1. You Can Run, But We'll Find You
3. My Mannequin Can Dance
4. Good, Like Two Shoes
6. Say it Like You Mean It
8. Singing Bridges (We All Fall)
10. What a Sight
11. I Wish You Were Here
The science of band growth and progressive sound development is a wracking, if not futile investigation. Yet there is some insight to be sought in the metamorphoses of scene-chameleons Matchbook Romance. Could you ask for a more ideal case study?
Over five years ago, buzz ran rampant throughout my middle school hallways that high school drummer Aaron Stern had a new band with some killer pop punk tunes. The Getaway was THE local band, and “Ex Marks the Spot” was a revelation for my younger New Found Glory obsessed self. Pre-pubescent sounding vocals, lyrics reminiscent of notes passed during class, and a whimsical stream of buoyant power chords… just my forte, and just what labels were looking to cash in on. But who knew this buzz would result in Epitaph’s heightened interest and eventual signing of a relatively unheard of 4 piece? And based off of one single shoddy mp3 demo track?! Clearly, we have an archetypal success story on our hands, and this… merely the prologue.
Let’s fast forward to the end though, or should I say the present for a moment. What I know now is that Matchbook Romance have an impeccable sense of what the French refer to as “l’esprit du temps”. It is somewhat of a phenomenon, this enigmatic ability to draw upon a strategic set of current buzz bands, and regurgitate (for lack of a better word) their own slick new package, one that is as attractive as the average of its parts; a blessing and a curse that any band in this hemisphere of the globe would readily endure. Verbose, I know… but join me for some time travel, and you’ll see:
The Getaway’s original demos, as I said, were a keen mixture of pre-teen heroes New Found Glory, Mest, Blink 182, etc. But with the record deal came the change of name and a subsequent alteration of sound. The genre trademark of screams and dual vocals fought at the frontline of the band’s West for Wishing EP creating a sound akin to early Finch and Taking Back Sunday. As Brand New, Coheed and Cambria, Fall Out Boy, and Yellowcard were called to the head of the class, the whine-like scream trend saw the beginning of its demise, adamantly reflected in Stories and Alibis, Matchbook Romance’s debut full length which subtracted the screams even from older songs which once relied on them. Again and again, the essence of recycling already successful sounds lingered over each record. Nevertheless, Matchbook Romance had enough tact and sense of distinction to blur the lines between being influenced and ripping off; they continuously walked the high wire between the salivating jaws of those hungry to ravage their technique and the outspread arms of those singing high praises (proof).
In the face of potential demise and yet, also on the brink of potential explosion, what is a band to do but… you guessed it... evolve once more. What we have is a pattern or even a system that refuses to die, and since the release of Stories and Alibis, the giant, screeching, mechanical MBR with wings has prowled the highs and lows, the ups and downs of a shifting scene, sinking its fangs into the fleshy throats of buzz bands left and right. First it was Muse, sucked dry of their single string guitar attacks (see “Hysteria”, then see MBR’s “My Mannequin Can Dance”) and instrumental crescendos, then Gatsby’s American Dream fell quivering to the concrete pale and lifeless having been relinquished of their offbeat charm and 3 note waltz breakdown (see “Shhhhh! I’m Listening to Reason”, then see MBR’s “Goody, Like Two Shoes”), and soon after Thrice, My Chemical Romance, Midtown and Brand New met similar fates. Even The Postal Service might recognize a shade of themselves about 57 seconds into “What a Sight” (see “Such Great Heights”). After much churning and grinding, the end product is Voices… and it certainly is what Alternative Press so accurately deemed “the new noise”.
Voices is definitely the sound of a band evolving, even if relying on the evolutions of others. Taking cues from all of the incredible aforementioned artists, Matchbook Romance fabricate what is by far and away their best effort, a record once again disparate enough to earn respect as a unique entity. This is the sound that every band around seems to be striving towards, and it’s no wonder… the choruses hook, the bridges soar, the upbeat pulses, the methodic is dark and pensive, the slow is emotive, every desirable cliché you could ask for is present. Finally, to the relief of listeners everywhere, singer Andrew Jordan is utilizing his actual voice and has never sounded better. There is a darkness that pervades this record that does nothing but titillate and haunt you, tip-toeing up your spine with a composite slew of infectious riff-age and rhythm so relentless, it’s almost overwhelming at times. Songs like album opener “You Can Run, But We’ll Find You”, “Goody, Like Two Shoes”, and “Portrait” are instant favorites, contagious and impactful in this new sinister tone. Just try and tell me you can deny the crooning solos in “Singing Portraits”, and I’ll be taken aback. On the other hand, in usual Matchbook fashion, don't be surprised if one or two tracks don't do anything for you at all.
For the most part, MBR look stunning in their new wardrobe and dance a delicately seductive modern rock ballet that seems such a natural fit, you’d think it was always crouched beneath the surface just aching for exposure. In all honesty, Leonardo Da Vinci himself could not have painted a better portrait of the direction of our scene as it stands. Perhaps these “voices” are those of a new breed of rock bands, whispering of an innovative sound wave, a contemporary movement. In any case, it must be true what they say about ghosts of the past because amazingly, all these years later, I still haven’t escaped the exuberant buzz of Aaron Stern’s “must hear” rock and roll band.
Will Matchbook Romance ever really forge their own path, or will their sail forever be carried by the winds of others? Frankly it doesn’t seem to matter if the music sounds this compelling. At the bottom of it all, Voices is an exceptional new chapter in this success story, but the twists and turns aren't as surprising as they are predictable.