Review Summary: Hospital Music is an excellent record which only stamps Matthew Good’s reputation as a man with things to say and the ability to say them through good music.
Staying vital in the music industry is a tough thing to do. Maintaining some semblance of artistic integrity all the while staying vital is also quite the accomplishment. Matthew Good over his 12 year career has managed to do both along with a great amount of prowess and success. If you think about it, the release of The Last of the Ghetto Astronauts in 1995 doesn't seem to long ago and in hindsight set off a chain reaction of great albums from his band (Matthew Good Band) and himself. Every great band manages to release 2-4 great albums and then starts to falter. Matthew Good on the other hand has managed to release great album after one another without much time in between. Garnering mainstream success and experimenting with different styles throughout.
Hospital music is a much more intimate affair as compared to any of Good's previous works. A lot has happened in Matthew Good’s personal life ever since he released In a Coma in 2005. Bipolar disorder and divorce have both hit him hard emotionally and mentally and the record really reflects that. As a result, most of the music is just Good singing with his acoustic guitar which gives the album a very hollow feel, almost eerie. You can tell by the lyrics that Matthew definitely had the terrible divorce in his mind and his lyrics reflect that. What usually would be political anthems filled with snide and cynical lyrics are now replaced by anti-love songs most notably seen on "She's in it for the money”. Letting go the venom accumulating in him is the main theme throughout on amusing and cryptic songs like “I’m not safer than a bank” and “Girl wedged under the firebird”. But the political lyrics aren't completely forgotten on Hospital Music as “Black Helicopter” is a classic Matthew Good anthem chock full with thought provoking lines like "Only killers call killing progress". After listening to this record, it's apparent that the music takes a back seat and Matthew Good just wants to let his heart spill onto the floor as he laments about his life. But that is not to say the record has its fair share of catchy riffs and optimism. The lead-off-single "Born Losers” features a nice little acoustic riff that is as catchy as the song itself and "Devils in your details" has some enjoyable guitar work, also.
In its entirety, the album is exactly what the cover is. Matthew Good alone stripped down to the barest and you listening to him, and it works quite well. It would suck if his voice wasn't good, but it is. His melodic and warbly yelps mixed in with some evocative vocals that just echo through the music and give his voice a much more landscaped and epic feeling. The production of the record only adds to the beauty and raw power of his voice as it feels like he’s singing in an empty hollow room. Matthew Good’s lyrics-come-first attitude towards writing songs is emphasized further here as the musicianship takes a bit of a back seat, and the key to enjoying the record is relating to the lyrics. Included on Hospital Music are two covers in the form of Dead Kennedy’s’ “Moon over Marin” and Daniel Johnston’s “True love will find you in the end”, the latter being an underscore of the album and a form of closure for Matthew Good.
The album’s Magnus opus is “Champions of Nothing”, which is probably one of the most epic songs ever written by Matthew Good (and he has quite a discography). The song clocks in at an impressive nine and half minutes. The addition of violin really adds an atmospheric effect throughout (which is an underlying theme throughout the record) as Good sings abstract lyrics like “When Hollywood runs out of Indians” as the song trudges along until it reaches a cathartic and uplifting peak. “And I’d say what you’d say, Champions of nothing” Good sings as the song by this moment really hits home due to Matthew Good’s uncompromising emotion and penchant for writing interesting and beautiful songs. As the disc keeps going, it starts to become an exhausting listen considering there’s not a huge amount of variety musically, which is probably the only flaw of Hospital Music. The album as a whole feels a bit too stripped down at points and the disc starts to get a bit boring. The lack of a pay-off on a lot of the songs hinders its chance for replay value. Songs like A Single Explosion indeed have a powerful pay-off almost reminiscent of Coldplay (minus the boredom), which makes the song enjoyable and worthwhile to listen to.
Nonetheless, Hospital Music is an excellent record which only stamps Matthew Good’s reputation as a man with things to say and the ability to say them through good music. No doubt, Hospital Music is up there when it comes to records of the year and is a form of musical therapy of Matthew Good’s troubling times.