Review Summary: White light rock & roll re-review.
Following the relative bombast of 2011’s Lights of Endangered Species
, a fully-orchestrated album that represented the fulfillment of one of his oldest and biggest recording ambitions, Matthew Good returns to more familiar territory with Arrows of Desire
, a forty-two minute slab of punchy radio rock that blends his trademark stoic lyricism with a few more introspective moments. The result is a collection of songs whose zeitgeist feels closest to 2004’s White Light Rock & Roll Review
, an album commonly perceived by the listening public as the weakest and most dispensable member of Good’s solo discography. In that regard, Arrows
struggles a bit at first in trying to establish some sort of identity for itself, a plight which is further exacerbated by the fact that it arrives on our doorsteps with less of a backstory than the bulk of Good’s more recent work (recall: Hospital Music
was set against the backdrop of his crumbling marriage and a subsequent suicide attempt, whereas Vancouver
was charged with his personal disillusionment with the poverty-plagued Downtown Eastside and the vitriol caused by his much-publicized opposition to the 2010 Winter Olympics).
Leading the charge for Arrows
is the simplistic first single “Had It Coming”, which sounds as if it’s not quite finished but still manages to come across as fairly entertaining thanks to a dangerously infectious chorus. Elsewhere, “We’re Long Gone” features Good himself counting down his backing band before they collectively launch into a spot of crunching riffery that has all the watermarks of a Who-esque jam, while the soaring “Letters in Wartime” is probably the best closing track Good has had in his arsenal since “Sort of a Protest Song” ended The Audio of Being
some twelve-odd years ago. The Canadian singer-songwriter even makes a few stabs at establishing some form of broader cultural solidarity with his audience: the title track, for instance, draws its name from the same William Blake poem that inspired the title of the film Chariots of Fire, while album highlight “Via Dolorosa” features the apocryphal rebuke of “Wait till I get my cross on straight!”, a direct reference to the plight that Jesus Christ faced on the path to his own crucifixion. “Guns to Carolina”, a broody slice of guitar-based balladry that vacillates in intensity throughout its four-and-a-half minutes, is also pretty great, but its success is overshadowed slightly by the fact that it constantly vibes like an older Matthew Good track – something of a weird cross between “Set Me on Fire” and “Volcanoes”, perhaps. But while it can be said that there are no obvious clangers on Arrows of Desire
, chances are you’ll have forgotten most of its cuts within a month or two, which is unfortunate to say the least.