Matt Skiba and The Sekrets – Babylon by Kirsty Birkett-Stubbs

Released: 7th May 2012.

People talk about wearing your heart on your sleeve, but Matt Skiba always seems to go one further and pretty much rips open his chest so that we can gawk at the inner workings and the particular beatings of his love-shaped organ.

Listening to his lyrics is like permanently being on the edge of a break-up – from either side – which is pretty much one of the most unwelcome feelings there are. Thanks very much for that Matt.

Essentially his sleeve is concealing a lot more than just one emotion, which he’s tugging away at like a magician’s handkerchief so that they keep coming all linked together until you end up all knotted up inside with miles of theoretical silk.
Mind you I’d be the same if I’d been left as many times as Matt Skiba’s lyrics make out. Although I’d probably try and downplay the number a bit.

If you’re a fan of this emotional trickery, then you’ll be pleased to know that Babylon could easily have come out with an Alkaline Trio name on it, and there wouldn’t have been really any uproar about it. Maybe a few murmurs, but no career-ending backlash. On that basis some may say why bother with a solo project at all? There’s obviously something driving it, but at least Matt Skiba isn’t just using the successful name of his other band, just his own, to try and generate more sales like ‘some’ bands do.

As an example, opener ‘Voices’, and next in line ‘All Falls Down’ and ‘Luciferian Blues’ all play out like the ‘Trio. I’d lose that synthy background noise from ‘Voices’ though, it sounds a little school performance where they try to incorporate all the instruments even if they don’t fit so that the kids don’t feel left out. It works a little better in the context of 80’s new-wave throw-back ‘Falling Like Rain’, which just shows everything has its place.

Overall though Babylon is that bouncy pop-punk sound that Matt Skiba laid the blueprints for in Alkaline Trio and clearly revels in, particularly in subverting this through an ability to find the dark in everything. A bit like the way Tim Burton views the world I imagine.

The album closes with the simply yet captivating acoustic ‘Angel Of Deaf’, which really puts a pin in Matt Skiba’s talent for writing songs that you just get. However, upon reaching what feels like its natural ending you suddenly realise that it’s only the mid-point of the song.

What follows is just several minutes of silence, which perhaps is intended to make a point about how he can’t hear a god-damn thing (it’s a big part of the lyrics). I’m sure there’s a metaphor in there if you listen hard enough, but maybe that’s one of the real sekrets of Babylon.

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