Review Summary: "If you’re coming with me, come with me now; no more, no less, no faith to test, no asking how."
There’s been a fairly strong pattern to Matthew Good’s releases. Excluding his turn of the millennium band, Good’s albums have seemingly followed a 1-on-1-off routine. The “ons”, or his odd-numbered releases, have gravitated toward any or all of the following: noticeable experimentation, darker themes and/or melodies, comfort zone departure, compelling lyrical content, & atypical instrument/sampling inclusion. All ingredients in successful musical endeavours, Avalanche
, Hospital Music
, and Lights of Endangered Species
boasted some of Good’s more formidable works and set new standards for his artistic ability and integrity. Enter Chaotic Neutral
; the seventh release for the Vancouver area native, and as such, following suit in the aforementioned pattern wonderfully.
Named after a character alignment from the massively-multiplayer-offline RPG Dungeons & Dragons (to which Matt candidly admits to being an avid player of in the past), Chaotic Neutral
sees Good once again crossing into darker waters. It’s chock-full of notable tracks, each adding to the surprising accessibility of the album, but still maintaining his signature style as a exceptional songwriter.
Songs such as ‘Kid Down the Well’ demonstrate subtle hints at previous works including ‘Strange Days’ and ‘Apparitions’ (also by holding the spot for track 3!). Slow strumming and solid imagery created by Good’s lyrics, building up to an impassioned chorus that incites the illusion of time slowing down when he belts out:
“Always said you’re gonna get yours
You keep going near that thing
Like that missile in Strangelove
Drifting in slow motion… slow motion”
‘Harridan’ shows Good on his experimental side, messing with song structures, scraping the need for a chorus and letting the music take the listener where he believes they need to go. The addition of audio sampling and an effective guitar solo, along with a much needed & perfectly executed shift in dynamics finishes the track with vigor.
‘Cold Water’ is perhaps one of the album’s best, offering a morose combination of soft piano keys and faded guitars. The song has a late-night lounge-like appeal, which is aided by its soft and steady percussion beat, riding ever so delicately on the edge of cymbals along with a light snare. Matthew’s quivering voice sounds better than ever, as he remains on the lower end of the pitch spectrum. The only issue herein is that it sounds oddly similar in sound to ‘Tiger By The Tail’, which precedes said track by a couple of songs.
Aside from having a plethora of reasons for listeners to pay attention, Chaotic Neutral
is a certain reminder that Good’s strengths show in full colour when he’s ready for them to. He has noted previous albums as being more fun to create, while others almost come off as process in exorcising his demons. His newest bears evidence of both, but mainly the latter, under which he consistently shines as an artist. This juxtaposition in the creative process diversifies the album superbly, and never transitions forcibly between tracks. ‘No Liars’ could easily have Matt subbed out for Stephen Jenkins to create the next Third Eye Blind hit. Meanwhile, the album’s ender ‘Los Alamos’ possesses the emotional haunt of Good’s earlier years as a musician, whence he was plagued by mental trauma as an undiagnosed bi-polar disorder sufferer.
All in all, MG’s newest addition to his catalogue has very little, if anything, to deter you. Any previous fan will be quick to pick up everything they had respected him for in the first place. In fact, the eleven song collection is formidable not only as a refinement of previous influences and works, but also as a stepping stone to new grounds. As such, this, coupled with the album’s creative variance could make it his best qualifier in years to attract new fans as well as old. Chaotic Neutral
is certainly not one to be overlooked.