Another emo band that is in the vein of Boys Night Out, Quickening, and The Early November. “Playing For Keeps” has more than a passing similarity to “Seventy Times Seven” in the aural sameness of the chorus, with Matchbook’s version only moving away from Brand New’s in the aural atmosphere inculcated into the track. A majority of the tracks on “Stories & Alibis” fall into the same dynamic with the smoothed-out vocals and slightly-distorted wall of sound put out by the guitars meshing together. “Promise” is an extremely clichéd track, with the guitars jumping from Good Charlotte to Simple Plan and Yellowcard in rapid succession. Aside from the similarity to other bands in the genre, Matchbook has a chronic lack of energy in their songs that slow down the flow of the disc. Silence predominates on “Stories & Alibis”, providing a worthy adversary to the music being played. The mix on “Stories & Alibis”, thus is just too quiet, and at times (Lovers & Liars being the most glaring example of this) the entire song has a feeling that it was funneled through a radio before being committed to CD. “Tiger Lily” grinds any momentum that Matchbook Romance might have to a halt, and while the track is wonderfully arranged, the effect that having such a slow-paced song this early on the disc is catastrophic for the band – this is the closing music, not something that should be stuck right on the middle of the disc.
The chiaroscuro in a track like “Shadows Like Statues” is imperfect, in that Matchbook Romance cannot continual move from the light strains of the disc to the harder and chunkier guitars without some chaos added to the track. “Shadows Like Statues” is disconcerting in the sense that the band does not seem to be on the same page, more often than not putting two equally loud or attention-needing instruments/vocals together, or just staggering them enough that both are washed out by the resulting distortion.
Even if does suffer from the same quiet mix that plagues “Stories & Alibis”, “My Eyes Burn” is a great example of a late-disc track that is solidly done, with proper spacing between all instruments, impressive arrangement (look at the guitar/drum dynamic), and a radio-friendly sound that will have fans in droves picking up this album. “Stories & Alibis” is an aurally-pleasing album, but the originality of the disc and the unfortunate mixing are two major factors that drag this disc down.
Top Tracks: My Eyes Burn, Tiger Lily
Matchbook Romance – Stories & Alibis / 12 Tracks / 2004 Epitaph / http://www.matchbookromance.com / http://www.epitaph.com / Reviewed 03 August 2004