Although the lazy sunday morning setting of Matthew E. White’s 2013 debut, Big Inner, wasn’t that bad, I openly wondered if it was up to stand the test of time. Alright, I confess I streamed Big Inner throughout that year more than a few times, but alas for him, it didn’t made my end-of-the-year-list. Hereafter I forgot about him until he announced his sophomore record Fresh Blood, which title-wisely made me curious about what our caucasian soul man has been up to the last year.
After a first listen Fresh Blood doesn’t feels that fresh at all, in fact is feels like a old wine in a new bottle. Whereas Big Inner’s stillness brought an own identity to White’s music, Fresh Blood seems rehashed attempt to created Randy Newman’s soft rock from the seventies. Without the humor, if I may add. The ten track counting album initially starts off rather well though. You’d might remember Big Inner’s divine and cheerful ending, well, ‘Take Care My Baby’ serves as a one big exhale from that point on. The bridge between both albums ends here however. ‘Rock & Roll Is Cold’ is an uptempo song full of ‘oh la la’s’ that’ll probably will be picked up in the New Weird America scene.
On ‘Fruit Trees’ White quickly turns another page and heavily flirts with R&B. Strangely enough hereafter all becomes a more straightforward Memphis and Philly soul affair. On the one hand lyrically sober tracks such as ‘Circle In The Sun’ (about a friends late mother) and ‘Tranquility’ (and ode to the late Philip Seymour Hoffman) offer some depth. Whilst most other tracks are stuffed with too much instrumentation. String sections, horns and a choir singalongs often tumble over each other. Try ‘Feeling Good Is Good Enough’ and you’ll know what I’m talking about.
To me Fresh Blood is a somewhat forced salute to the music of the seventies, a good sounding salute that is. On his follow up White decides to crawl out of his shell seeking more openness in his arrangements which is a big difference when comparing this work with his debut. Indeed this is a bold advance for White. I however believe his vocal range better suited for introvertness. Therefore Fresh Blood’s biggest revelation is proving that Matthew E. White was truly worth the sunday morning hype he was two years ago.
Label: Domino, 2015
- Take Care My Baby (5:31)
- Rock & Roll Is Cold (4:14)
- Fruit Trees (5:19)
- Holy Moly (5:19)
- Circle ‘Round the Sun (3:18)
- Feeling Good Is Good Enough (4:35)
- Tranquility (5:50)
- Golden Robes (4:00)
- Vision (5:10)
- Love Is Deep (3:50)
Matthew E. White on Facebook
Review by Wander Meulemans // 060315