Imagine the following scenario:
After getting out of work, undoubtedly somewhere shitty such as an office position or a retail job at the mall that, despite the "amazing" discount you claim to get, sucks beyond human comprehension, you arrive at the club that resides just out of the heart of the city closest to you. You hand your ticket to the cute girl working the booth and wonder why people like you, who might not be the most attractive yet are genuinely interesting, never get girls like that. You write the whole thing off with the excuse that she must be shallow and head into stage area of the club.
The mix of the crowd is just as you suspected, minus the fact there are more underage kids than one would expect for a show with a 9:00 PM door time on a weeknight. The rest of crowd, those legally allowed to drink, are dawned in their best "dressed to get noticed" ensembles, holding their vodka-tonics while making small talk with friends they actually despise, but lack the confidence to disassociate themselves from. Oh yes, something we are all familiar with: another show with a band that, above anything else, is built on the hype of members' previous projects.
Flash forward to the headlining act. The lights go down and the band takes the stage as the crowd cheers with a genuine excitement. The older crowd is trying their hardest to fight back the feeling of elation - proving the extent of their jadedness - while scoffing at the younger kids who, not yet downtrodden by the banalities of everyday life, have been dancing to their heart's content. The band, for the most part, kicks ass but you can't help but wince and feel sorry for poor Josiah Steinbrick. Before they play a note, you start to wonder if he's thinking the same you are.
They aren't cheering for Josiah; Skiba is the man they came to see. And, essentially, you're right; as Josiah and the accompanying, unnamed band provides the instrumentation for tonight's performance, Mr. Skiba does just as one would expect him to, belting out macabre lyrics while being the most powerful presence on stage thus commandeering all the attention that should be directed elsewhere. Starting with the more upbeat dance songs, the energy is consistent before breaking stride with the disc's moodier, and ultimately, duller songs. The banter between songs is limited, but still coming from only Skiba. Quietly, on the side of the stage, Steinbrick remains humbles and takes his joy privately, just happy to recreate his songs for a live audience.
The band plays a solid set. The bass is just as haunting as it sounds on disc and presented live, the guitars give off more of that dark British sound that is captured and channeled so well on Patent Pending. It's not one for the books, but a good show all around and, as you leave the venue with your friends, you cannot help but hear everyone praise Skiba's musical genius. Finally all those notions you had while listening to Patent Pending culminate into something you couldn't quite put your finger on until seeing the band live. The only problem with Heavens is that its weakest element is getting all the credit. This is no way an attack on Mr. Skiba either; it's just that the poorest part of the album is both his lyrical work and vocal delivery.
Sure we all love the dark imagery he conjures up, especially the fixation on sharp objects - this album makes reference to knives, scissors AND guillotines - and premature death, but one can only handle so much. If anything it sounds like it came from a notebook of throwaway Alkaline Trio lyrics; would you really expect him to ever write a song about cell phones on a proper release? If this had been a solo release of his then the sub par content and reused vocal melodies would be acceptable but when placed against these gems composed by Steinbrick, "half-assed" is the only term that comes to mind.
Nice job Josiah, but next time keep your projects to yourself. You never know who will end up getting most of the credit for it.