Matthew Good - Chaotic Neutral - Albums - Reviews - Soundblab

Matthew Good - Chaotic Neutral

by James Weiskittel Rating:9 Release Date:2015-09-25

Few artists are ever truly allotted a ‘second chance’ by the ever-more fickle record buying public. Striking out on your own (or better yet, ‘going solo’) is usually analogous to career suicide. But after enjoying platinum success and an incredible run in the late 90s/early 00s with the alt-rock band that shared his name (Matthew Good Band), Matthew Good has somehow managed to do just that, fostering a solo-career that has all but eclipsed his former band’s glory.

And now, almost 20 years into his solo career, he has succeeded in creating an artistic identity that stands completely alone, unencumbered by the shadow of his former ‘rock-star’ glory. And with the release of his seventh solo album, Chaotic Neutral, Good firmly and succinctly re-establishes what longtime fans have known forever: Matthew Good is writing the best music of his career.

Chaotic Neutral, as the vague ‘D&D’ reference would suggest, is an album of extremes, encapsulating the best moments of Good’s previous two releases, seamlessly combining the lush orchestration of Lights Of Endangered Species with the more immediate swagger of Arrows of Desire.  And while the strength of both of those albums lied in the focused, albeit somewhat one-dimensional approach of the material, Chaotic Neutral thrives squarely somewhere in the balance of the two.  

The album begins with an immediately familiar ring of “All You Sons and Daughters”, a song that could have easily been a late 90’s hit for his former band.  “Moment” and “Kid Down The Well” continue the albums momentum with a more ‘rocked-out’ treatment for songs that easily could have stood on their own as acoustic numbers.  “No Liars” flat out swings while “Harridan” serves as the album’s defacto centerpiece, a sprawling epic that serves as the albums most sincere nod to the grand, orchestrated vibe of Lights.

Where the first half starts with a bang, the second half of the album tends to burn at a simmer, with songs like “Tiger By The Tail” and “Cold Water” featuring sparser arrangements that only serve to highlight what is undoubtedly some of Good’s best lyrical content ever. It’s here where the nuanced production serves the songs best (especially the quieter ones) revealing initially over-looked subtleties with repeated listens.

I was originally skeptical when I saw the Kate Bush song “Cloudbusting” (featuring the criminally underrated Holly McNarland) in the track listing, but the song is simply a triumph, reverently conveying the intent of the original with enough deviation to make it stand on it’s own.

The album closes with a hushed whisper in the ballad “Los Alamos”, a song that simply ranks up there among the best vocal performances of Good’s career.  Chaotic Neutral feels like the final act of an unintentional trilogy, perfectly tying together the impressively wide range of sonic textures that the previous releases Lights and Arrows outlined.  

With a back catalogue as bulletproof as Good’s it makes it that much more impressive to consider that at this point (when he could simply rest on his artistic laurels, mining his previous hits on the ever-lucrative live nostalgia circuit) Good is still releasing such focused records.  And with the release of Chaotic Neutral, he has managed to bookend the kind of three-album run that most artists would die for.

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