Saturday, August 28, 2010


Matt Skiba
Asian Man Records

“This time next September, you’ll always be dismembered.”

The album title’s not just a clever name. Skiba recorded Demos at home on his computer, in-between stints with Alkaline Trio and side-project Heavens. At first, it sounds like a guilty pleasure. One the uninitiated might not appreciate. But the more you listen, the more it starts to take shape and catch up on you.

“I’d love to sing love songs, but I’m stuck with the blues. The razor blade blues,” sings Skiba. “I think it’s time that I told you what goes on inside this deep, dark and haunted head of mine.” The lyrics are typically dark and Skiba-esque, even when he’s being optimistic; “I’m doing way better these days, thoughts of dying only comes in short waves.”

Most of the songs are stripped-down, guitar-only Skiba ballads with a few synth and midi effects: sparse, eerie and haunting. Others sound like Alkaline Trio and Heavens demos Skiba kept for himself. With programmed drums and a fuller, band sound, “Nausea (Cruel and Usual)” and “Into Thin Air” sound like a pretty complete Heavens b-sides.

“How the Hell Did We Get Here?” and “Red, White and You” sound like they were written for Crimson. “Unknown pleasures, burn your sunken treasure…” sings Skiba on “Red, White and You,” an obvious nod to heroes Joy Division. “S.O.S” sounds like classic, catchy Alkaline Trio (minus Andriano and Grant).

“Nausea… I got so sick of you.” Lyrically, Skiba shows off his Misfits-inspired, dark sense of humour. “I can’t hear a goddamn thing,” he sings on “Angel of Deaf.” “Open your ears, stop, drop and roll and listen…” And my favourite, “This time next September, you’ll always be dismembered.”

Overall, the sound’s pretty far removed from Skiba’s more stripped down, acoustic-only, 2002 split EP with Kevin Seconds. It’s a fair representation of Skiba’s entire career. Still, Demos is surprisingly cohesive: moody, atmospheric and melancholic, with Skiba’s underlying catchy, murder-pop sound. In the end, helped by its low-fi, DIY feel, Demos feels more heartfelt, honest and touching than the past few Alkaline Trio albums. No gimmicks. Just Skiba.

Matt Skiba on MySpace

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