Matt Skiba & Kevin Seconds – Split CD (Asian Man Records)

Skiba and Seconds (of Alkaline Trio and 7 Seconds respectively) each contribute 5 “solo” songs here. Though all the songs are led with acoustic guitars, by no means are these acoustic-only cry-baby indulgences. Each plays all the instruments with one exception — a bass on one of Seconds’s songs. I kinda wish they’d mixed up the tracks, but as it is, there’s Skiba’s five and then Seconds’s five.

Skiba’s songs are very straight-forward, but stripped of over-distorted guitars (I’m guessing on the Alkaline Trio’s sound), the melodies stand out. Skiba gives five solid songs. “Good Fucking Bye” and “In Your Wake” stand out. The former leads off the disc and drives evenly over a nice drum pattern and guitars that never get in the way. The recording is so spacious, I love listening to it. Skiba’s vocal melody carries nicely through the whole song — there’s no awkward “here’s the chorus” change in the middle. “In Your Wake” works much the same. Though led by the acoustic guitar, it is kept out of the way. Instead the vocal carries the song.

Skiba’s other songs are strong. Probably because he doesn’t slow things down and over-indulge himself. “The City That Day” keeps the upbeat tempo. And even when he does a slow song, as in “Next To You,” Skiba records the song well. There are no “Barlow recorded that in the bathroom on his 4-track in 10 minutes” moments that often affected Sebadoh “solo” recordings.

Kevin Seconds, like Skiba, doesn’t stray too far from mid-tempo pop songs. His voice is a bit wearier than Skiba’s, and along with his more rock ‘n’ roll tunes, he reminds one a bit of Paul Westerburg. On “Ugly Mouth” specifically.

Seconds’s songs are tightly performed but he gives them noisy recordings — a prominent tambourine or shaker carries the beat; and guitars and voices are spaced out in the channels so as to give the songs some density. On “Yesteryear,” the approach works great. Acoustic guitars and extra vocals give a melodic accompaniment to the lead voice. Various faint percussion keeps the beat. The mix is so tightly kept that the song sounds like one cohesive melody.

I can’t imagine that this record will appeal to many people who aren’t already fans of these fellows’ bands. But for those who already have an affinity for Skiba’s or Seconds’s songwriting, this split CD is a nice look inside the guys’ heads.