In an assertive full-length debut, Matchbook Romance
deals out a strong hand and plays it well. The winning cards include expressive lyrics delivered most of the time by twin lead vocals, songs powered by a combination of sharp hooks and dramatic changes in dynamics, and a multi-layered production in which Brett Gurewitz
allows plenty of room for the sound to chime, buzz, and roar over Aaron Stern
's thundering drums. (Stern
especially loves doing double bass drum fills, which sound the way a Muhammad Ali
combination must have once felt.) They build their choruses and other peak moments around massive blasts of guitar anchored by basslines on the root of each chord for maximum impact. At the same time, they don't skimp on the details; guest keyboardist David Palmer's unobtrusive bleeps and gurgles bring some variety to the otherwise monochromatic timbre, especially in quiet interludes or long final chords. With this sort of intensity and bravura, Matchbook Romance
sets a high standard for itself and shows every sign of meeting it on future releases.