Heavens - Patent Pending (Cover Artwork)
Staff Review


Patent Pending (2006)


Singers must harness occasional envy towards their bandmates. If Joe Bass Player ever wants to join a side project, there's no worry that people are going to say, "Whatever, it just sounds like a shitty version of his main band." Such accusations of Matt Skiba's new project are going to be a problem for the Alkaline Trio frontman, even though his vocals are going to bring with them a built-in fanbase. With Heavens, Skiba and F-Minus alumnus Josiah Steinbrick manage to avoid creating a straight-up electronic version of Alkaline Trio -- but just barely.

The real saving-grace with Patent Pending is Steinbrick's music, which he had begun writing before Skiba became involved with the project. Although the music is entirely electronic and very `80s-inspired, it produces a really genuine sound and comes off as surprisingly organic. There's a complexity in most of the compositions that comes through the use of a number of layers and effects that don't rely too heavily on the `80s influence.

It's too bad the same can't be said of Skiba and his delivery. On their own, the vocals sound like nothing more than an extension of those found on the Trio's latest album, Crimson, which weren't terrible then, but backed with Steinbrick's composures they seem hollow and often-times forced. Perhaps the main reason why Heavens doesn't sound too much like Alkaline Trio shouldn't be attributed to Steinbrick, but to Skiba. His voice often lacks the energy and bite that brought me into his music in the first place. Still, his lyrical focus remains largely dark and brooding, providing some sense of consistency to his other work.

There's no question that huge Alkaline Trio fans, especially those who feel as though their last album was the band's best work, are going to love Heavens. It's the fans that got excited about the band's last tour as a chance to finally seem some older material revisited that are going to feel like Heavens is nothing more than a collection of songs that wouldn't even make the cut for Crimson. I'm the dude that sits around complaining that Alkaline Trio hasn't made a great album in the last five years, so if you disagree with me on that, you might very well disagree with me on this.