After a bit of a delay Matt Skiba brings us his first solo full-length. Demos is a collection of previously unheard songs, recorded by the Alkaline Trio vocalist at home with his computer. Being the big Trio fan I am, I thought it’d be hard reviewing this on it’s own merits. I was right. The one thing I knew for sure was, with the amount of projects Skiba takes on, it was always going to be interesting to see how this turned out. It’s sound is one that’s somewhat familiar, but could still take a while to get used to.
Having heard his past solo work on his split with Kevin Seconds, I expected Demos to follow in the same vein. Those expecting a raw, stripped down collection of songs might be disappointed. Rather than take that route, Matt has chosen to go with a more electric sound, something he’s experimented with before in, his, short lived, side-project with Josiah Steinbrick, Heavens. Like their album, Demos can also be a little hit and miss.
This electronic take on industrial rock is one that Matt seems really fond of. It allows him to let his influences take over and, much like Patent Pending, the tracks bare an eerie resemblance to those of Joy Division and New Order. It’s here that I think Demos’ biggest problem lies. At times, it feels Matt is trying to recreate what’s gone before and that’s the wrong thing to do. When he’s doing his own thing, it’s much better. However, the multitude of synths can really take away from the power of certain tracks. The auto-tune is in full effect here too. It’s not something I’m a fan of, but I can appreciate it where it works. I suspect some of that was used to try and improve the patchy quality of some of the recordings.
Matt also seems to be more introspective than usual and it’s easy to see that a lot of what he’s saying is highly personal, perhaps more so than a lot of his other work. This is clear on. the album’s opener, ‘You Didn’t Feel A Thing’ and ‘How The Hell Did We Get Here.’ He’s always been a great lyricist, and that’s what really shines through. Lyrically, Demos is as good as ever. Here’s where the Trio element really shows. I wouldn’t be surprised if a lot of these are unused Trio songs and if they’re not, I’d love to hear a full band take on them. Especially ‘Merry-Go-Round’, which sounds very similar to the more recent output from Trio. The subject matter will be similar to Trio fans and that’s to be expected but, on the whole, they do seem more morose and downbeat. To put it simply, they’re more ‘Over And Out’ than ‘Mr. Chainsaw’.
I’m not going to lie, I’d have liked to see Matt take the Tom Gabel route with this record. However, this is definitely interesting. It’s different to a lot of what he’s done before and maybe that’s why it’s how it is. Demos is bound to disappoint some die-hard Alkaline Trio fans, but I don’t think this was for them. It’s clear that this is a very self-indulgent project, but that’s certainly not a problem. In many ways this record feels like Matt writing for himself. A musical diary, if you will. It’s an interesting album and one that people ought to check out before dismissing it outright.