When I heard that Alkaline Trio frontman Matt Skiba, AFI bassist Hunter Burgan and My Chemical Romance drummer Jarrod Alexander were forming a side project, I was automatically curious about the alt-punk supergroup. I was anxiously awaiting Matt Skiba and the Sekret’s May 8 release, “Babylon,” despite my pet peeve for things purposely spelled wrong, and with good reason.
Described by Skiba as his “fun album,” he still hasn’t strayed too far from Alkaline Trio’s macabre and dark imagery made apparent on every one of their albums, even titling one of the catchiest songs on the album, “Luciferian Blues.”
“Babylon” isn’t unfamiliar at all. It’s a little more upbeat than Skiba’s other side project., Heavens, but the tone is comparable to 2005’s “Crimson,” with more of a melancholic sound than a punk one. “Haven’t You” was originally recorded for Skiba’s solo 2010 album, “Demos,” and bits of “Olivia,” are taken from the song “Nausea,” also from “Demos.” The album closer, “Angel of Deaf,” sounds like it could have been written for any Alkaline Trio album.
It’s tough to separate Matt Skiba and the Sekrets from Alkaline Trio, solely because both bands have the same primary songwriter and singer. I’ve never been big on Dan Andriano’s contributions to Trio, compared to Skiba’s, so to me, it sounds like Trio’s good stuff.
Skiba, being a huge Cure fan, has “Love Song” tattooed on his knuckles, and seems to have set out to produce an album with the elements he’s most familiar with, combined with some 80s new wave. This album is Skiba, through and through.
The most surprising thing about “Babylon” is the promo shots for the album. Skiba is seen in face paint and tribal getup, a look that nobody would expect from the man who lately dons suits and vests onstage. With these being released before the album, it gave fans the impression that Matt Skiba and the Sekrets would be something unlike anything he’s ever done before. This obviously wasn’t the case.
Though Matt Skiba and the Sekrets isn’t a daring attempt at something new, it works. The lyrics are dark and reflective, and most of the music, especially openers “Voices” and “All Fall Down” will have people in the pits bouncing up and down. While it probably won’t draw in new fans, it won’t deter any old ones either.
“That gave me a little reassurance going into this thinking it may sound a bit like Alkaline Trio but that it’s cool,” Skiba said in an interview with Spinner. “There are some rock songs on the record for the boys and some dancy ones for the girls.”
The one thing that really stood out to me, though, was how strong Skiba’s voice sounds. He’s lost that raw, raspy sound that was heard in Alkaline Trio’s early releases, and on the last few Trio albums, his voice has been sounding more and more melodic. I don’t know if he’s gotten voice training, or if his sobriety has played a part, but whatever it is, his voice is sounding fantastic these days.
If “Babylon” isn’t your cup of tea, never fear Trio fans, Skiba, Andriano and Derek Grant are planning to start recording their latest Alkaline Trio album this fall.
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