Another band that shouldn’t have broke up

The Matches were a weird band and then they broke up.  They were a band that probably wasn’t ever going to crash the mainstream rock scene.  Their sound was so quirky that their popularity never really spanned across the entire punk and emo scene that they were born from (like a Brand New or a Thrice).

Band doesn’t make it big… that’s a pretty unremarkable intro there, Steve,” you say to yourself.

The difference between the Matches and most other bands that never became a stadium filling superstar act is that the Matches deserved it.  This is a band that started grinding it out in California by playing acoustic guitars outside other punk rock shows – basically commandeering the ears of other bands’ fans.  True grassroots, guerrilla punk rock.  And they became one of the best live bands I’ve ever had the pleasure of seeing.

When I first heard the Matches, I was probably a sophomore at Penn State.  My Asian doppelganger, Chris Kung, insisted that they were incredible and that I had to listen to their album E. Von Dahl Killed the Locals.  Upon first listen, I was totally underwhelmed.  I mean, this band was weird.  Like, really weird.  Why did the singer have such a strange voice?

Then I went home to Pittsburgh one weekend near the end of the school year to see three shows… I saw Midtown on Friday night.  On Saturday I went to a Matchbook Romance show to flyer for an Over It/A Wilhelm Scream show the following night (I already mentioned that I was a big Over It fan).  The Matches were an opening act at the Matchbook Romance show (why would you book a band with such a similar name to open?)

The Matches were awesome.  Spastic.  Intense.  Loud.  And the lead guitarist had the biggest blonde afro I had ever seen.  That was pretty much the moment I became a Matches fan.  Any band that could rock a club like that deserved a more open-minded listen.

So E. Von Dahl slowly became a car staple throughout the rest of college.

The last week of senior year, I got a leaked copy of Decomposer, the band’s next album.  From the first song, “Salty Eyes”, it was pretty obvious that they had decided to go in a newer, weirder direction.  There’s not a song on Decomposer that remotely resembles another one.  The production was much glossier.   I seriously doubted the band would be able to pull off these disjointed, but wonderful sounding songs in a live setting – and I didn’t really care.  This wasn’t so much a punk album or an emo album… and I still don’t know what to call it.  It’s dark and sadistic like an AFI cd, but it was goofy and odd at the same time.

If you don’t know the Matches – this would be a good album to start with.

Decomposer was a brilliant, ambitious album… but it sold like shit.  And the next album was fraught with that frustration.  A Band In Hope was to be the sister album of the previous effort – just as wacky and just as ambitious.  And what I really like about the Matches’ third album is that it doesn’t pander to the audience that didn’t get them.  Being disappointed with the sales figures of Decomposer, they might have written a more accessible album just to reach the masses.  Instead, they didn’t relent.  A Band In Hope was another hodgepodge of oddities.  The songs took longer to hook into me than I initially expected and at first, I considered it inferior.  Once again, it took seeing the band play live to appreciate the album.

The Matches opened for Bayside in New York.  It was the last time I’d get to see them play.  It was also the first time I truly realized how incredible this band really is.  Believe me when I say this – the Matches were one of the most thrilling live acts I have ever seen.  They performed the hell out of every song.  I left the show feeling like there was no way they weren’t going to be the biggest band on the planet someday.  It was only a matter of time.

Sadly – the Matches broke up shortly after that show.  They’ve since started several new projects that fail to excite me as much as another studio album from the band would.

This is what you’ll be missing out on, everyone:

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4 Responses to “Another band that shouldn’t have broke up”

  1. The Victory Year (my high school band) totally opened that Matchbook Romance / Matches show. One of the most fun shows I’ve ever played. If I’m not mistaken, A Wilhelm Scream was on that show too.

  2. as usual, i concur. the matches had an amazing aesthetic, and a remarkably unique approach to everything they touched – from songwriting, to album artwork, to fliers for their shows.

  3. I think the Bled was the other band on that show, not A Wilhelm Scream. But yeah – I actually saw the Victory Year… funny I never knew that, Garrett!

  4. decomposer is a great fucking record. and e von dahl is such a scene classic to me. I have the original they put out themselves, actually, before getting signed. I remember when they first started generating buzz. There was an all balls out bidding war for these guys (when the majors were snapping up all the Thrices and Yellowcards and Thursdays of the world). But they were so adamant about building themselves first, that they tendered themselves a ‘farm’ deal with one of the big players. they were supposed to put out 2 or 3 records on epitaph, and then move up to Island or Columbia i think. of course, the business lost it’s balls then. but you’re right, they were so good, and almost too unique for mainstream. i don’t know why they weren’t happy with how they were making out though? I mean they were a pretty big mid-level act. certainly should have been supporting themselves fine, at least.

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