Review Summary: Ex-Howards Alias mastermind Matthew Reynolds cements his status as one of Britain's finest and most underrated songwriters.
It's been a rather common occurrence in the last few years for musicians from defunct punk rock-related bands to embark on solo projects, and here in the UK, this phenomenon has seen musicians rise from the ashes of some our most intriguing and yet sadly under-appreciated bands to keep building upon their previous achievements. Names that spring to mind include Dave House (formerly of pop-punks Lucky 13), Kelly Kemp (ex-vocalist of No Comply), and possibly the most well-known of the bunch, Million Dead's Frank Turner. But far more exciting a prospect than any of the above, for me at least, is the work of one Matthew Reynolds. You see, five years ago, he wrote and recorded The Answer Is Never, Howards Alias
' second album; as well as effortlessly combining just about every subgenre between RX Bandits-esque progressive-ska and emotional post-hardcore, the album chronicled a journey of self-discovery and was a spectacular affirmation of individuality and non-conformity. Yeah, maybe I'm a little gushing with the praise and lofty concepts there, but in a list of albums that have changed my life, it'd be pretty damn high.
So with that in mind, it was with no small amount of excitement, curiosity, and even a little trepidation that I began listening to Matthew's solo work. Any initial fear that Come Pouring
might not live up to his previous material was immediately blown away by "Dead by 2(.)0," a fine opener that sees Matt turn his hand to acoustic pop, backed with a busy drumbeat, some subtle rhythmic bass, and a remarkably effective use of flutes! The album as a whole is largely acoustic-guitar based, but the amount of variation in style, instrumentation, tempo, and general mood is staggering. "How the Hell are We Still Here"" draws together a gently picked minor-key acoustic guitar part and a heavily mechanical-sounding drum-loop to create a pleasantly minimalist feel, whereas only one track later, a little light guitar distortion and some country hoe-down licks see that "On My Own" jumps right out at you, propelled along by a strange, jerking rhythm. On top of that, there's no small amount of ivory tinkling complimenting the bouncy rhythms of "The Good Life" and more to be found nestled amongst the cheerful lilt of "Seldom Said."
is a fitting title to say the least, as that's exactly what Matt has done here, and there are few that put as much raw emotion into their music; his great vocal range and soulful delivery perfectly compliment the mood and lyrics in each and every track; from the subtle build up from a soft croon to a wail in "World War Three," to the calm and serene vocal harmonies in "End/Era," or the lively phrasing of "Dead by 2(.)0," Matt's words always have a real weight and honesty to them, regardless of whether he's singing a cautionary tale to a struggling sibling ("Oh Brother!") or a light-hearted love song ("Seldom Said."), and his decision to neither hide nor exaggerate his English accent is admirable.
On top of the varied instrumentation and moods, Matt peppers his songwriting with all manner of subtle intricacies to keep things interesting. The chord changes and vocal melodies in "How the Hell are We Still Here"" are sometimes rather jarring and unexpected, shying away from any typical kind of chord progression, but with each listen they start to make more sense and you start to realise how unique the song truly is. Even simple contrasts between two parts of a song are used effectively; towards the album's end, Matt pulls out what must surely rank as one of his finest compositions in the form of "Is This It"" Starting off with gently lilting arpeggios and almost whispered vocals, the song reaches what would seem to be an end, before suddenly exploding into a sky-scraping rock rearrangement of the song's first half which seems to keep on growing higher and higher.
While it's immediately a beautiful and engaging collection of songs, Come Pouring
seems to reveal more and more of itself with each subsequent listen, the warm, intimate production inviting the listener back again and again until every last note is embedded firmly in the conscious. He might mourn the death of art on the opening track, but in Come Pouring
, Matthew Reynolds has produced another fine work that I'd wholeheartedly suggest adding to your own collection.