Matthew Logan Vasquez - 'Light'n Up' Album Review
1. Ballad In My Bed
2. Trailer Park
4. I Love My Boy
5. Poor Kids
7. Ball Pit
8. Character Assassination
Most albums follow a theme or at least a genre, not a Matthew Logan Vasquez album though. There are a few themes threading through the album. As with most albums this a piece of the artists soul born out of life experiences, but it is the mis match of genres that makes this album so glorious. Some will love it, others will not. I suspect that Matthew does not really care if you do not like it, as honesty is a personal thing.
'Ballad In My Bed' opens the album, a very sexual folky ballad with lovely finger picking on an acoustic guitar. The muted backing vocals, add warmth and dimension to the song, with the lyrics being in strong contrast to the simple instrumentation. It would be quite easy to pass the album by, just by hearing the first track but it gets a whole lot more interesting and multi dimensional.
Matthew gives glimpses into his life in Texas, and seems to have pride in his people, those people that were not born into wealth but life is hard trying to carve out an existence. 'Trailer Park' is one of the stand out tracks for me. It is a swaggering rock warts and all story about the characters around him in Texas. Like all good troubadours the lyrics bring out the real characters as if you are there, "They’re all well armed, Jesus voted. Even our hippies are all cocked and loaded”. Combined with heavy fuzzy synth, rocking guitar licks, frenzied drumming this track tells a story. 'Vacation' whilst still heavy and synth laden has an 80's feel. Like Roxette on steroids. I think this will be a live crowd pleaser, with it's catchy hooks and lyrics. Another song that transports you to MLV's life, growing up is 'Poor Kids'. This song pulls at all your emotions with it's sombre start, it is probably has the most orchestration on the album, and you can physically feel the weight on peoples shoulders. Included in the opening lyrics are lines such as “Bankrupt embarrassment, the whole neighbourhood knew, What poor kids do, growing up too fast”. This song paints of the struggle of lower income life in Texas, much like Lowry painted the life of the poor in Salford.
There are defiant songs within the song again with a mix of styles. 'Ghostwriters' even has a mix within it. The instrumentation with fuzziness and reverb is Alt Indie, but the vocal delivery makes this sound like a Country Rocker. It is a defiant sneering song about the music industry. It is clear from this album that MLV does not care for convention and the formularisation of the industry he is in, and I commend him for it. "It’s all hat and no cattle. Those preppy punks just wanna battle to prove, maybe they’re as tough as you”. Whilst 'Ball Pit' will probably go down well in a live set with its nod to Talking Heads, with heavy percussion, I am not sure how it fitted into the mosaic of an album. I did however like the sneering swagger of 'Character Assassination'. It starts with a simple count in followed by sweeping instrumentation. The simple guitar chords and staccato in the chorus really conveyed the disdain, that MLV feels.
Whilst I liked the heavier songs on the album, two songs stand out as being heartfelt and from the depths of Matthew Logan Vasquez's soul. As a father myself I felt the pain and regret in 'I Love My Boy'. Life on the road is hard for a musician, or for any parent that misses out on a child's growing up, for that matter. Time is a commodity that cannot be reclaimed. The song is full of piano, accordion and mandolin, that convey the pain and regret. Couple this with lines such as "My baby is home but I’m not, They pay me to leave and slowly I rot" and the chorus of “I love my boy, I love my boy, I wanna see his face, ‘cause I love my boy” and you can see that this is a song from the heart. The closing song lays bear MLV's struggle with being split from his previous home to the home that he now has. There is a stark difference from his childhood home in Texas and 'Oslo'. The lyrics tell the very personal story of how his life has taken the turns that they have. "We were happy in Texas, We got news that her daddy was ill, So we plotted out our exit” and “The sun sets so quickly here, Well does it even rise, The snow will melt then freeze again, Turning me into ice”. These are the words of a master story teller and a story teller that is, with painful honesty and candour, just recording his life and those around him by using his art.
This album follows no formula and has varying themes and that is its beauty. The, sometimes, painful honesty is beautiful, and the insight into Matthew Logan Vasquez's life sets this album apart from others. The swagger of some of the tracks makes me think that if you don't like this album it will be no skin off Matthew's nose, because it is real and he does not need any sugar coating.
'Light'n Up' has it's UK release on March 29th.
Website - www.matthewloganvasquez.com
Review - Tony Creek