The Skeptics - Hearts & Spades
Release Date: November 8, 2005
Record Label: Third World Industries
I must confess: when I was sent The Skeptics’ Hearts & Spades, I didn’t listen to it immediately, solely on account of the band’s name. I assumed the band was either just another garage-punk “The” band, such as The White Stripes, The Strokes, The Hives, etc., or a straight up punk band (blech). Yes, I realize I write for AbsolutePUNK.net, but I don’t like real punk music at all, end of story. Anyways, I was pleasantly surprised (and relieved) when I finally put the album in my stereo: The Skeptics seamlessly blend both raw, aggressive guitars and curiously morbid lyrics reminiscent of old-school Saves the Day with the modern pop-rock stylings of such acts as Fall Out Boy and other Chicago-area pop punk bands, which provides for an enjoyable, albeit tame and somewhat familiar, listening experience.
Hearts & Spades probably won’t change the way you listen to music or anything like that; it’s simply a good, fun CD to listen to, and sometimes, that’s all one wants. Indeed, the album is fairly derivative, but the CD is good enough that I don’t really think about that too much, especially when The Skeptics don’t hold anything back, rock out, and have fun, such as on the infectious, sugary “Loaded Lipstick,” the melodious, well-layered “Behind Closed Doors,” the shred-a-licious “Cold In California,” and the fast-paced, raw “Best Surprise I Ever Gave” (the old-school hardcore, gang-vocal breakdown (no chugga here) in “Home Sweet Home” is pretty sweet too). By the same token though, the band’s ballad, “This Fight,” falls flat with its mediocre chord progression, weak guitars, and bland melody. Luckily for us, “This Fight” is the only ballad on the album!
Dirty, yet crisp, guitars provide much of the enjoyment on the Hearts & Spades (although, I could do without the cliché hammer-on/pull-off riff in the verses of “Seven Story Jumper”), and the vocals are smooth, a little wavering, and a good deal like those of Patrick Stump of Fall Out Boy. Unfortunately the vocals seem a little underdeveloped, and don’t quite project all that well on the album. They’re not bad by any means, just a little cautious and not all that confident sounding, which leaves me a little underwhelmed.
Hearts & Spades is definitely a good debut CD which shows much promise; the band need only tighten up a few aspects of their sound before I can see them gaining considerable popularity. One of the things that could use some working on is the production: it seems that the producers/engineers have added a lot of treble to give the album that ‘sheen’ and ‘radio-ready’ effect that so many modern pop punk albums have, but it just leaves the CD feeling thin. Also, sometimes the vocals come in and out of the mix, and occasionally seem a little murky, even though they're mixed fairly high. Some of the problem may have to do with the vocalist’s projection. Better production would definitely be a plus. Enough shit talking though. If you’re a fan of Saves the Day and Fall Out Boy, give Hearts & Spades a listen: you just might be able to claim The Skeptics as your own before they get huge.
checking them on purevolume right now. after reading the review i just coud not give a listen to this band (since u mention SAVES THE DAY and i am a great STD fan!) hmm.. well, they r pretty good. i guess i can say i like the Skeptics. They do remind me of some other bands more than STD and/or FOB tho, just no names come to my mind at this right moment lol. But i can see ppl who enjoy FOB also enjoy this band.