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April 1, 2004

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Jonah Matranga has a fabulous voice. A bruised and vulnerable croon which warms the heart and satisfies the soul. A voice with the ability to sound sincere but not overly saccharine, ideal for an intimate, acoustic-based record. ‘The Volunteers’ is exactly that. Eleven tracks of emotionally drenched splendour, in which Matragna invites us to sift through his personal thoughts and feelings.

After Matranga’s previous emo pioneering outfit, Far, went on indefinite hiatus in the late nineties, he focused his time on his solo project, Onelinedrawing. He released a string of EP’s, and an album with New End Original (effectively an electric Onelinedrawing record), before in 2002 signing to Jade Tree. Matranga’s first output was ‘Visitor’, a patchy but nonetheless charming LP. Following this he took to the road. Two years of non-stop touring with the likes of Coheed and Cambria, the Weakerthans and Thursday seem to have produced a tightening up, fuller and more diverse sound than many would have expected. Matranga has also really brought the songs this time, full of killer melodies and unusual song constructions.

The brilliant thing about ‘The Volunteers’ is its sweet pop coating. Matranga is clearly not scared to write a memorable pop hook illustrated in the superb stop/start dynamics of ‘Over it’ and the turbo-charged ‘We Had A Deal’. Fortunately, these are not the only treasures to be discovered on this album. ‘Livin’ Small’ is a sweet, delicate ballad and ‘Stay’ a touching heartfelt epic both of which send the pulse racing.

Another attractive thing about Onelinedrawing is, unlike many emo oiks, Matranga has a sense humour which underpins his music. His intelligent lyrics have an occasional comic slant, shown especially in ‘Oh Boys’ with its chant-a-long refrain of ‘boys keep fucking up my car’. I must says it’s refreshing to find this in a scene saturated with overly serious cry-babies.

‘The Volunteers’ is a enjoyable, inspiring and inventive album which leaves you wondering, if Dashboard Confessional can break the mainstream then how long will it be until Onelinedrawing follow in their footsteps?


Andrew Boaden