on 15 March 2001
Though not quite as consistent as Matthews' follow up, 'The Lateness Of The Hour', this is a must buy for melodic/Baroque pop mavens purely for the 'Penny Lane' styled 'Fanfare', a modern classic of pure pop glory. The rest of the material displays fully formed all the elements of Matthews' sophisticated Baroque sensibility, albeit often as tantalising song sketches, not quite as 'fully realised' as this standout track or on 'Lateness'. That said, the effect of this, icy post Television guitars and the sparse orchestral arrangements is to enhance the soft gothic, mesmerisingly ethereal quality of the album. What results is an enigmatic and often subtly disconcerting ambience of understated but unpretentious [and I have to say it] profundity, utterly bereft of the lacklustre gloom or self indulgence of lesser talents: Matthews' vision is far, far more transcendent than the mere cul de sac angst of popular 'shoe gazer' artists. Neither does his sheer craftsmanship undermine the beauty and intensity of this effortlessly subtle and intricate material, notably on the gorgeous 'Fried Out Broken Girl', a piano based opus echoing prime Brian Wilson. Furthermore Matthews also possesses an exquisite, almost sensually breathy vocal delivery reminiscent of [the Zombies' ] Colin Blunstone. Along with Mark Eitzel and Scott Miller, Matthews must be one of contemporary music's finest unheralded vocal stylists. In fact, notwithstanding the earlier Cardinal project with Richard Davies, this is as self assured, mature and impressive a debut as you could ever hear. Make no mistake, Matthews is a major talent: would that he were more prolific; the only problem discovering artists of this calibre. I can honestly attest that Matthews stands amongst the very best melodic pop I've ever heard, even compared to the glorious panoply of his influential predecessors including Love, the Byrds, The Beach Boys, the Fabs, Big Star, Game Theory et c. Yup - Matthews is that outstanding. If you don't appreciate subtlety though, maybe you'd better pass one this up.But YOU DO, don't you?
Chamber pop was founded by artists like Matthews. This was his first offering and it needs to be put into context. it was released in 1995 on the sub pop label. Now that's something to consider. Sub Pop at the time were about to merge with Warners, their main output was Grunge (they released Nirvana's first album after all) and this was very different. Charming, pop and not always mainstream this was an album of beauty and thought and flew in the face of all that.
Fanfare was released as a single to some MTV airplay but little commercial impact. Its horns, hushed vocals and very twisty melody wasn't easily accessible for some. But it has a quality to linger. Horns, the kind you might hear in a brass band, are all over this album as is piano. But so is a unique ear for melody. You won't always be able to tell where the tune is headed from the first bar and sometimes it changes direction mid-way. However, tracks like Forging Plastic Pain, Lust Takes Time and Fried Out Broken Girl linger long after. This is a mature début offering and really works well on repeated listens. Its haunting, beautiful and somehow full of joy.
Matthews went on to more solo albums and more recognition for Cardinal. However, this début is worth checking out.
on 29 September 2013
I've had this since it first came out years ago, bought this as a gift for my lad who lives in Japan,
he knows his music, and agrees with me, that this a classic album. Buy it!!!!