I really wasn’t expecting The Matches to sound as they do on “E. Von Dahl”, because they play a catchy brand of pop-punk in the same spirit as Blink-182 or New Found Glory. After spinning through most of the CD, I finally realized why The Matches were signed to Epitaph. Each track is perfectly crafted, hard to remove from one’s ears, and The Matches pull off this album so well that Epitaph would have done the band a disservice if they hadn’t signed them. Before actually sitting down to review this album, I had spunk “Chain Me Free”, which wasn’t very impressive at the time, and after getting home, I found that The Matches were on the Santa Cause compilation CD. Their track on the disc, “December Is For Cynics”, really began to make me wonder whether I had a decent view on their sound based on the one cut off of the track. While there are not any tracks as immediate classics as “December Is For Cynics” was, the entire “E. Von Dahl” is a solid disc, full of pop-punk melodies and smatterings of metal guitar, not unlike Sum 41. “Sick Little Suicide” is probably the most stunning example of the multi-part harmonies and metal riffs that Sum 41 made prevalent, but The Matches did perfectly. Shawn, Jon, and Justin’s tri-partite harmony on the last track is a perfect example of saving the best for last; with the only accompaniment to their vocals are a Spartan synth and an acoustic guitar, the band shows that they don’t need a traditional two guitar/bass/drum dynamic to make a successful track.
Straddling the edge between pop-punk and emo-rock, The Matches aurally assault their listeners from he first track of “E. Von Dahl” to the last; “Dog-Eared Page” has the oddball metaphors and cough syrup-smooth lyrics of a Brand New or Taking Back Sunday, but the simplicity of guitars of a Unwritten Law or Smile Empty Soul. In what is truly uncommon for a band nowadays, there is not a single weak track on “E. Von Dahl”, rather a number of solid, above-average tracks that sound as good on the first listen as on the fifteenth. “Chain Me Free” is only one of a considerable number of tracks on this disc that are of such a nature to be on popular rock radio, but are done in such a way to satisfy individuals who are of the more traditional Epitaph mindset on things. Two people are deserving of praise here: Mr. Brett for giving The Matches a chance, and The Matches themselves for putting out such an anthemic record.
Top Tracks: Chain Me Free, Blank
The Matches – E. Von Dahl Killed The Locals / 2004 Epitaph Records / 12 Songs / http://www.thematches.com / http://www.epitaph.com / Reviewed 24 May 2004