ERIC MATTHEWS REVIEWS
Here you will find links to many Eric Matthews album reviews.
Check 'em out!!
LATENESS OF THE HOUR - Reviews:
The Lateness of the Hour
Matthews is a classy guy. He dresses sharp, he writes beautifully chessy melodies and he sings in falsetto; like a not dead Jeff Buckley. His last record, It's Heavy In Here Here was received by critics as one of the greatest orch-pop records made since something the Carpenters did back in the '70s. His return comes with The Lateness of the Hour, and it sounds like a lullaby.
Creating lush orchestrations and gorgeous, aching, acoustic chords from a few pieces of wood, Matthews is like a graceful cross between Burt Bacharach and Barry White. But on songs like "Ideas That Died That Day," "To Clear the Air" and "Gilded Cages," Matthews shows he's an entirely different breed.
If you feel that what the world needs now is a new Frank Sinatra so you can get her in bed, The Lateness of the
Hour will not only show you've got style and taste, it'll also score you points with the ladies.
The Lateness Of The Hour - (Sub Pop)
I must give some credit to Sub Pop for their going out on a limb and signing acts that deviate so strongly from the music
typically associated with them (the "G" word). However, I don't think anyone could have expected an act as different as Eric
Matthews to put out music bearing the Sub Pop imprint. This is different. Very different.
A solid songwriter, and perhaps an even better arranger, Eric Matthews brings back orchestral pop at it's most lush - it's most
delicate. The songs on his latest, The Lateness Of The Hour, consist of arrangements so fragile and so perfect that the
slightest foreign element would bring it all crashing down. Matthews greatest talent is that he sets these very peculiar
boundaries for his songs, and never lets thing fall out of them.
While appealing to not quite a select audience as what may seem (the cocktail set, for example, are big Matthews fans),
Matthews finds a way to inject a startling variety in his music. upon first listen people would, wrongfully, dismiss The
Lateness Of The Hour's songs as being too similar to one another creating, well, boredom. Matthews doesn't seem to care for making the "big splash", though.
He seems to prefer emphasizing the subtleties that can make a song succeed or fail.
And succeed it does! Almost always signing in a half-falsetto/half-whisper reminiscent of, don't laugh, Pink Floyd, the CD starts things off with the hypnotic
Ideas That Died That Day, perhaps the closest that Matthews comes to more contemporary fare. Following it is the wonderful My Morning Parade complete with
an outstanding vocal and even more impressive guitar solo that somehow manages to keep with the songs even feel. Matthews trumpet playing also delivers a
fine accent, a subtle "shot in the arm" that Matthews is so good at. Becomes Dark Blue is another track featuring Matthews at his trumpet, adding an
almost-Chet Baker sense of cool to the track.
Experimentation and rock aesthetics also appear on The Lateness Of The Hour, the most startling example being Everything's So Real. Opening with a quite
surprising guitar fury played by Matthews himself, the song's dream-like rhythm an great vocal may make detractors at least take note of the talent at work.
Even a middle eastern sound makes an appearance on The Pleasant Kind. Since The Wheel Free is a mesmerizing acoustic guitar driven number that benefits
greatly from a solid electric guitar by Jason Falkner and some steady drumming courtesy of NAME. Matthews can be playful with his melodies as well, with the
shuffle rhythms that he sometimes uses with his strings and on tracks such as Dopeyness. Here, Matthews favours a more exotic feel aided by his performance
at a wind organ. The even-superior Yes, Everyone continues in this light. Matthews arranging skills are displayed at perhaps their strongest on such tracks.
When using strings, Matthews arrangements herald back to two points in history. The first is the Beatle influence (circa Penny Lane) where brass instruments
rise soundly above the strings. No Gnashing Teeth is a representation of this approach. The other recalls the orchestral experimentation of early 70s rock/folk
groups, again of British origin. Tracks such as Festival Fun and To Clear The Air exemplify this, bringing to mind such obscure acts as Strawbs. Worth noting
though is that Matthews arrangements are never bombastic. He never tries to project his musical vision in a veil of pretension. The listener is listening for their
own enjoyment - not for the idea that they MUST listen to Matthews to hear a skill at work.
While not your standard guitar-bass-drums pop fare, there is much for fans of pop to enjoy on The Lateness Of The Hour. Very few make the kind of music that
Matthews does and when they do, it is nowhere near as good. In a way, true lovers of music may find that Matthews defies criticism. A bold statement to be
sure, but one cannot deny Matthews' ability and talent. A wild comparison perhaps, but I consider it akin to the opinion of some towards Frank Zappa, or
Jellyfish to a lesser degree, that clearly admires musical accomplishment despite not being one's "cup of tea". Matthews' music is certainly not everyone's
"cup of tea", and is astounding for it's distance from the mainstream (and people thought grunge went out on a limb!). However, if this is the sort of thing that
can find a place in your library, it will certainly be all the richer for it.
"THE LATENESS OF THE HOUR"
(SUB POP) CD
Eric Matthews is a classically-trained trumpeter and creator of a highly-polished brand of orchestral power pop;
a well-coifed J. Crew advertisement who shows open disdain for his slacker-rock peers. So how did this guy ever get on Sub Pop?! He's just that good. When Sub Pop's Jonathon Poneman caught a listen to Matthews' first project, a duo called Cardinal with Aussie-popster Richard Davies, and some help from his friends in Sebadoh, he was hooked.
Cardinal, along with Matthews' first solo release, 1995's "It's Heavy in Here," featured power pop structures, orchestral arrangements and a smoky lounge ambiance. The Oregonian delivers another excellent dose of this brilliance in his second Sub Pop outing, "The Lateness of the Hour." It goes down like a warm brandy in an Ivy League den; a flannel comforter on a breezy autumn day. Contrary to most power pop, "Lateness" is best taken as a complete work rather than a mishmash of catchy hooks and easy lyrics. "Everything So Real" and "Dopiness" are Matthews' most obvious bows to his pop roots, complete with the help of Jason Falkner (ex-Jellyfish) and intelligent lyrics. On "Ideas That Died That Day" Matthews coolly whispers "Stimulate the disease/Kiss the flowers and hear them sneeze," his breathy vocal style sounding somewhere in between Donald Fagen and Alan Parsons. "My Morning Parade" and "Since the Wheel Free" invoke a smooth lounge sound reminiscent of (The Blue Moods of) Spain and Burt Bacharach. Matthews' prowess in orchestral arrangement is highlighted in "Gilded Cages" and "To Clear the Air," while "No Gnashing Teeth" is an obvious homage to "Penny Lane."
It's amazing how Matthews can put this much polish in his music while avoiding even the slightest bit of pretense. Less pretense even than many of his grunge forebears. So put on your wool peacoat, kick through the piles of fallen leaves and listen to Eric Matthews' breezy pop. An album for the distinguishing palate.
The Lateness of the Hour"
To insure that his latest CD was as poppy as possible, Eric Matthews enlisted the help of Jason Falkner, known for his equally poppy work as a solo artist as well as Jellyfish. The results are as full of sugar sweetness as rock candy, and just as jagged. Thatís what makes this record a delight.
Songs like "My Morning Parade" and "The Pleasant Kind" are wondrous pop gems that are catchy and have a great
sprightliness to them. Nearly all the songs have a perfect
pop arrangement and are never overproduced, which tends to happen on these kinds of records. Occasionally, Ericís
vocals, which is an echoed tenor, tend to get on your nerves
and since harmonies are nowhere to be found, this can be a
problem. However, once you feel that, a great tune comes
in and your humming overrides any negative thoughts.
The Lateness of the Hour
Sub Pop Records, PO Box 20645, Seattle
Street Date: August 26, 1997
Eric Matthews' debut album, It's Heavy in Here, certainly began with a bang. The trumpet flourish of "Fanfare" laid out Matthews' plan for destroying the anarchy of rock with his own brand of grace and clarity. Wielding a baton as a weapon, he orchestrated one of 1995's most compelling new musical visions -- of pop as gliding symphony, a cheer rather than a yawn.
His careful planning, mannered timing and preoccupation with melody brought order to a genre known more for innovation than for timeless beauty. That he borrowed from the pop-standard tradition -- "easy listening" earned that label for a reason -- without losing the vitality of rock, spoke volumes. Matthews sculpted each of his songs into a shining, well-defined piece that could stand alone. Critics and music connoisseurs took notice.
His presence firmly established, Matthews returns with a bit less pomp and circumstance. The Lateness of the Hour is the work of a songwriter who believes firmly in his own artistic philosophy; this guy doesn't have anything to prove. And so album-opener "Ideas That Died That Day," sounds like a whimper. Without the gripping immediacy of Heavy, "Ideas" at first listen sounds deflated. Have patience, grasshopper, there is much to learn. Lateness may lack the aggression of Matthews carving out space for himself, but it is a more challenging, subtle set of tracks. To the faithful come the fruits.
Matthews, like few contemporary pop/rock artists, puts artistry on the same pedestal as emotion. (Note: go ahead and use whatever genre tag you choose; Matthews obviously doesn't much care for them at all, and with a "philharmonic" that includes electric guitars and Spookey Ruben on bass, as well as the harpsichord and fluegelhorn, there's an element of truth to any of them.) Songs like
"My Morning Parade" and the Beatles-bubblegum anthem "No
Gnashing Teeth" rely just as heavily on Matthews' lyrical poetry and airy croon as they do on the technical perfection of his backing score. He sacrifices spontaneity, but he never sounds stale.
The term "dark blue" has cropped up several times to describe Matthews' two solo albums, and it's as fitting a description of his music as anything. Conservative and yet somehow mystical, staid and yet beautiful. Matthews' chosen oeuvre is a hard one to pull off. I dread the inevitable copycats; their color will be navy, dull and
greyish. Matthews is cornflower all the way.
-- Lindy Powell