Review Summary: At the very least, the Matches could never be accused of avoiding trends.
Another Matches album, and yet another dramatic shift in styles. With 2006’s Decomposer
, the move was from the sincere, catchy pop-punk of their debut E. Von Dahl Killed The Locals
to furious dance-punk grooves. With A Band In Hope
, the Matches have embraced indie rock with a grounding in bombastic power-prog. At the very least, they could never be accused of avoiding
In their defence, A Band In Hope
is at least faithful to the original sources- Rush, the Clash, the Cure, the Undertones, etc.- rather than their trend-hopping peers. Yet A Band In Hope
is the Matches’ third record, and still there is not even a hint of a core sound- something to bind all the elements together, something to scream “I’m original” amid the chorus of diverse influences. While A Band In Hope
is easily the group’s most immediate and accessible record, it would perhaps be more believable if it was a compilation of fourteen different bands as a definitive statement by one now-veteran group.
The album kicks off on an awkward note, with the dire opening line: “Come now, what’s your name?/I’m not implying that come morning I’ll need to know/But you never know.”
Whether or not vocalist Shawn Harris was aiming for smooth or ironically awful is irrelevant- the effect is brutal. First impressions are difficult to recover from and, though the Matches make a fair go of it, A Band In Hope
never really recovers from its clunking introduction- sugary sweet and Robert Smith-influenced though the opening track may be.
A welcome introduction to the Matches cannon is a progressive hard rock influence as typified by the Harris’ Geddy Lee-aping vocals on ‘Their City’ and the Alex Lifeson-like dramatic guitar sweeps which accompany, or the chunky ‘More Than A Feeling’-like guitar riff that underpins ‘We Are One.’ The latter’s vocal track quite neatly bridges the short gap between Rush and Rage Against The Machine, once and for all proving the theory that all rock music produced since 1974 sounds pretty much the same. ‘Darkness Rising’ recalls Showbiz
-era Muse, matching a baroque piano motif with elegant dual-vocals before building to a show-stopping finish with gang vocals as if in a Broadway musical.
‘Point Me Toward The Morning’ harks back to the band’s early days with razor-sharp punk guitars, while ‘Between Halloweens’ recalls the frantic undercurrent of early Coheed and Cambria. ‘Clouds Crash’ is reminiscent of the Beatles’ ‘Across The Universe’ and highlight ‘If I Were You’ combines the paranoiac catchiness of Northern Ireland’s Undertones. The reggae groove of ‘Yankee In A Chip Shop’ is gloriously reminiscent of the latter-day Clash and ‘Wake The Sun’ combines the same with twee Grandaddy-like synths, but never do the Matches ever throw up something that sounds like the Matches
- and all the pure pop melodies and production tricks could never obscure such an essential missing ingredient.