theHELL - Sauve Les Requins (Cover Artwork)
Staff Pick


Sauve Les Requins (2012)


Over time Alkaline Trio has combined more and more influences from pop-rock and post-punk like the Cure, Berlin and Sisters of Mercy with their more traditional punk rock influences like T.S.O.L. and Pegboy. theHELL, Matt Skiba's latest project, sounds like what would have happened if Alkaline Trio had kept to more of a strict punk/pop-punk template. Rather than regression, Sauvez Les Requins sounds more inspired than Skiba's work has in some time.

"Gasoline" announces theHELL with a cacophony of noise that sounds like pick slides and palm muting, with indecipherable vocals whispering just behind it. Although this might sound somewhat unconventional for a pop-punk song it works surprisingly well with the general production style which seems to favor reverb. This does take some getting used to, but after the relative gloss of Alkaline Trio's recent records and Heavens, it is a welcome change. "Vas Te Faire Foutre" uses similar whispering backup vocals which in other hands might come off as comical but Matt Skiba proves why he is basically the current authority on writing great melancholy punk rock.

The real surprise of the EP is "R.R.R.", which is a bright and bouncy pop-punk song. It might otherwise sound out of place on a dark album like this to have something so seemingly upbeat but the production and lyrics really tie the whole thing together. In some ways the song reminds me of some of Skiba's earliest material.

Sure, "Vas Te Faire Foutre" and "Nowhere Left" do sound like they could be outtakes from From Here To Infirmary, so it easy to question why these weren't Alkaline Trio songs. However, at least aesthetically, these songs stand on their own as something unique, and you get Atom Willard's first-rate drumming.