If the Smiths met up with a few lovelorn zombies in the depths of some Roman catacombs equipped with synthesizers and organs, the jamfest that would surely ensue has no chance of resembling something far from Heavens’ debut Patent Pending.
Far darker than even the gloomiest of Alkaline Trio’s work, Matt Skiba and Josiah Steinbrick of Heavens prove with this release that a “side project” can soak up the limelight, and impressively do so with these eerie musical tales of love, loss and death. Although both men’s respected current central focuses, Alkaline Trio (Skiba) and Thieves Like Us (Steinbrick), are both deserving of all the thriving success that each achieves, one cannot help but wonder if Heavens merits just as much good fortune.
Patent Pending displays similarities in the simple yet excellent production effects that showed up in extraordinary debuts from other alternative bands such as the Bravery. They provide for a ghostly yet hopeful aura and sound downright lovely in the songs with a lighter, pretty undertone- all of which pump vitality into the dread and dead without losing the album’s authentic tone of wistful sorrow.
Specifically though, the CD starts out surprisingly strong with “Gardens,” a track intertwined with poetic minor chords and subtle harmonies. “Counting,” the song that follows, showcases classic punk rock drumbeats and great tune-fitting lyrics (“I’ll announce the grand prize / arterial spray paints the carpet before your eyes.”) The rest of the album upholds the caliber of these couple songs and makes it look easy while doing so.
Although this is a partnership and Steinbrick was the force behind Heavens’ very creation, Skiba sets the bar for this release high out of sheer talent, especially with a certain unforgettable deadpan inflection in his crooning. In a day and age where bands make it big by cloning others, this signature sound is refreshing. It works to his advantage too- masterfully comforting Alkaline Trio lovers yet grabbing hold of unsuspecting bystanders and snaring them in as well.
Really though, the truth is that Skiba has always had a beautifully hollow voice and a sharp mind for poetry, and Patent Pending displays his strongest abilities. Although more involved in instrumentation, Steinbrick contributes his own strong talents as well, and the two are inarguably better paired than Thelma & Louise. Bypassing all the other groups trying to set their handprints deeper and deeper into the mold of alternative historical concrete, Heavens’ debut should command your immediate attention as nothing short of this year’s best work to date, and if it doesn’t leave you speechless, I will be.