Unglued Reviews

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THE MATCHES – A Band In Hope (Epitaph)

Original release date: March 18th, 2008

The Matches - A Band In Hope coverAfter their debut record of quirky yet mostly straightforward pop-punk, The Matches’ sophomore album Decomposer drew more on alternative rock and was more experimental, and also found the band collaborating with no less than nine different producers. Third album A Band In Hope largely continues this approach – while Mike Green is the producer of choice for half the album, the remaining tracks are split between six others, including Tim Armstrong and John Feldmann, and the album covers as many genres and influences as producers.

The summery Wake The Sun and upbeat, optimistic If I Were You are catchy pop-driven singalongs, Their City and to a lesser extent We Are One sound like ’80s stadium rock, while the hymn-like Darkness Rising relies on upright piano and choral vocals for half of its length before exploding into an operatic conclusion that recalls Queen. Between Halloweens is similarly bombastic, whereas Point Me Towards The Morning is the kind of pop-punk gem the band used to knock out all the time.

If that’s not enough variety, there are also some tracks that refuse to be pigeonholed, like eclectic opener AM Tilts (which encompasses influences ranging from dub to metal), oddly addictive To Build A Mountain (which has some great lyrics) and pulsing, atmospheric From 24C, an aching, sharp confessional portrait of a twisted relationship worthy of Jarvis Cocker.

Apparently the band rewrote much of the album following Decomposer’s lukewarm sales, and the scattershot approach can be seen as evidence of trying to find a hit. But maybe they’ve tried too hard and been too ambitious: A Band In Hope is uneven and it’s the simpler songs – such as the slight but enjoyable Yankee In A Chip Shop (co-written with Tim Armstrong) – that fare best.

Owen Heitmann

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