Third time isn't a charm for The Matches

The third offering from California’s The Matches is a strange audio journey. Traversing genres and sonically playing with the listener, you feel a little unsettled by some of the little audio nuances which are thrown together. Written in response to the poor album sales and dismal lack of critical acclaim to their last album and armed with more than one super producer, you are left to question why it isn’t much better than what it is.

Despite being signed to Brett Gurewitz’s, Epitaph Records, who have released perhaps some on the most sterling and influential bands that music has ever seen, ‘A Band in Hope’ isn’t what you’d expect. Being home to a diverse musical bill featuring the indie rock of The Weakerthans, the pop punk fury of bands such as Rancid, The Vandals and The Descendants and even the incendiary metal influenced Dillinger Escape Plan and Converge; the label has always courted a little controversy, as seen when signing Sage Francis and Atmosphere, but it’s hard to see where The Matches fit in.

With the innovative production skills of John Feldmann (Goldfinger) who has previously worked with Story of the Year and The Used, along with Mike Green who is responsible for the sound of Paramore and Good Charlotte and a few others, the set up for this album is a particularly attractive one.

The pop sensibilities of tracks like “Wake the Sun” are utterly charming , hugely anthemic and are destined to be massive hits. However, along with this there are some unusual flourishes in the shape of ‘Yankee in a Chip Shop’ and the choral, ethereal sounding ‘Darkness Rising’ is like sitting in a church and is almost uncomfortable to listen to . Whether this has anything to do with so many different producers at the helm of this album is debatable, but ‘A Band in Hope’ does suffer from a great deal of seeming sonic confusion. It’s not that what is being played is necessarily awful, just the fact that every song seems a little mismatched against the next; as a package it seems messy.

This is in no means a terrible album but just highly confusing. There are some highly interesting parts which demand that you listen again, if only to work out whether you like what they have done. Interesting in its diversity, but seemingly confused in its direction, ‘A Band in Hope’ may not be the collection of siren songs that The Matches hoped for.