Wednesday, August 1, 2007

MUSIC: Hospital Music Review

Matthew Good's long awaited Hospital Music is finally here. Surprisingly enough, it's not doing too bad on the charts already. Why is this surprising, you ask? (Please take note at this time that I am a devoted Good fanboy who has followed his music and writings since 2001's The Audio of Being. So, SPOILER: I dug it.)

Mr. Good has created a starkly honest record about the tumultuous last year of his life. Dealing with all of those terrible things that start with "D" (namely divorce, drug addiction, disease, death and general despair) had taken a toll on him that needed to be expressed. The record itself can be primarily described as cathartic, to say the least.

Sounds like it could be shaping up to be a Roger-Waters-esque rock-opera? Not entirely, although it does contain some bits that resemble other works like that.

Although many of the songs are based on very specific incidences, they speak to larger more universal themes that I can imagine will have a profound effect on those who have been through similar circumstances. What I can't imagine is the alienation that one goes through during an ordeal such as this.

Dealing with his failing relationship with the former Mrs. Good, the artist is surprisingly revealing (and has been in other forms for the past year) in the songs Metal Airplanes and She's In It For the Money. The former song is one that plays on the eventual realization in many relationships that you may not be as righteous as you think, and I think that's a particularly far-reaching and powerful statement to make. And although many will take the latter's lyrics at face value ("She's a money grubbing whore"), that could apply to anyone who dates/sees/marries someone with a condition like this. I can't imagine looking up from that hospital bed and seeing the look in her eyes that says "I didn't sign on for this."

While most of the songs deal with the aforementioned "D" word, that's not to say that it's all depressing. When I said that there were parts that resembled a rock-opera, I was thinking in particular of The Boy Come Home, which seems to be about Good returning to his parent's home for a period of time. There is a definite change in the album at that point, with a shifting tone moving more towards optimism (The Devil's In Your Details (although I could be way out to lunch on this one)).

I would have assumed that the two cover songs included on the record would stick out like a sore thumb, but I am happily mistaken. The Dead Kennedy's Moon Over Marin and the late Daniel Johnston's album-closer True Love Will Find You In The End fit perfectly in the framework of the record.

Production wise, the album is a complete departure. Self-produced and (mostly) self-performed, Mr. Good manages to make the rough-around-the-edges aesthetic work to his advantage, and it's something I look forward to in the future.

All in all, this is the kind of record that separates an artist from his contemporaries. If this doesn't translate into album sales, then that is a shame.

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