I will always be the worst.
Matthew Good Band
“Why don’t you do one of those unsolicited reviews of an album that’s old and mostly forgotten?”
“I could do that. What did you have in mind?”
“Well, Matt Good has been all popular as a solo artist in the last few years. You should go back to his earlier days and talk about Raygun. As a bonus it’s short so you won’t have to write much.”
“That’s a good idea! I’ll do it!”
It’s 1996. I’m in Grade 9 and The Matthew Good Band has been enjoying enormous indie success. Dave Genn (now of 54*40? What?) has just joined the group, and they are just a short time away from exploding with Underdogs and it’s rocking single Everything is Automatic. It seems like a good time for an album bridging EP. Raygun appears with a new version of Haven’t Slept In Years (I’ll get to that) and a bizarre cover picture of a man with a 1940’s futuristic gun strapped to his face. But what really matters is the music, and this collection succeeds in a wide variety of ways.
The first of 5 tracks is the title one, Raygun. It builds up with heavy drums, bass and guitar. There was something about Matt Good’s voice that moved teenaged me. It still does I think. This song is everything you’d expect from this group, up tempo, yet at times understated. The sound was particularly popular in the late 90’s which were my formative music years. Matt Good was known for his politically charged and somewhat crude lyrics. He has a bit of Dave Matthews and a bit of Bob Dylan in his words.
The ode to Star Wars (not really) Generation X-Wing starts out with drums that sound like the beginning of Love Shack. I love the B-52’s. The song quickly becomes much more Matthew Good Band. This song displays his love of almost howling vocal parts. Yea you can call me loser, yeah you can call me anything. This song seems to be about feeling inadequate, or at least recognizing that you just aren’t that great of a person. I’ve heard Matt Good isn’t the nicest guy to deal with, but at least he knows it! The solo in Generation X-Wing is not very notable, and it’s followed by a feedback laced rambling speech. Yet somehow this is still an entertaining song.
Haven’t Slept in Years was on Last of the Ghetto Astronauts but it was remade for the EP. The beginning of this song is just awesome. I was once in a jam grou that only did Matthew Good Band songs. It was a lot of fun. This is definitely the stand out track on the disc. Although you could argue that there is not a huge difference between any early Matthew Good Band songs, they all still have merit as creative rock pieces. What they realized that a lot of other hard rock bands don’t is that you can’t just pound out a bunch of power chords and a big solo and consider yourself an interesting musician. Matt Good and his proteges were always diversifying their songs, adding bits and pieces that made them fun to listen to, all while maintaining that rock ethic. Haven’t talked to anybody else.
I’ve never been to Alabama. I guess Matt Good has. But what is life if not a joke? That is a wonderful question. See rather than singing abotu some girl he slept with, or lost, Matt Good wants us to ponder the very meaning of our existence in the context of a dingy hotel in a backwater town. He is also obsessed with using television as an image in his songs. I think he views it as a black hole in human culture, since the characters who watch TV or are on TV are inevitably shallow, lost or hopeless.
So Long, Mrs. Smith echoes back to Matt Good’s early days as a solo artist. Yes he was a folky troubadour before making it as a rock star, and then going back to being a folky solo guy. I don’t think he could do an album without a song like this. Apparations, and Strange Days are two more examples.
This is a short little EP, but it is highly enjoyable. If you’ve got half an hour to pass away, I’d suggest putting it on. If you’re like me it will be a nice flashback to a simpler more awkward time in your life.