Review Summary: That old man in the sky, he's all ice on the outside
Vancouver is recognized throughout the world as a beautiful, majestic city. Chosen as the location for the Winter Olympics of 2010, the vast community is a spectacle of Canada’s magnificence, supposedly. Having been through Vancouver a few times it’s unbelievable how black and white it is; on the one side there is a wealthy high class, where the rich live in splendour and privilege, where on the other side you have a poverty-stricken population kept from the public’s eye. With the press around Canadian songwriter and political activist, Matthew Good’s new record, Vancouver
, where I am going with this is obvious. With distaste and spite, Good calls Vancouver his hometown, and I know everyone has some hate towards their hometown but I think his odium is a little more justified than the average person, thus the concept to Mr. Good’s fifth solo effort, and his opus.
Opening with the single, Last Parade
, as soon as the chorus hits with Matt singing “Ain’t it good to be back home”
in an apparent sarcastic manner, the theme, stated before, becomes very evident. Though, what makes the album so brilliant is how Vancouver
is not just a premise for hometown hate, but a metaphor for Good’s state of mind. Producing some of Canada’s biggest alt rock hits in the late 90s to early 2000s, with his band, Matthew Good Band, he was known as a terrific songwriter with a knack for writing hooks while keeping the content politically and personally thought provoking. Winning basically everything the Canadian music industry could throw at him, he is known as a Canadian icon, though my opinion, an underrated icon. What has become perceptible, within the last, at least, seven years is Good’s displeasure for the mainstream, whether it is musically or otherwise. Known for not being shy about voicing his opinions towards the Olympics, the Junos, Nickelback, or really anything, Good has had the spotlight for many things other than music. With the release of his prior record, Hospital Music
, an incredibly intimate record about his devastating divorce, the death of a loved one, and his battle with Bipolarity, his emotional state also garnered media attention. Basically, when you have two opposites, poverty and gluttony with Vancouver, political anger and emotional frailty, symmetry is not created. Instead, as Good cries “Go, explode!”
in the epic, The Boy Who Could Explode
, only personal distress is caused, breeding some of his darkest most thought provoking lyrical content.
Carry me Mother Mary, I'm faithless
like Sister Theresa, canonized, faceless.
The press release leaves the plagiarist nameless
and all is forgiven.
Spirituality, politics, media and personal lose play a strong role in the lyrical substance, as shown by the example from the haunting On Nights Like Tonight
, but instead of having “the protest song,” “the anti media song,” and then “the break up song” these topics flow seamlessly throughout the entire record, always inspired, showing off Good’s extensive experience as a songwriter. Another point bringing us back to way this is his masterpiece; how well this record flows. While most of the albums, whether being under his old band or his solo project, contain around fourteen songs, making it, not only, hard to keep a consistent atmosphere but also just making the record hard to digest as a whole. Vancouver
, however, only contains ten tracks putting more impact not only on each individual song, but each lyric.
Though most infuses is placed on Matthew’s poignant vocals, the instrumentation is not to be understated as mere background noise. The percussion acts as a stable backbone, getting at steady, catchy beat without distracting from mood. A perfect example of this is in the epic, restraint filled closer, Empty’s Theme Park
, Blake Manning shows how captivating a simple pattern can be, as the guitar line joins in creating hypnotic simplicity. As for Good’s trade mark guitar work, it is still there but more in the way it was on Hospital Music
, then on the rock and roll focused White Light Rock & Roll Review
, meaning that he is persistent more on melody, and maybe throwing in a solo when it fits, then just making dirty, guitar heavy anthems. Surprisingly, the bass work, written and performed by Mr. Good himself, shows a strong place in the record, even contributing the open riff to hate filled hometown anthem, The Vancouver National Anthem
Well this is our story, but it ain't the truth
Cuz the truth's just for liars that need an excuse.
Around here love's a gangster and charity's the proof
Where God deals on Sundays under a rain burning roof.
A notable factor that is an important part of what makes this album so immense is the return of the Vancouver Symphony Orchestra
which accompanied most evidently on Good’s 2003 release, Avalanche. Avalanche
, probably his album most relatable to this, used strings to add a much darker mood to the album where Vancouver
uses the orchestra as almost another instrument, but in a subtle text. Songs like Great Whales of the Sea
, are more atmospheric and textured than anything else Matthew has ever done because of the great use of the strings, creating a wintry city mood lasts throughout the record. Though this is his most atmospheric work it cannot be said that this is diluted in any way or that this doesn’t have its edge. The powerful, Fought To Fight It
, is sure to breed nostalgia with many of Matthew Good’s faithful drawing a sound that is quite reminiscent of the late ‘90’s hit, Hello Time Bomb
Well this ain't the woods behind the house
there ain't nobody screaming out
for you to come inside and eat.
You're just holding your friends and watching them bleed.
, to me, is not just a recorded political statement, nor is just a great record by a great artist; what it is, is one the few records that have such a deep impact on me, not just in my own music but in my everyday life. It is the kind of record that reminds me of the kind of relevant art that can be made by a passionate songwriter, even one who has been around for over a decade and has been through so much desolation. Solely produced by Matthew Good, he combines the grandiose sound of the fan favourite, Avalanche
, with the intimacy of heartbreaking, Hospital Music
, creating a soundtrack that is not only politically savvy and intelligent but also devastating and desperate. With Vancouver,
Good doesn’t simply make his other work irrelevant but instead, effortlessly, combines all the paramount attributes to make not just the record of the year, but his magnum opus.
Hold me like you’ll never let me go, bear it like you’ll never let it show