The Matches new album is reviewed by! Rating: ****

When the Matches first hit the scene with E. Von Dahl Killed the Locals, they were basically playing straight-up pop-punk, albeit much quirkier and caffeinated pop-punk than most. Lead singer Shawn Harris has a voice that makes songs sound especially restless and exuberant, and the band's sophomore effort, Decomposer, takes it all one step further to deliver in a way that few in the genre besides the Matches could really pull off convincingly. With the Oakland quartet working in multiple studios and with, count 'em, nine (!) producers — including Brett Gurewitz, Mark Hoppus, Tim Armstrong, John Feldmann, and Nick Hexum — everything seemed aligned to make sure this album sounded as patently assorted as possible. It could have all ended horribly with one too many ideas and cooks in the kitchen, but instead sounds like the best kind of controlled chaos. Not that the music is especially chaotic; it's just all pretty random and full of idiosyncrasies — consistently mashing together pop, rock, punk, and a dash of electronics — that make no two tracks alike, but somehow all fit together as a unified album. There's a totally string-driven opener ("Salty Eyes") leading into songs that groove on electro pulses and dance beats ("Drive," "You [Don't] Know Me"). Disparate entries continue with the spastic blast of "Lazier Than Furniture" and the cut-and-paste drum programming and guitar buoying "Little Maggots," as "Didi (My Doe, Part 2)" toys with particularly sunny vocal layering. So essentially, this album is just a fun mixed bag of musical oddities. Nothing comes across as fake or stretching to fit into a gimmick. The Matches have always had a cheeky sense of humor, and with Decomposer, they've managed to mix fun with ambition to wind up with a particularly distinctive album to be proud of.

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