Yes, the band's name, the album title, and the song titles ('Playing For Keeps', 'Lovers & Liars', 'Stay Tonight', 'She'll Never Understand') all scream "EMO!" like no record ever has before, but there's something unnaturally likeable about New York State's Matchbook Romance... Unnatural because usually by now -- I'm on my second listen -- I'd have choked on my own syrupy-lyrics-induced vomit. But I haven't. I'm almost enjoying it.
When I first heard Matchbook Romance, on this year's Atticus compilation 'Dragging The Lake II', I thought nothing of them. They just sounded like another band following in the footsteps of the commercially viable Drive-Thru born and bred nu-emo sound. But now I've changed my opinion. It's fair enough to say that there's nothing here that's going to sound remarkably original if you've heard the likes of Taking Back Sunday and The Get Up Kids, but 'Stories And Alibis' is so polished, and the band's story so unique, that it's hard not to be won over by these four boys with the familiar problems with women.
Matchbook Romance aren't just another mass-produced nu-emo act looking for a slice of the disenchanted teen audience pie, oh no. They've steadily built up legions upon legions of fans through promoting themselves tirelessly through word of mouth. The band set up a website, and after a long slog of DIY self-promotion, Epitaph's Brett Gurewitz came-a-calling. Apparently the band thought he was joking. One thing that's definitely not to be scoffed at though is the quality of the band's first release for the label.
With a solid, technically proficient backbone of drums (courtesy of the staggeringly talented Aaron Stern) and bass (Ryan Kienle), Matchbook Romance do one thing perfectly that so many of their peers neglect in favour of sounding overly pained; they let their singer sing. Andrew Jordan's voice is perfect for music like this, and will have the girls soiling themselves with excitement three songs in. The screams are kept to a minimum, which is a very, very good thing, with them only really noticeable on closing track 'The Greatest Fall (Of All Time)'. A couple of shitty slow-paced acoustic numbers and occasionally too-sweet lyrics aside, what you're left with is a record that would be the equal of The Get Up Kid's 'Something To Write Home About', if only praising such a record wasn't such a journalistic faux pas in this anti-emo climate.
Ah, fuck faux pas... This record is good. 'Something To Write Home About' is good. Taking Back Sunday's 'Tell All Your Friends' is good... To hell with being credible. Go buy this and smile for 45 minutes. I can't say I'm definitely going to play it for a third time, but 'Stories And Alibis' is fun whilst it lasts, and if the above bands do it for you, you're going to play this record into the ground. Promising stuff.