The Matches - Decomposer (Cover Artwork)

The Matches

Decomposer (2006)


The story with the new Matches album goes like this: Not sure of their record label status, the band financed the production of Decomposer themselves and convinced a number of well-known producers to come on board and do their work for points on the album. Apparently impressed with the band's moxie and their musical vision, folks such as Tim Armstrong, Mark Hoppus, John Feldmann, Brett Gurewitz, Mike Green, and others agreed to get involved. In the end Epitaph re-signed the band, and Decomposer is being hailed as positively having brought the hip-hop mindset of using various producers into a predominantly punk rock record. Yikes.

I'm usually a fan of bands writing cohesive full-lengths where a premium is placed on sequencing and where there is a heightened sense of value in playing a release from start to finish. Decomposer, despite its hybrid underpinnings, turns out to be a pretty comprehensive release. While the group's goofy, juvenile sense of humor remains intact, the Matches have seen their musical focus mature into something much more concrete than their prior form of bratty, loosely played, red-cup-party punk rock, and into something that balances an infectuous power-pop design with sterling dance vibes. "The gulf of quality between E. Von Dahl Killed the Locals and Decomposer fits the trajectory of a young, highly talented band, coming into its own after discovering what they're made of when given substantial access to top-shelf studio resources. Vocalist Shawn Harris is nothing but off-the-wall energy on Decomposer while drummer/percussionist Matt Whalen provides the beat-driven force that helps shape the band's reputation for being mercilessly manic. The sly incorporation of illuminating dance beats into the band's punk driven sound is where this album shines. Similar to how Less Than Jake could get an entire room full of people bouncing up and down with a simple combination of grooves and glowing choruses, the Matches work their way up the frenzy meter with a filthy amount of ease. Songs like "What Katie Said," "You (Don't) Know Me," and my personal favorite, "Shoot Me in the Smile," are endearing in a clever, cute, and smart kind of way. Despite all of the high sugar content hijinks, there's no doubt that the brains behind the Matches are well-developed.

The downside to Decomposer is that although nearly all of the 13 tracks are distinctive on their own, the compilation of them in one single recording makes for a misfit of a listen, strewn with fantastic highs, and awkward lows. Not unlike the band's own brand of zany ambition, my mind veers in all different directions while trying make sense of the album. The Matches provide an effort-filled musical challenge on their second full-length, and the listener is always a few steps behind, trying to catch-up and clean-up all of the debris. Unique and fun for sure -- but some assembly may be required.