Forgive me for being a bit behind the curve here, but Matthew Good’s sixth solo album Arrows of Desire is good enough to be well worth the wait. Out since late September, the album follows his staggeringly good Lights of Endangered Species, bringing a serious dose of invigorating rock music to an audience starved for music of this caliber. From the opening one-two-three gut-punches of “Arrows of Desire“, “Via Dolorosa” and “Had It Coming”, this album announces itself as exactly what fans of Good have come to expect: introspective lyrics coupled with raw passionate rock arrangements which showcase Good’s always-stellar vocals.
The hooks are visceral, hitting from an emotional core no one else among his peers could mine on such a regular basis with this level of consistency. The way he stagger-holds each syllable on “Via Dolorosa” before letting loose with a guttural wail on the chorus: “Wait til I get my head on … wait til I get my head on straight!” That’s what brings us back for more, no matter how long we in the States might have to wait to ever catch him in a live setting. The raw fury comes through on the album, something ever more rare in this day of over-polished radio fodder. Check out Arrows of Desire immediately and remind yourself why rock music, in the right hands, will always be relevant.
If Dexter Morgan had The Racer’s album as his dark passenger, he wouldn’t need to settle for serial murder — they’ve got “killing it” handled!
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Don’t let the first thirty seconds fool you. Monroe (New York)’s The Racer delivers with their latest single “Settle” from their sophomore album Passengers, due out November 11. At first the song echoes classic Coldplay — heavy on the pianos but advocating the tried and true slow build. No doubt, however, they deliver the payoff — the subtlety of the keyboards and vocals during the first verse makes way for the blistering chorus. Instantly there’s no doubting the band much more comfortably compares to Matthew Good. You won’t escape the earworms once the band drops all pretense and lets Steve Kondracki’s blistering guitar solo take over. “Tell me, who are you?” Pete Marotta wails on the refrain, and quite frankly, I’m asking the same question about them. I can’t wait to delve into the whole album!
Year of the Album — #062
Matthew Good – “Lights of Endangered Species” (2011, Universal)
Matthew Good has never become much of a force in the US, despite his music being legendary in Canadian alternative music circles for two decades. Much like fellow Canadian rocker Raine Maida, of Our Lady Peace, Good’s music has had to find more of a niche audience in America, but the music above all else has maintained an incredible depth of quality through the years. On Lights of Endangered Species, his fifth and potentially final solo album, the varied strains of his musical genius have come together in an act of total sonic combustion, and the result is nothing short of phenomenal. This is a budding mid-year contender for my favorite album of the year, and it’s Good’s best work to date.
Good has always been a lyrical beast, the background music taking a backseat to his indelible bend of cultural commentary and raw vitriol. With Lights of Endangered Species, he has shifted his focus to the music itself, and these arrangements burst out of the speakers as the most incredible arrangements he’s ever had to back his vocals. Fully orchestrated in a way he’d attempted to achieve since forming the concept during the mid nineties, these are complex, fully developed sonic palates on which he can paint subtlely with his words. The result is his best-developed album, providing long-term listeners with the perfect album he’s frequently hinted at but never quite managed to deliver.
From the opening drum and piano strains of “Extraordinary Fades,” it is monumentally clear that this, if it is sadly to be his last album, is certainly Good’s masterpiece. His haunting vocals work their way in and out of the tense strings and thundering bass: “Lie and say to me extraordinary fades,” he begs, and the music swells to envelop him with open arms. He sings of his battle with bipolar disorder on “What If I Can’t See The Stars, Mildred?” spitting the words with raw power over bass and piano, building to a thundering climax. “If I look crazy, wonder what the fuck’s with everyone?” he snarls. “Do you walk out the door? Baby you gotta do what you gotta do. I end my day, picture a house on fire … on fire … on fire.” It’s a raw, blistering cut to the quick, and Good’s up to the challenge. The result is an example of concept meeting perfectly with execution, forming a track I personally won’t soon forget.
If I haven’t sold you on this album to this point, it’s not going to happen. Move along, rejoin your quiet existence and forget that Matthew Good was ever spoken of. The rest of you reading out there should immediately find a copy of this album as quickly as you can. Dig into it voraciously, listen to the songs up close and personal, give the music a chance to assert itself and prove the true depth of this magnificent album. Matthew Good has outdone himself with Lights of Endangered Species, an album which is going to prove for years to come why he’s been one of the few true musical geniuses of the last twenty years. If this is his last, it is worthy exit music and one of the best albums you’ll hear from anyone in 2011.