Matthew Good


(Universal; 2003)

By Scott Reid | 16 March 2003

Originally I was going to write this review in the form of a fake interview,with Matt Good stepping out every now and again to punch an old lady or steal something from little children, answering nearly every question with "you just don’t get it, and neither does anyone else in this fucking country," but thought to myself — hey, I don’t want to be too hard on this guy. I didn’t hate Beautiful Midnight. He hasn’t always been this bad.I mean, there was a time before he contracted Richard Ashcroft disorder and took on the same level of condescending anti-corporate slogans as a teenager that just got his first subscription to Adbusters, right? I mean, how long has this guy been sitting on the answers to all of our world’s problems without letting us know? Was he always this presumptuous?

Not really.Matt has graced(/grated) this country of ours for about a decade, creating sides from the very beginning. On one side, those who thought his voice was charming and the songs touching. On the other side, about 99.98% of the country.Which is fine and all, because even back when "Symbolistic White Walls"was climbing up the Canadian charts and woo-ing us all with its FM-radio hook and inoffensive lyrics, no one really thought the band would last more than a few years, eventually fading into oblivion like nearly every other Canadian singles band.

But then Underdogscomes out and pisses off everyone except for that noble .2% that enjoy the sudden saturation of MuchMusic airwaves with the album’s seemingly endless list of singles. To be truthful, I really didn’t give two shits about the band until"Rico" started gnawing away at my brain (well, before it wore out its welcome about five listens later) and "Apparitions" had gone from annoying narcissistic excess to charmingly pretentious (and, eventually, back again). So I picked up the album and found myself liking half of it a lot and detesting the rest.They really don’t know how to pick singles, I thought.

Years pass and eventually they release the follow-up, Beautiful Midnight: a surprisingly good album with,again, horrible choice of singles (save "Load Me Up" and "Strange Days," which actually also had a great video) —"Hello Time Bomb"being enough to warrant their grouping into the rest of the late-nineties jock rock that, in general, was as mundanely catchy as it was forgettable.Surrounding a few questionable singles, though, was an album that could have silenced even his biggest critics. Songs the caliber of "I Miss New Wave," "Born to Kill" and "Running For Home" are rare, especially from the band that polluted Canadian airwaves with "Indestructible" just years before. Of course, no one outside of the few of us that liked Underdogsactually gave the thing a chance and the other 28 million continued in wishing he would, just please, shut the fuck up.

But back he came,"guns" blazing. For once, they pick a decent lead-off single single ("Carmalina"),though, once again, blow it with the follow-up (the tepid "Anti-Pop,"and yeah that title is, like, ironic and stuff ‘cos it’s like totallya pop song and stuff yeah), dropping completely out of sight amidst group fights and weekly accounts of how they had broken up and gotten back together more times than a teenage couple. Eventually, but not soon enough, guitarist Dave Genn got the fuck out of dodge, leaving Matt to re-think the "band" a little; deciding,in the end, to go "solo" with some replacement members and a full orchestra.

Almost a year later,along comes a video for "Weapon" with its hand-me-down guitar riffs,embarrassing lyrics ("here by my side/ it’s heaven"; aww), vocals so overdone it makes a drunk at karaoke sound like Nick Drake and a videofull of "insightful" slogans. (And boy does Matt Good love a pseudo-intellectual slogan; anyone remember that "The Future is X-Rated" video? No?Ok.) The follow-up single,"In a World Called Catastrophe," is even worse, backing up ready-made FM radio guitar riffs with a full orchestra, making Richard Ashcroft’s solo career seem subtle and sparse in comparison. This is the same man that wrote "Running For Home" and "The Fine Art of Falling Apart?"

The bottom line about this album is that it’s his worst outing since Last of the Ghetto Astronauts, pitting some of his best songs("While We Were Hunting Rabbits," with its inoffensive melody and coda reminiscent of his spectacular "Man From Harold Wood," the title track and "A Long Way Down") against a whole slew of overproduced,overblown and underwritten awfulness. It takes every legitimate criticism 99.8%of Canadians have used against Matt Good since "Symbolistic White Walls"hit the airwaves and puts it under a magnifying glass, juxtaposed with some of the most absolutely drab material he has put to tape.

There’s some enjoyable moments on the album, but even the best of them are weighed down by the incredible lows — most egregiously the "I care about global issues, too!"/Adbusters-ready "comment" on consumer culture,"21st Century Living"; "How about we supersize third world debt relief," Matt asks, "How about supersizing death with a coke?"In the end, he comes across as another condescending "advocate"spouting out the pre-packaged problems and answers from the pages of a neo-punk’s‘zine, treating the serious problem of over-consumption with tired cliches and the subtle grace of a hammer to the face. ‘Cept that, you know, would be a tad more persuasive. If people want to buy anti-corporate slogans from someone in Vancouver, Matt Good ain’t gonna be it.

Here’s where I would’ve ended the fake interview, with Matt telling me that he doesn’t care what I think because he isn’t writing music for people like me.

"People like me? You mean critics?"

"Fans,"he responds, stepping out to throw eggs at cars and trip up old ladies, yelling something about the wonders of narcissism and how no one really understands.

"Here, take an egg and toss it. It’ll make you feel better."