Wonka Vision Magazine

Master Slash Slave – Scandal

Matt Jones is all grown-up now. Gone are the days of angst-filled lyrics sung (and sometimes screamed) over raw, catchy youthful tunes in the vein of his high school band, Life in Braille. Instead, here are creative and complex song structures consisting of programmed beats which push along sometimes distorted sometimes crystalline guitar lines and syncopated drum work.

But this isn’t simple evolution from one band to the next. Consider Life in Braille the prepubescent start, a project dictated by the ambiguity of real life, from hormones and heartbreak all the way to and through false starts and fair-weather friendships. Meanwhile, Master Slash Slave is an entirely separate chapter – in fact many stories and incarnations occur between the two – that comes from the perspective of a man nearly a decade later who has learned quite a bit, regardless of the fact that he has a lot more room to grow.

Still, there are striking similarities. For one, the protagonist at the center of it all: Jones himself. His singing – sometimes solid, other times breathy – is always absolute. There is no uncertainty, no wishy-washiness, no two ways about it. While it’s easy to compare his singing to Les Savy Fav’s Tim Harrington or even Cursive’s Tim Kasher, there really is no room for assessment. Jones’ vocal style always has been and always will be his very own.

While the path to the release of “Scandal” was paved with near perpetual line-up changes, Master Slash Slave is finally coming into its own with the addition of drummer Matthew Morgan. The album is mostly punctuated by dance-worthy numbers heavy on the new wave sound, like “Expensive Goodbyes,” although songs like “False Dichotomies” take things down a notch, with a post-punk vibe slightly more Joy Division than New Order. And don’t forget opener “Cold Calls” and the seventh-inning stretch, “Na Zdrowie,” serving as fancy electronic interludes not unlike video game samples a la The Advantage.

As much as Morgan brings to the band, there is no denying that Master Slash Slave truly belongs to and is realized in and through Jones. While intricacy is a gift of his, Jones is clearly his best when he’s stripped down and vulnerable, like in the acoustic “Nastasya” or the awkwardly heartfelt “High Heels,” which boasts some of Jones’ most eloquent and telling lyrical work. Keep your ears out for Master Slash Slave; this is only the beginning of a far more developed, much more interesting Jones. 

Rating: 4/5
Release Date: November 18, 2008