You’ve heard these songs before. Not literally perhaps, but you have heard these same staple bar chords and these same boilerplate vocal melodies that make up theHELL’s Sauves Les Requins. You’ve even heard them coming from the same guy, Matt Skiba of Alkaline Trio fame. It’s almost as if Skiba scratched out the lyrics on the sheet music to some old Alk Trio songs and, using his same cadence and timing, came up with some new words. All this is true, particularly on the opening two tracks of this four song effort, “Vas Te Faire Foutre” and “Gasoline” (has that song title even been recycled?). However, one thing you haven’t heard in quite some time is Skiba singing and playing this type of music with the degree of passion pulsing powerfully from this compact collection. Each song clocks in under 2:35, or nearly half the length of some of the tracks recorded as part of previous Skiba side project Heavens (see what he did there?) in 2006.
With theHELL, Skiba is definitely not interested in doing anything remotely similar to the sad bastard, new wave thing he and collaborator Josiah Steinbrick did. Instead, he sounds completely revitalized on Sauves Les Requins in returning to the guitar-driven sounds of his From Here to Infirmary days. There’s some darkness, as on the demonic distorted vocals on “Gasoline,” but most of the edge on the anthemic “Nowhere Left” comes instrumentally in the form of a walking bass line and some rhythmic crunch. And same-y sounding singing style aside, he’s not phoning it in on vocals. Heavens wound up being just a one-off for Skiba, but if it turns out that he has a little more of theHELL in him after this EP, it wouldn’t be such a bad thing.
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