Chris Carrabba once said that if he had heard Jonah Matranga’s Onelinedrawing records first, he might not have bothered to create Dashboard Confessional. Listening to The Volunteers, it’s easy to see what he meant.
Like Carrabba, Matranga has done time as a rock-and-roll frontman, first leading the Sacramento-based outfit Far, then briefly helming the pop-punk New End Original. As Onelinedrawing, Matranga writes and performs — sometimes in living rooms and basements — earnest songs with disarming humor and wit, often accompanied only by his guitar and a programmable R2D2 toy. Much like Carrabba’s outfit, Onelinedrawing is essentially a solo project, with a revolving door of collaborators. Although it started as an outlet for songs that didn’t fit Far’s metallic context, it’s developed an identity and following all its own.
The act’s sound has evolved with each release, becoming more sophisticated and more listenable. Matranga has never been one to stick to a specific style, and The Volunteers shows him genre-hopping more successfully than ever. The surefire cut "Over It" includes overdriven guitars and an infectious sing-along refrain, while "Oh, Boys" rocks a bass-heavy electro-shuffle. The saccharine simple-living statement of "Livin’ Small" is made more palatable by the humorous inclusion of understated Bon Jovi and Puff Daddy references. A number of friends, including the illustrious Dave Sardy, provide the spare but skillful production that makes this album Onelinedrawing’s most polished and accessible work of art.