Matt Skiba And The Sekrets
07 May 2012
by Ruth Booth
Regular readers of Thrash Hits will remember we ran this photo a while ago, with a certain amount of disbelief. With his penchant for wry, dark romance, if Alkaline Trio’s frontman took a cue from any Lost Boys, our money would’ve been on these ones. But, aside from possible sponsorship by the local bird sanctuary, this photo told us two crucial things about Matt Skiba’s new project.
Firstly, it told us Skiba is intending something new this time. Certainly, it’s different enough for him to take a complete stylistic volte-face from the sharp black-with-red-accents of his dayjob. And secondly, that this is very much a one-man show. This may well be Skiba and the Sekrets, but that’s as likely to refer to his own skeletons as it is to his bandmates, Hunter Burgan (AFI’s bassist), and Jarrod Alexander (current touring drummer for My Chemical Romance).
Babylon kicks off with ‘Voices’, a synth-backed piece of driven rock with dark lyrics, which pretty much sets the pace for the entire record. This is anthemic new wave – but not like Heavens, Skiba’s Wire-influenced (and defunct) partnership with Joe Steinbrick. Melding Skiba’s dark and sweet melodies with an electro pop edge, Babylon leaves you in little doubt, if there was any, who’s responsible for the 80s influence in Alkaline Trio’s recent output. Indeed, much of Babylon wouldn’t sound out of place on any of their records since 2005’s Crimson. I’m left wondering how ‘You’ and ‘Haven’t You’ (the latter reworked from 2010 solo album Demos) would have sounded if Skiba had ceded Dan Andriano a vocal guest spot.
Listen to ‘You’ by Matt Skiba and The Sekrets:
Okay, so Skiba does have a distinctly recognisable and deliciously frenetic way with pop song structure. And his vocals are shot through with the bittersweetness that’s indelibly inked on his other band. While the synth-heavy ‘Falling Like Rain’ might seem the biggest stretch for his fanbase on the surface, afficionados should be well acquainted with Skiba’s love of Joy Division by now. What does set Babylon apart from his other work is more down to those little touches of atmosphere that haunt individual tracks. The ‘Angel of Deaf’ (yet another Demos track) is another classic piece of Skiba dark humour, backed by a post-apocayptic thrum from the slowed down sustain of his acoustic. It’s a disturbingly effective moment, one that makes you wish he’d push more of the odd thing like this on his dayjob.
If you’re looking for a side to Matt Skiba you haven’t heard before, Babylon is not it. Arguably, this is a direction Alk3’s music has been nudging towards for years, one merely sprung prematurely from more conventionally pop punk fetters. That, however, implies Babylon is little more than an exercise in impatient arrogance, which is kind of a tautology. After all, creating any art and expecting people to pay attention to and/or money for it is an act of delicious arrogance. No, this is the side to Skiba we’ve sort of always seen, this time rendered in perfect clarity. His songwriting prowess returning to the new wave pop of his youth. Which is sort of what that promo shot is all about anyway. If you’ve always enjoyed Matt Skiba’s take on dark, sharp-witted pop – and you’re not the stylist for The Rasmus – you’ll love this opportunity to hear him soar.
Sounds Like: Skiba has love for you, if you were born in the 80s.
Standout Tracks: Haven’t You, Angel of Deaf, Falling Like Rain.