Matt Skiba and the Sekrets - Kuts (Cover Artwork)
Staff Review

Matt Skiba and the Sekrets

Kuts (2015)

Superball Music

Matt Skiba is a cult hero. I say that proudly as someone with a heart and skull embedded deeply into my right arm. For almost two decades, he’s written some of the most masterfully relatable lyrics, and on Kuts, his second album with the Sekrets, he delivers more of the same.

Kuts, like Babylon before it, sounds more or less like current day Alkaline Trio but leans heavily on the 80s synths. The keyboards nicely compliment Skiba’s vocals and provide a different backdrop for his somber lyricism. Matt Skiba has never hidden his affinity for the dark and gothic, and on this album he could have used a touch more of it. Highlights “She Said” and “I Just Killed to Say I Love You” would have felt right at home on Damnesia, while “She Wolf” could have been a My Shame is True outtake. The standout is far and away “Way Bakk When” arguably the furthest from anything in the Alkaline Trio cannon. The theme, like on Shame, is Skiba’s recent divorce and the toll it's taking on him. Heartbreak, self-medication and depression all make appearances and certain tracks feel like bastard cousins to songs from Skiba's younger days. Not sound wise, mind you. But a line like “Tore out my liver when I left Chicago, I swore I’d never go back down that road, that leaves me at the bottom of the bottle, lonely and kold” is as immediately classic as anything he's ever written.

Skiba has complete creative control over Kuts, which is evident from the band name alone. Hunter Burgan and Jarrod Alexander return for their second stint as the Sekrets, and all the complaints from the first album are still prevalent: they’re underutilized and never get a real chance to shine. It’s too bad when you consider their talent and what a full band project might sound like. I can’t help but think of Heavens, Matt Skiba’s now defunct side project with Josiah Steinbrick. While the comparison might seem unfair, in Heavens, Skiba had a foil in Steinbrick. The partnership did him well. Alkaline Trio, understandably, needs to say within certain confines, but side projects are meant to be a totally separate creative outlet. Synthesizers aside, Kuts would have benefitted from someone pushing Skiba out of his comfort zone.

At his best, Matt Skiba hits empathetic nerves other songwriters can only dream of. His mastery of hooks and melody make his lyrics even easier to latch onto. Kuts is a good album, and if you’re a fan his entire discography, you’ll find plenty to love here. The personal tracks like “Krazy” and “Lonely and Kold” are always more welcome than the hammy werewolf references. At this point, we’re never getting another “97” and that’s alright because these songs will get stuck in your head all the same. But this far into an incredible career, I'd love Skiba to throw us for a loop and deliver something truly unexpected.