Anyone who’s been keeping an eye on the latest releases to be spat forth from the hormonal hellhole that is ‘emo-rock’ will know that the movement’s been going through something of a transitionary period of late. A cursory listen to Thrice’s new album, Vheissu, reveals a wealth of ideas more in line with Cave-In *or *Isis *than their emo peers while newcomers *Circa Survive’s post-hardcore brilliance overshadows the rugged softly/screamy approach with an epic dynamism rarely seen in today’s hair-oriented climate. Even Panic! At The Disco, despite possessing a rather irritating vocalist and equally irritating name, have proved that they’re prepared to break the mould through the incorporation of a cello, violin, honky-tonk piano, accordian and even techno on their latest release.
And so, despite the Give It A Bomb *(sorry, _Name_) festival encroaching further from the horizon, it seems time is starting to run out for the identikit hair-mo brigade (see: *Aiden,* Hawthorne Heights*, et cetera). It seems unlikely they'll make it through to next year with little more than a well-thumbed emo rule book and bulging make-up bag.
So what of Matchbook Romance? They don’t have a cellist, they haven’t written prog-like six-minute epics and they haven’t consciously taken things in a radically different direction a la Thrice. But what their latest album _Voices _does do is blow their contemporaries clean out of the water with a proficiency and adept song-writing ability literally unheard of in the emo world before now.
Who’da thought it, eh? Emo just got good.
Course, we always knew they were talented song-writers – their debut Stories and Alibis, released at the cusp of the MySpace generation boom (if you’re not sick of that term already, boy will you want to tear your ears off by the end of the year!), hammered home tune after tune over the kind of thick, taut guitars that earned them a place at the forefront of the scene, while their acoustic contributions to their split with Motion City Soundtrack showed an uncanny knack for penning deeply moving and affectionately well-written songs.
But this, _this _is something else!
With a noticeably darker theme, surrounding “the feeling that you’re stuck in a dream world” (to quote vocalist Andrew Jordan), with stronger, perhaps more ‘grown-up’ lyrical concerns than their previous release, this is an album that often veers towards despondence yet lifts you up through surging instrumentation and a melodic brilliance that jolts you from self-indulgent emo-reticence to a bright-eyed and focussed determination.
The unique touch of producer John Goodmanson *(Blood Brothers, *Hot Hot Heat) clearly hasn’t gone unnoticed, adding a new dimension and character to their wondrous guitar interplay and vocal layering that consistently keeps you on your toes; but, decorated with a variety of Muse-isms, such as the guitar intro to ‘Surrender’ _which bears a curious resemblance to that of _‘New Born’, it's an album that simply excels, blowing the roof off of the emo hut with driving vocals and unashamedly indulgent riff-outs. And, it seems this, more than anything else, is what MB have in spades: RIFFS, and huge, big chunky ones at that, evidently given an equal playing field with the vocals and all the better for it.
However, it takes a song like ‘What A Sight’ _to really show what they’re capable of; a masterclass in the art of a love song, at first trembling with timidity, but constantly growing and building until it opens up and blossoms into a radiant, majestic chorus with an undulating string section bringing the kind of colour and warmth to the line: _“Don’t ever forget me, I’d thought I’d lost you.” It just begs for inclusion on a future teen-movie epic.
Clearly, the concept of the ‘difficult’ second album has cleared the collective heads of MB by a country mile because _Voices _is quite simply a stunning sophomore album. It's an exceptionally accomplished piece of work that should place Matchbook Romance at the forefront of the cutting edge, POST-emo scene.
10Mat Hocking's Score