In their 2003 debut album Stories And Alibis, Matchbook Romance shows the poise and promising potential of a seasoned band, which is even more impressive considering the youthful audience their delectable brand of emo/rock targets. With vibrant and moody guitar riffs, hard-hitting drumming, and lead singer Andrew Jordan bellowing out coarse and angsty notes, Matchbook Romance gives listeners an endearing, rough-around-the-edges experience that never really garnered mass appeal, but found a place in the hearts of a younger crowd. Although the finished product is a little rugged, it’s this very same verve that makes the band’s genuine charm stand out. From the fast-paced and up-tempo garage band sessions to the emotional and heartfelt ballads, this album serves as a prime example of slightly unrefined rock coming off as compelling music because of its untainted raw emo sentiment and intelligent hardcore composition. Matchbook Romance never lived up to the potential of Stories And Alibis, but the rough likability of this one debut was more than enough to endear them in the emo community forever.
Following a simple but momentum-building intro, “Your Stories, My Alibis” kicks the album off on a heavy, rocking note. Ryan DePaolo’s blazing guitar riffs fading in and out, Aaron Stern’s sporadically magnificent drumming and Jordan’s gruff and impassioned vocals give this leadoff track hard rock firepower and make it the best of the album. The guitar hooks and drums keep excellent pace, building up composed and rhythmic momentum that ignites for each commanding chorus. The melodic, hardcore tone doesn’t hit with this much impact for all of Stories And Alibis, but it does make the lighter, aesthetically pleasing punk jingles that follow all the more endearing.
“My Eyes Burn” follows the impassioned and angry “Shadows Like Statues” with a lighter, poppy jingle that shows a more agreeable and accessible side while still maintaining the band’s edgy disposition. Matchbook Romance has a similar sound and mood throughout Stories And Alibis, but the smaller, unnoticed intricacies of songs like “My Eyes Burn” provide a glimpse of the band’s true versatility.
Serving as the best ballad in the band’s song catalogue, “If All Else Fails” helps Stories And Alibis wind down before the album’s closer. Commencing with a attention-grabbing drum roll, Ryan Kienle’s emotive bass adds another layer to the mix before the electric guitars and Jordan’s soft vocals join in to really dominate the song as it builds steam and passion. This bluesy (and eventually hard-hitting) rock ballad gives a great look at how intelligent and heartfelt Matchbook Romance can be, as Jordan’s resounding promises of love echo on long after the song’s conclusion: “So close your eyes and sleep to dream / I’m by your side, no words to speak / We’ll set our course and make it through / No matter how far I go, my heart remains with you.”
Stories And Alibis has its share of flaws, especially considering just how unpolished songs sound at times, but if nothing else, this debut hits the bullseye in its ability to still come off as well-crafted and more importantly, enjoyable. After the release of this endearing dose of emo punk, fans were eager to see what the next chapter in this promising band’s future would be. Sadly, that potential was never fully realized after a lackluster followup album and the band’s eventual breakup. However, fans of Senses Fail, The Starting Line, Thursday, The Early November, Just Surrender, Armor For Sleep, Spitalfield, Taking Back Sunday and Amber Pacific will still likely find something worth listening to over and over long after Stories And Alibis‘ popularity has run its course. It isn’t groundbreaking or revolutionary for the genre by any means, but this is the kind of album that can be put on repeat for its variety and youthfully raw rock energy. From the enjoyable ring of guitar to Jordan’s rugged voice, Matchbook Romance’s music will forever be loved by its specific fan base for its musical angst and honesty.
Final Score: 8/10
Rank: 1st (two total albums)
- Your Stories, My Alibis
- Playing For Keeps
- Lovers & Liars
- Tiger Lily
- Shadows Like Statues
- My Eyes Burn
- She’ll Never Understand
- If All Else Fails
- Stay Tonight
- The Greatest Fall (Of All Time)