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Alkaline Trio vocalist and guitarist Matt Skiba has put together a collection of 15 songs which were saved for himself (or more likely deemed unworthy for an Alkaline Trio album) to release on a solo album. 'Demos' is exactly what you get with sketchy recordings, unfinished songs (instrumentation wise) and songs best left on the rehearsal room floor. Unsure whether this was released as a serious effort for sales, in search of appreciation, or as a more appropriate specialist one off for the super loyal fans. Whatever it is, it doesn't really pull many strings and resembles a fair amount of the sound in a modern AT. With 15 songs and a total of 45 minutes, you'd feel you're getting your money's worth.. until you get about 3 tracks in.
The album kicks off with a typical Alkaline sound in 'You didn't feel a thing' with a slow paced, gurgling, melancholy, riff on a lone guitar and organ. Simple but alright at two and half minutes. Unfortunately things go downhill in terms of sound quality with 'Angel of Deaf' which is a mixture of acoustic and synthesized strings while Skiba lays down a horrid vocal performance with an effect that only enhances it. It does have a bit of a contrast in there too as the pure synth makes for some relief. The technical mess that is 'I cant believe you' follows. Again not particularly a bad song, just that its filled with dodgy voice masks and effects, almost spoiling a nice idea. A hazy trip that just keeps on going. Luckily things pick up immediately with 'Haven't you' a good ol Skiba acoustic number capable of featuring on the end of any trio album. A chorus line of "I thought I lost it all the day that I lost you. It's taken me until just now to find the truth.. you've always been here haven't you?" is one of the brighter lyrics to feature. "How the hell did we get here" another techy but funky track with guitar effects ranging from purple rain to the rawness of old punk rock. The chorus provides a break from the digital noise with a crunching, lone guitar.
'Cradle to the grave' is depressing for all of 3 minutes. An idling riff, ambles on whilst a vocally descending Skiba struggles to come up with anything memorable. 'Red White and You' is by far the worst thing I've heard from Matt Skiba. No idea what's going on with lyrics, melodies or intent at all. Full of distressing echoed singing and low notes it sounds like he's just messing about. 'Radio Vienna' sounds exactly like all the other songs melody riffs except with a radio broadcast in the background and several crushing, earth tremors interrupting constantly. 'S.O.S' definitely could have been seen on an Alkaline Trio album - classic chords and vocal melody - although considerably happier lyrics with "S.O.S please rescue me, you're out of breath I'm out of steam". After patiently waiting through all the filler (or skipping) "Nausea" (cruel & usual) easily the best produced track, boasts a brilliant chorus bound to put a smile on anyone's face, a cure for Nausea it seems. "Nausea, I'll never forget the night we met, no. Nausea I still feel you in my bones" has Skiba harmonise with himself rather well. The chorus vocals are a slightly incoherent jumble whilst the guitar work scales all over the guitar in a delightful manner.
Things fall apart again with 'Into Thin Air' - another mediocre nothing of a song. More stretched vocal work and the same guitar line and upbeat melody here and there. Gladly 'Merry-GoRound' doesn't break 2 minutes and only features skiba and a guitar which doesn't seem to work as well without his old band mates Dan Andriano and Derek Grant. 'Special' is a demented song that adds to the growing list of reasons to stop listening. Poor audio quality and harsh piano keys offend the ears. 'Razor Blade Blues' is in the same vain as 'Red White and You'. Slow and dwindling spirit. All you can think is that the guy has run out of ideas, saying anything that comes to mind, hitting any note and just throwing any old song on the album. Despite all the supremely poor content, one of the simplest songs proves that Skiba is at his best without all the jumbled effects and better off with just an acoustic guitar and back vocals. 'Magicland' sounds silly but that doesn't matter when its a good track. "Sunday and I'm feeling bored, I'm feeling like my head is sore, just can't take it any more" is a saddening verse but delivered in that classy upbeat attitude. "feel the darkness" gets churned out for a chorus but the highlight is surprisingly a 2 note keyboard riff.. says it all really.
So as the case with many solo artists albums, this ones for the die hard fans, not to say it doesn't feature some decent songs (which should be more recognized) but the fillers are probably why its called 'Demos'. The best way to sum up this compilation of demos is like a glimpse into the process of Matt Skiba's song writing. Several songs have that classic Alkaline trio sound.. by that I mean you recognize the song structure and guitar patterns (like songs based on 3 chords). On the very first listen you realize that its not really a solo album as such, and shouldn't be scrutinized as one, its more like a collectable for proper Skiba fans.