Rarely has gloom sounded so glamorous...
'Bad Contestant'

Matt Maltese reflects on his personal life through gloom-tinted spectacles, dismissing today’s world through a series of anti-love songs. The reality is, this record presents the depressing aspects of both modern society, and the author’s love life, fairly accurately. However, despite dumping gloom and doom onto his listeners through imagery of an instant apocalypse and hopeless romance, Maltese leaves you with a smile on your face.

The pessimistic storytelling is contrasted by uplifting jazz-infused instrumentals, the gap in moods often bridged by moments of dark comedy. An eerie combination of schmaltzy arrangements and pastiche easy listening, Maltese uses piano virtuoso as the base layer for his generally complex jazz and soul instrumentals which combines brass and string to create a retro sound, producing images of 1960s cabaret lounges. Yet where this might stumble in regards to lyrical prowess, Maltese excels, using superb and honest storytelling fused with satire and irony to offer glimpses of light amongst the reality of darkness.

Opener, ‘Greatest Comedian’ appears as a love song, until you realise Maltese is showering the song’s subject with backhanded compliments, “you’re the final piece of wartime bread”, which instantly has you questioning his true feelings. Meanwhile ‘Bad Contestant’ sees him query his own ability, using various metaphors to paint himself as a hopeless lover, “I’m a dead end, a budget hotel”. Despite the pessimism, Maltese has you smiling straight away with these comparisons, often throwing in surprising imagery to keep you interested. His pessimism then sparks a discussion surrounding night culture, ‘Nightclub Love’, where Maltese sums up the negatives of a night out, forcing you to question your own affection of the sometimes stilted clubbing experience.

The record closes rather fittingly as Maltese accepts the world’s end with ‘As The World Caves In’. Once again, Maltese smothers this rather depressing thought in irony, “I paint my fingernails, oh we’re going out in style”, as if an apocalypse might be worth celebrating. Album closer, ‘Mortals’, follows on from said apocalypse as Maltese considers where we may have gone wrong, again with a splash of satire, “I should have bought the electric car”. Each song contributes to Maltese’s story as he opens the door into his personal life, which at times seems as hopeless as the rest of this despondent planet.

This record contains meticulous instrumental arrangements and clever storytelling. It is protest music without the cliché heavy rock sound and direct lyrics. Instead Maltese uses satire to place pity upon the world but mostly himself, all delivered with a wry grin and a sparkle in his eye.

8/10

Words: Johnny Rogerson

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