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Punks move from roots

Mills College Weekly

Mike Park of Petaluma’s Asian Man Records has gotten two popular punk front men together for an acoustic split. The result is an upbeat, sassy record driven by vocals and drums rather than by loud guitars.

The split features Matt Skiba of the Chicago-born Alkaline Trio and Kevin Seconds of 7Seconds. It’s an interesting mix. The singers represent two different parts of the punk rock spectrum, with Skiba from a band that plays songs about drinking, drugging and being pissed off and Seconds from a straightedge hardcore band who put politics first.

Each singer has five songs- four of his own and one cover -and plays pretty much all his own instruments, proving that the guys have skills that extend beyond words and guitar.

With a little speed and electricity, Matt Skiba’s solo songs could easily translate into Alkaline Trio songs. His side of the split is peppered with very familiar chord progressions and melody lines, the same ones he regularly, perhaps too regularly, repeats with the Trio.

Fortunately, the style translates well to acoustic, and Skiba’s jaunty singing carries the tunes well. Anyone familiar with the Alkaline Trio can anticipate the next riff. The acoustic style works best with the track “Next to You,” a slow, meditative song that warrants the rounded, full sound that’s accomplished with an acoustic guitar.

Still, Skiba doesn’t get a lot of points for creativity-playing a different guitar in a familiar style hardly represents a departure from the norm.

Kevin Seconds’ songs, on the other hand, are very different from the ones he plays with his hardcore band. Veering far from political rhetoric, he sings about girls and emotions with an attitude that is both confident and ironic.

The songs are fueled by a twangy beat and are skillfully recorded.

Seconds has put out a couple of solo albums since 1997, when he shocked his fans with his folk-rock side, so he’s had some time to hone his songwriting and instrumental skills. In that time, he’s clearly mastered the basics of writing fun, catchy songs.

Skiba and Seconds pair well together. Skiba’s rawer material at the beginning of the CD makes Seconds sound all the more polished. And the combination of having a veteran musician with a younger one gives the split depth and context.