Matthew Dear: BLACK CITY

Thu Dec 09 2010
I like artists that can max out on both catchy and weird, and Matthew Dear pulls it off.  His arrangements are never too cluttered, his hooks never too obscure, but it always seems like there’s interesting shit going on.  In this sense, he’s succeeded in evoking the conceptual unsleeping Black City of the album’s title, and this party will keep you moving all night long.

As evidenced most noticeably in “Little People” and “Soil To Seed”, if Bowie were still into the whole making-music thing and still had a finger on the pulse of youth culture, this is the kind of music he’d be making.  The album is a direct descendant of the Berlin Trilogy, albeit not nearly as far out as, say, side two of “Heroes” was at the time.  One main difference, though, is that the beat never stops to service pure freakiness; any song here would fit snugly in between LCD Soundsystem jams.  If only LCD would stick around; what a great double bill that would make...

Among plenty of excuses to make a sexy time on the dancefloor (especially the awesomely-titled “You Put A Smell On Me”), there are attempts at sinister interludes, but nothing convincing.  “More Surgery” in particular seems to be going for menacing impact, but there’s no weight behind that voice, even with the digital enhancements.  When Dear sings “I’m a toothless man”, he’s ultimately hitting on the album’s only flaw; a community that parties 24/7--particularly one called Black City--has to have some dark corners, and Dear doesn't evoke them.  But even if it’s all a tad tame, the net result is an unblemished pleasure to listen to.
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Cal Roach

Cal Roach is a word whore currently being pimped sporadically by Milwaukee Record and the Journal Sentinel, and giving it away for nothing right here at you-phoria.com. He also co-hosts the Local/Live program on 91.7 WMSE FM every Tuesday at 6 p.m. and spouts nonsense on twitter as @roachcraft.

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