects your brain, "What Katie Said" bites at the tongue, "Lazier Than the Furniture" pushes the sweat glands into overdrive, "You (Don't) Know Me" begs for dancing shoes, "Didi (My Doe Part 2)" forces pogo-like head-bobs, and "The Barber's Unhappiness" tugs at the heart-strings. The band refuses to play it safe, and while they most certainly could have written the next huge pop-punk album and been the next Fall Out Boy - they push themselves musically and creatively. In the end the listener is rewarded with a better album, and the band should be rewarded with a lasting career that extends far beyond being just a theatrical-flash-in-the-pan (catchy) band.
Never writing the same song twice and never falling into any sort of predictable pattern, the album becomes one in which the listener can find something new with each and every listen. Not only is the album smart (and the lyrics devilishly witty), but the songs are fun. Not in a cheesy or forced manner, but in such a way that the obvious excitement and fun that went in to making the album comes across in each song. You can't help but smile. Quite frankly, one of the things I'm looking forward to most is seeing the new songs performed live. The Matches have always had one of the better lives shows I've been privy to seeing. It goes without saying these new tunes were written to be played in front of a sweat-drenched crowd.
This album has become like Say Anything's ...Is a Real Boy for me. It's one of those albums you recommend to all of your friends and a few of them love it and a few of them hate it; however, you keep plugging it to anyone that will listen. And with that - I give it my highest recommendation and can assure you it will be highly placed on my end of the year list.
In my opinion, the faults of this album lie only with the ear of the listener. I fully understand the vocal criticisms as Shawn's voice at times registers in the higher octaves, and is certainly not for everyone. Furthermore, I understand that some listeners may not fully grasp some of the off-the-wall lyrical concepts that can be found on this album. There are others, like me, that will find the vocal styling unique and a well needed departure from the current scene clichés. The same can be said for the lyrics.
It's really up to you to decide which category you fit in. I fully expect this album to be extremely polarizing. Love it or hate it - there doesn't seem to be a middle ground. In fact, I think this album's biggest flaw is setting the standard so high that their follow-up won't be able to live up to my newly set expectations.
Final Verdict: 95%