Review Summary: Am I a slobbering fanboy? Maybe. Is Hospital Music one of the year's best releases? Yes.
Hospital Music is Matthew Good’s seventh album, and at this point we ought to cut the man some slack. Seven albums? Frankly, that’s plenty of time to have your creative fuel run out and become an oblivious clone of your former creative self, hopelessly rehashing rhythms, guitar riffs, and vocal hooks. But Matthew Good has not only kept his creative fuel fresh every single album (though it almost went dry on White Light Rock and Roll Review), he has constantly expanded on ideas that were only touched upon on occasions; Beautiful Midnight was a rock album filled with arena-rockers, The Audio of Being was a gloomy, schizophrenic alternative rock album with plenty of brooding subtleties, Avalanche was a gloriously beautiful orchestral study, and White Light Rock and Roll returned to rock ‘n’ roll roots, with sharp power chord guitars and plenty of attitude.
But Matthew Good’s latest album, Hospital Music, is perhaps where Good shines best. Whereas Good should be gradually moving toward a career summation rather than an album, or individual entity sound wise, Matthew has settled on a sound here that is achingly beautiful, slow, melodic and very stripped down. Songs are built off a simple strumming of an acoustic guitar, adding layer upon layer of assisting instruments such as keyboard, lead guitars, and Good’s warbly and evocative vocals. The eight and a half minute opener, “Champions of Nothing”, is perhaps the most slow-building song on the album, developing gradually, almost painfully slow, not exactly ending in an explosion of noise but rather continues adding layers of guitar solos and drums until it implodes and sinks back down to a simple acoustic guitar, creepy samples, and Matt’s crooning vocals. The single “Born Losers”, the bare and downbeat “Metal Airplanes” and “The Devil’s In your Details” are all exemplary rock songs that follow an incredibly simple yet effective formula; they’re just wonderfully written songs that are nice to listen to.
Hospital Music is Good’s most thoroughly solid album in a long time. There are no bad songs by any means, and even though there are a couple songs that aren’t all that important (the one minute song “I Am Not Safer Than A Bank and the minute and a half quickie rocker “Girl Wedged Under the Front of a Firebird”), Matt shows that his songwriting edge has not dulled in the least. Though the songs are a little more on the simple side, they’re still remarkably enjoyable, well written, and performed with great passion, which result in a very human and comfortable listen. The passion is as clear as it ever was in Good’s voice, which, though an acquired taste, can go from a whisper to a sudden yelp of emotion that almost echoes through the music. And even though there are fifteen songs on the album, listening to the album is a breeze, though it stretches for over an hour. With songs like the simply gorgeous “Odette”, the slack with melancholy quiver of “99% of Us is Failure”, and the lovely mood-rock of “She’s in It for the Money”, Hospital Music present itself well right off the bat and equally throughout the music is as impressive. An incredibly solid release.
Matthew Good is an artist that I have enourmous respect for, and his latest release is just another reason as to why. Incredibly catchy, yet never irritating, Hospital Music is a slow and thoughtful process and display of simply strummed acoustic guitars, twangy leads, intriguing lyrics, passionate vocals, and, most importantly, good song writing. And even though I’m a slobbering fanboy, I highly recommend this album to just about any appreciator of rock music. It’s stripped down and bare, yet sounds as full as Matthew Good’s band days creating huge rock songs. Easily one of the best albums of the year.