Matthew E. White’s follow up to the critically acclaimed Big Inner (2012) sits uncomfortably between some odd influences, sonically it’s seventies England before Punk, strangled by its own beard, but it’s also clean soul, too perfectly recorded and unfortunately Climax Blues Band’s aptly titled Couldn’t Get It Right. The soul side is grooveless and any counteracting chaos that is there is rather nervous and devoid of excitement as chaos prevails where it isn’t supposed to – layers on layers till it boils in its own skin.
It starts off so well – for about twenty seconds, but some odd vocal ideas early on and some clumsy drum rolls take all the soul out of what is supposed to be smooth, making it rather stiff, defeating its own purpose. The songs seem to go on too long, like he set up a loop at a random length and played till it ran out rather than when the song wanted to naturally end, pleading with him not to go around the sequence again, Tranquility becoming tedium.
Although the Spacebomb crew are perfunctory and he has a knack for finding the perfect balance between his vocal and what sounds like a hundred-piece band, on Feeling Good Is Good Enough the drums seem to punctuate inappropriately. Instrumentally he fills the tracks up with idea after idea until they begin to cancel each other out. He pushes brass into the songs because he likes brass not because it fits – it’s a multi-tracked porridge that has your jaw slowly wearing itself out. The sound is so fat that it implodes, everything comes at you at the same frequency, all at the same time, it’s as relentless as a metal band but without the gratification of the lead solo (hot or cold). It’s the kitchen sink, it sounds like he has an eighty-piece orchestra in the bath (not the bathroom, the bath) along with the brass section, the house band and a gaggle of backing singers – and the piano.
The, I’m so straight I’m weird cover, Jesus’s appearance and the whispered vocal with the lack of space in the music, make it one of the most claustrophobic records I’ve ever heard – one dimensional, samey. It’s as if he heard all of Brian Wilson’s tricks, appreciated Harry Nilsson’s natural magic, bundled it all up and then forgot to loosen the knot.
Never has such a talented guy been so disappointing, he obviously has no input from anyone else, nobody to challenge his decisions, no objective engineer, no talented special sideman with a valid opinion and reviews that give him little doubt that he is on the right track – he has no need to reach beyond because he thinks he’s there already.
It’s like being trapped in Grandma’s house, chained to the floral sofa while she tells you all about him for hours and hours then she drugs you and locks you in the boot (trunk) of her car, in the garage and leaves you there to suffocate whilst having tea with the vicar – I’m sorry, I’m sure Granny is lovely, I’m just so disappointed with this record and everybody likes to talk…