Emerging as an alternative junkie in the mid nineties, Matthew Good and his band had a little mission. They wanted there to be a place in popular music for orchestras, acoustic anthems and hard-hitting rock songs. His first few albums were a mix of all three, and gradually he got rid of one of those elements. On Underdogs
, the main sound is distortion, wailing vocals and pumping drums. On The Audio of Being
, the sounds included orchestras and more hard rock "anthems", if you will. On Avalanche
, he focused on orchetras for the most part. Though the result was mesmerizing, you had to wonder what he would come up next. Only eleven months after he released Avalanche
, he made a quick rebound with this, a more decent album than anything.
As I just said, this album is a bit dissapointing. The sound here is dumb rock chords in a chain with a bunch of distortion, earning them an extremely repetetive sound that just doesn't quit. Lucky for us, they throw in a few gems to keep this one going. For example, some of the best work is the singles. Alert Status Red
and In Love with a Bad Idea
are single worthy, and both are extremely catchy and, to a certain extent, dark. One of Matt's signatures is dark, moody songs with simple chords that he seems to make his. Alert Status Red
has simplistic chords with a slight distortion leading into a brief chorus. As the second verse comes around, you get hit with some great lyrics. Prefferably "In the wilderness, the only place to find freedom is in the dictionary, under F". As the lyrics keep on metaphoring, the music continues with a kind of slow tempo, and after the second chorus a simplistic solo comes in to keep the song interesting. After all, it does clock in at a respectable 4:25. A verse lacking guitars and adding handclaps isn't sorely needed, but it's great to listen to regardless. In Love with a Bad Idea
is worse, however. It's good though. With three power chord verses, unflexible vocals singing about "Making out in the basement with the American Dream". Gradually the chorus comes in with a smaller effect than the verses. It's good, though. The vocals seem to go out of their range but the music is simple enough to be easy and nice to listen to. Not much else happens in the song. It's good, but not too good.
There are other good songs as well. We're So Heavy
seems to be a return to the Audio of Being
era in regards to the music. With a hard rocking verse with little to offer but the need to rock, and a slower, more calm chorus that almost makes a return to strings, a breakdown with a lullaby-esque guitar riff and a suprisingly flexible Matt. Overall, not much else happens, so there really isn't that much else to say. Another good song is Buffalo Seven
. A song that starts out alot like Alert Status Red
, this is another slower, darker rock song, but has some great chords, good drum fills and an excellent chorus with climbing guitar riffs and acoustic guitars. A rhythm-powered chorus ensues, but has the exact same effect as it's verse predecessor. Again, the chorus comes, but a good solo comes in to keep the song interesting. Another pre-chorus and chorus and that's the end right there. A great, dark song that this album somewhat lacks. North American for Life
has a fast guitar riff (gasp!) fierce vocals and decent overall rhythm performance. And as the chorus rolls around, you get the promise that Matt Good is "North American for Life!!". More great lyrics come in at the second verse, and a solo comes in a tad bit too early. And a return to that awesome little riff that led this song in. A great song with no real bad parts about it. Empty Road
is an acoustic, country-esque ditty complete with lap-steel guitar, folk chords and a dark vocal performance by Matt. Overall, there really isn't that much to say about this song except that it's a sort of blue-grass song with a modern Matthew Good twist to it. An enjoyable song, really. The finale Ex Pats of the Blue Mountain Symphony Orchestra
may start out like an Avalanche
song, but don't be deceived. This song is a Who-influenced song (in fact, it may seem like a direct copy from some of Pete Townshends riffs), with frequently filling drums and a buildup to the chorus with a Tommy like feel in the music and the vocals. A solo helps "end" the song, and there is a bit of silence following. An acoustic guitar ends the part one, and a country inspired song comes in weird effect. As Matt doesn't really sound like he belongs in the blue-grass scene, but this is really actually a very enjoyable little ditty. Something innocent to end the album. The perfect end to the album. A mixture of brawn and brains.
There are some bad song. Nuff said. Of course, they're scattered all over the place making it an almost trap like mixture. Some songs are more enjoyable than others, but only more so for being guilty pleasures. Some rather brainless songs are here alright. And one of them is the opening Put Out Your Lights
. A simplistic riff and following rhythm sections make this song just plain boring. Though the vocals performance is good, it just seems that they're trying too hard to appeal to the AC/DC audience, something that really doesn't please a good portion of Matt's music. The simple chorus with mindless vocals, where you get the feeling that Matt is just trying to swear, as it makes absolutley no sense. Eh. What can I say? It doesn't sound like Matt at all. Unfortunately, this isn't the only song like this. The follow-up Poor Man's Grey
seems like an attempt to hook the blues-rock audience on. It may accomplish that, but it really turns off the average Matt Good audience, like the first track did so. My advice? Scatter the poor tracks better. There are other low points on the album. But they mostly belong in the decent songs, therefore making the songs decent. It's complicated, but that's what it is.
Overall, this album has it's ups and downs. And while some songs suffer from what I like to call "Boring rock-ontitis", others shine brightly. There is plenty of variety on this album, but all songs really measure up the same. Rock song with simple chords. That's really what can be said about White Light Rock & Roll Review
. My suggestion is if you like varied rock music, you'd like this album but it also may come across as a bunch of alternative geeks posing as hard rock icons.
Matthew Good Band:
Matthew Good: Vocals, guitars, piano
Richard Priske: Bass, vocals
Pat Steward: Drums, percussion
There are a few other performers, but don't really appear on the album that much.
Thanks for reading,