Matt Skiba & The Sekrets - Babylon
Record Label: Superball Music/ Century Media
Release Date: May 8, 2012
For the past 7 years hearing new music by Matt Skiba was a bit of a mixed bag:
On the one the erstwhile so consistent Skiba gave us dark, gloomy and brilliant Heavens – with a lot of help from Josiah Steinbrick – he was also responsible for the weaker songs on the last Alkaline Trio records.
Songs whose apparent blandness and lack of ideas overshadowed Dan Andrianos still great songs and dragged the records down.
So expectations weren't as high as they once were when Skiba announced that he would release another solo record under the moniker of Matt Skiba and the Sekrets.
Fortunately for the listener, Skiba surpasses said expectations easily as Babylon is his best work in a while.
Why he decided to release these songs as a solo record and not incorporate them into a new Trio album however is a mystery, seeing how most of them sound like what the Trio would have sound like if they continued the path they first stepped on on Crimson back in 2005.
Opener "Voices" would have perfectly fit on Crimson, with its soaring guitars and the restrained but effective use of synthesizers. Skibas dark, personal lyrics and the catchy chorus make the song an easy choice for a first single and an early highlight among the songs.
The following "All fall down" is classic Trio and could have easily fit on From Here to Infirmary or Good Mourning. And while the lyrics, angst ridden and filled with Skibas usual bloody imagery are nothing new, they are effective:
All fall down for the last time dear / slowly drown when you hold me down
I cried out, no one answers me / You lie down, laugh yourself to sleep
"Luciferian Blues" is another highlight and might just be the best of the ten songs on Babylon.
The big, raw guitars are reminiscent of Maybe I'll Catch Fire Trio and, the song packs as big a punch as any song on said record did. Simple in its arrangement and played as straight forward as possible the songs builds upon Skibas knack for writing catchy tunes.
The first break with the Trio sound comes in form of the, in lack of a better term: power ballad „Haven't You?“
Showing Skibas calmer side, the synths, guitars and bass work perfectly to create a dark, yet catchy song that once again serves as a platform for Skibas angst filled and blood stained lyricism.
There’s an angel waiting in the shadows / Behind that big black window watching over me
And now I’m able to waltz through violent nightmares / of killing sprees and bomb scares /to kiss you on the cheek
And while the verses are a somewhat bland homage to his early writings, they actually work well with the lyrics of the huge chorus:
I thought I lost it all the day that I lost you. / It’s taken me until just now to find the truth / You’ve always been here haven’t you?
The rest of the songs follow the same pattern we're used to from Matt now, without ever getting boring or repetitive.
The record is a nice display of his talents as songwriter and his ability to make a lot (of interesting music) in the rather tight confines of his own artistic context.
While it was perfectly reasonable to not expect much from this record, given the quality of his more recent output, Matt Skiba actually seems to have bounced back and left the creative low behind.
Sure the songs do sound a lot like the Trio, not only because of Skibas vocals, but because of the structure of the songs, the metaphors used in the lyrics and even the themes of the lyrics.
There won't be any surprises for any person even vaguely familiar with Matt Skiba.
But in the case of Babylon, that is a good thing, as we get ten rock solid songs, somewhere between goth rock and pop punk with good, albeit a little cliched, lyrics that will keep fans occupied until the next Alkaline Trio Album.
A must for fans, and a good listen to anyone who likes Pop Punk and doesn't mind synths.