The Matches – Decomposer

The Matches

Decomposer, The Matches’ second album, is a haven for high school iconography, but not as one would assume. Rather than through the lyrics or instrumentation, the album’s keystone rests in the liner notes. Lending assistance is a cavalcade of big names, including Tim Armstrong (Rancid), John Feldmann (Goldfinger), Mark Hoppus (blink-182), Nick Hexum (311), Brett Gurewitz (Epitaph Records founder), and others. Does it show? Well, the production on the album delivers a surprisingly distinct, crisp sound, but I doubt many people would be able to listen to a track and pinpoint the superstar involved. Well, I’d guess adorning a jewel case with their names is probably a sure-fire way to push some copies, anyway.

But, wait, what about the people actually playing the music?

The Matches aren’t going to score any points for originality. At this point, pop punk isn’t particularly a genre in need of a brazen pioneer, but some recognizable deviation from the genre’s typical format would be a blessing. Chugged guitars, whiny hooks, and the edge of an occasional scream dominate what you’ll be hearing – Decomposer, like so many so-called “MTVmo” albums today, is a requisite laundry list of tried-and-true tactics and themes.

I won’t make any assumptions about the members or where their music is coming from, but what I gather from the songs on this album is little more than melodramatic hoopla, banal discourse on temporal affairs (“What little I learned about love is at my heart’s expense”) and clichéd, everyday happenings turned tumultuous (“Paid rent four weeks delayed / Fucked up in a three-point turn / Can’t give two shits these days / Packed one bag, no return”).

Album opener “Salty Eyes,” in all of its passionate, stripped-down elegance, initiates a completely different sound than the ensuing tracks, but the stylish yet frail soundscape disintegrates far too quickly to be truly savored. Following tracks introduce some electronic elements – which, I must say, are handled pretty well – but far too often are complacent to fall back on (generally) generic guitar playing for propulsion, just as the song lyrics tread the safe ground of adolescent experience. Comfort is found in the staccato notes strewn about “Clumsy Heart,” but not enough to salvage an overall dismal experience.

Should we judge bands as they present themselves or as we perceive them? If we operate on the basis of the first option, we have to evaluate The Matches as “Myspace romancer”s, a phrase attained from a line in their song “Papercut Skins.” Now, either their collective tongue is buried so far in their proverbial cheek that the lingual organ is protruding from the side of their face, or they’re making an unfettered, obscene effort to tap into what has proved to be a rich niche. I’ve my mind made up, so I’ll leave it to you to make a definitive choice.