Ladies, gentlemen and those of you who are still undecided, let me introduce you to a parallel universe. It's an album called Hello by a rather bizarre chap called The Mattoid.
This is the studio debut from Scandinavian strange boy The Mattoid, which,
in the odd fashion of the rest of the album, kicks off with
a "live" track. Funeral Party is…well, it's just strange.
Imagine The The's
Matt Johnson meets Bjork and then adopts some of Frank Zappa's
The Mattoid has also invented his own vocal affectation. Where Michael Jackson has his "heeee-hee" and James Brown has his "Owwww!", our host for this CD has "Huh" (pronounced like the letter "u" in the word "up"…no, not "Word Up"…this may become complex). He inserts this into a few songs here and there. I initially thought it would be annoying, but I actually miss it when he doesn't put it into a song.
By now, you should be picking up the vibe that this is not a straightforward project from a child of the frozen wastes of Northern Europe. And, dear reader, you'd be right to do so.
The aforementioned Funeral Party rocks along quite nicely, with reverberations of late '70s British punk, with just a dash of Ramone-esque guitar thrash and some Matt Johnson vocal. It all sounds like your slightly older and mentally unbalanced brother has stolen your electric guitar and decided to annoy the neighbours.
The punk theme is continued on the following track, Shiny Woman, with The Mattoid throwing in some vocals that come straight from Jim Morrison's more demon-infested moments. All of this is overlaid over a defused punk/organ backing.
Slacker's Pain starts with a melody straight from the as yet un-thought of Austin Powers movie, with The Mattoid singing the rather charming lyric of "Doink, doink, doink, yeah/Let's dance" over some rather cheesy organ. What's that line from Zappa's Thing Fish album….? Ah, that's it…."Dis boy's tayta bin bakin' too long."
Juri Gagarin rocks along gently in homage to the Soviet cosmonaut and is almost coffee table music. This tenderness, however, is torn asunder by the following track, Pyramids, which tells the rather pointless tale of being lost in the desert, waking up in hospital and going home again "without even seeing the bloody pyramids".
Happiness is the music played by the pianist at the entrance to a Venusian bordello. It has the bittersweet chord structure of an Edith Piaff song, allied with a glum jollity. The union of these two rather unlikely elements makes for a song you'll be whistling for days afterwards. I guarantee it.
Rat Poison features the delightfully dreary sounding vocals of Poppy
Fields over a song reminiscent of The Clash on downers, telling
the tale of a murderous, if somewhat unsuccessful, wife/spouse/girlfriend.
I love this track for its dour mood and the upbeat Mattoidal
choir at the end of the song. This really is the ghost of the
Mothers Of Invention at full throttle. Ditto Blue Suede Shoes,
which is not a cover version of the Presley song, but rather
a ditty which could have been lifted from The Stranglers' Rattus
Norvegicus album. Apparently, young Mr. Mattoid will
die with a smile on his face, having shuffled off this mortal
coil courtesy of being "high on drugs and booze", whilst he
wishes that "they hire a band from Mexico/To play my funeral
Righty-ho, Mattoid, m'lad…keep taking the tablets.
Party Time continues this disturbingly attractive glimpse into the daily life on Planet Mattoid, where he invites the listener to "Drink your drinks/And eat your eats/It's party time" and then to "Crap your craps/And fuck your fucks/It's party time". The closer, Eagle Hi finds The Mattoid singing along with a simple guitar backing, although his vision of devils and angels "making love with desire" may not have been inspired by a high sugar diet.
The casual listener may dismiss Hello on first listen, but it deserves a second play…and then a third, fourth and fifth, because there's something very special lurking beneath the Scandinavian accent and quirky musical content. I love this album; it's weird (God's teeth, is it weird), funny, punky, steeped in innocent melancholia and (Hallelujah!) original and fresh, even with its nods to a few artists and genres.
All of the avid and adoring readers of my other reviews for The Sponge (hello to you both) will know that I'm always up for a bit of oddness. Should you be of the same persuasion, I implore you to buy this album. I can't wait for the guy to tour in the UK so I can get close enough to see if he's grinning all over his face as he sings this stuff. If he doesn't, then we're all in trouble, folks.
Because it means that they really have landed and are walking amongst us.