Capsule Review: The Matches

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March 25, 2008

5:25 AM

Oakland’s The Matches haven’t lost an ounce of the ambition that they infused into 2006’s “Decomposer.” Like their previous albums, The Matches third album on Epitaph Records, “A Band in Hope,” employs multiple producers, including Goldfinger, 311 and Rancid, allowing for what seems like the emergence of a different band on each track. This might sound like a recipe for disaster. It isn’t. The album’s thumping drums, clean guitars and soaring vocals will stop you in your tracks — it’s theatrock with pop sensibilities.

p. “Darkness Rising” channels Queen with operatic falsettos, erupting in a fury of crashing thunder and straight up Les Mis-style gang vocals. Cheesy? Sure, but tell that to your fist, because it’ll still be raised high. Vocalist/songwriter Shawn Harris legitimizes the cheese factor with clever lyrics; “Maybe a saint is just a dead prick with a good publicist,” he sings on “To Build a Mountain.” It’s hard to compare The Matches to other alternative rock bands because of their schizophrenic sound, but their theatrics are a nod to bands like My Chemical Romance. The deal breaker for “A Band in Hope” might be “Wake the Sun.” Harris keeps it vague, singing about “dragging a sheep skin” and “speaking tongues of kingdom come” while guitars squeal a pretty coda. The risk pays off. The line “Wake up the sun, hangin’ like a chain” bounces from the speakers like Peter Gabriel’s “Saulisbury Hill.” If The Matches continue to make songs as incendiary and engaging as this, they’ll be sure to hypnotize thousands of new fans.

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