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Very Special Matt Masterson Edition of Friday Recommends

by MATT MASTERSON

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Mr. Masterson and his musically defective son, Matt.

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EDITOR’S NOTE: Matt Masterson has very kindly invited Voreblog readers into his life over the past three weeks as we’ve attempted to salvage his musical soul. Today he delivers his verdict.

It’s finally time … time for me to save my soul … time for me to experience real music … to be moved in a way I have never experienced.

I am ready, I am willing, and I want this.

The first step is to admit I am a musical sinner. Then accept my savior and commit my life to them. But who? Who do I choose? Do I go classic and take the Led Zeppelin recommendation? Perhaps a trippy ride with Pink Floyd? Vampire Weekend sounds like they have potential.

This is my soul, right? I can do whatever I want to save my own soul. Why not try two albums and see what happens? Makes sense to me — two albums equals twice the opportunity for eternity. That’s it — that’s the decision. Two albums it is:

1. Radiohead – The Bends

This album was generously provided to me by Voreblog after learning of my severe dislike for Radiohead. The Bends was supposed to be my ticket out of the kiddy table of music and into the big leagues of musical enlightenment. On top of that, adding a little Radiohead to my musical portfolio would finally garner me the respect of my brothers that I so desperately want. I might finally be able to relate when Justin refers to some “sweet bass lick” or Brian sighs at the brilliance of the “musicality.” So with those expectations I jump head first into a full on Radiohead jam session.

In order to improve my odds of enjoying the album I decide to pair the music with one of my favorite things in the world: NCAA Football 2009 on Playstation 3. What could be better than rocking out while destroying Michigan by 40? So as I kick off “Planet Telex” begins and slowly lulls me into a state of contemplation. A strange thing happens as I work my way through The Bends … I hate it.  The lead singer’s voice sounds like Billy Corgan trying to sing after having his foot nailed to a board. Yes, some of the music rocks out and starts to get me fired up. But just as the emotion is starting to set in Radiohead insists on bringing me back down to a sullen, lethargic state of mind, sort of like taking too much cough medicine.

There are a few bright spots: “The Bends” is a really good song that pushes me to a two TD lead in the first quarter. There is something endearing and recognizable about “Nice Dream” but in the end Radiohead fails to capture either my imagination or soul. By the time the final note of “Street Spirit” hits my ears I feel … well … nothing. NOTHING!!! Why God?!  Why must I be destined to musical numbskullery? Perhaps my soul is forever destined to wallow in the depths of musical hell.

But wait … wait! I chose two albums! There’s still hope! I have one more chance at eternity … please let this be it.

Move me! Make we weep like a little child who can’t grab a stuffed animal with that damned claw. Make me so angry that I want to punch my sweet, wonderful wife.

Ok here we go:

2. Muse – Absolution

After a less-than-uplifting start to this soul-saving experiment, all my hopes for a happy eternity are left in the hands of a man named Leathers and his selection of Muse. The good news: I have never heard of Muse and have no preconceived notions of what to expect. The bad news: Radiohead took a piece of my soul with them.

So with that it’s time to flip on the UC football game, turn down the sound, and begin my journey into the world of Muse.

First impressions mean a lot and my first impression is strong. I can feel some muscles in my arms begin to move with each note from the piano. Yeah … this could work … I can do this…. Wait, what is that noise? That racket over top of that lovely piano and guitar combo?  That’s the lead singer, you say? What? Why? Is there some rule that musically talented bands must have whiny singers? Did I not get the memo on this?

Ok … I’m moving past this. Oooh wait, what’s that I hear? A synthesizer! Hello 80’s rock … heck yes!  Now this is a solid start.

“Stockholm Syndrome” is a kick-ass song that gets me fired up and ready to hit somebody. The middle part of the album is particularly strong with the aforementioned “Stockholm,” an appropriately named “Interlude,” and then “Hysteria.” By now I am officially emotionally invested and ready to fight someone … hell yes! This isn’t indifference … this is anger and darkness … this feels good. “Blackout” is another solid effort … the singer does slow well enough that it doesn’t piss me off.

The end of the album leaves me wanting the middle all over again. Nothing real strong to speak of with “Endlessly” competing with “Time is Running Out” as my least favorite song. “Fury” is a good song but doesn’t live up to its name or my expectations of wanting to run through a wall and eat puppies at the end.

So where do I stand? Is my soul saved? Yes and no. Sadly, I think I am stuck existing in a sort of musical purgatory. Radiohead made me a little angry. I just don’t get the attraction … the singer stinks and from my perspective they’re boring. It makes me angry that I am going to have to spend another holiday season listening to my brothers extoll their virtues while I sit by and wonder what the hell I am missing.

Muse has promise. I felt something … I felt energy and a sort of passionate fighting spirit that I don’t get out of most music.  That’s a good sign … but in the end I am left wanting something else … something simple and powerful…. something that is guaranteed to fire me up. So as I finish this post I am left to go back to my old habits and blare the one song I know will move me…

“Should have been dead on a Sunday Morning…”

God bless you, Creed.

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8 thoughts on “Very Special Matt Masterson Edition of Friday Recommends

  1. Well, I haven’t been here in a while, but as I found out from an Edge (Sarah, not The) that Muse had been mentioned as a soul-saver I needed to know more. Muse leaves me with the same feelings as Matt. Well, more of a ‘run through a brick wall’ feeling that hitting people. Knights of Cydonia makes me want to run 8.0 MPH on the treadmill, it’s INSANE!

    Really – Muse is awesome. We went to U2 in Raleigh and left wishing Muse’s opening act was twice as long and U2’s main act was reduced to Joshua Tree features only.

    Matt, or any other intrigued souls out there, if you haven’t investigated Muse further then check out Black Holes and Revelations album. If Knights of Cydonia doesn’t make you want to grab a sword and ride to the front line of a fight then your soul, is in fact, dead. Map of the Problematique and Starlight are promising also. I haven’t listened to the newest album, but the single ‘Uprising’ gets your blood pumping.

    I think the most ironic thing of this whole experiment is that many record critics tried to compare Muse to Radiohead early on, but it seems Muse is doing just fine creating their own kick-ass, soul stirring image for themselves.

  2. Now that I’ve heard Matt decribe music more, I think he should go for the Rocky Anthology. It will make him want to punch a wall as he runs through it. (Go for Appetite for Destruction)

  3. Ugh, this is all my fault. I let everyone down. If he wants to punch through me, I totally understand.

    Dave’s right. This man needs a healthy dose of “Hearts on Fire,” stat!

  4. You know what? I for one am proud of you. You gotta figure, it took me 25 years of life before I finally surrendered my sins of sportslessness in the sacristy of a CBS Sunday and watched a full Bengals game, and swallowed my pride enough to listen to the sportscasters prattle on about “nickel defenses” and “dime prevents”… but I did it. And now, I’m angry if I have to miss a Bengals game. I say, kudos to you for sitting through two albums from bands you don’t listen to… that’s hard to do if you’re not a music nut. (Though frankly, if you don’t like what you’re hearing, it’s even harder to do if you are, because you have to keep scribbling down new adjectives for when you tell your friends that X’s new album was “pedestrian,” and “lacked the tonal vision of their freshman work.”)

    Your review actually gives me quite a bit of hope! What would have concerned me is if you had no rich reaction to either record. Music, like all art, is at its best for me when it’s provocative… and whether it makes you want to punch infants or lick your stereo, it’s valuable for stirring something in you. While your comparison of Thom Yorke to Billy Corgan feels to me like comparing Paul Brown to Mike Brown, I love the fact that you took Radiohead in deeply and reacted so strongly to their music. (For me the desperate, scarred and pleading vocals on “The Bends” are a shrill plea to cut through the fog of a planet of commercials and a culture at large for sale to whoever can distract us the longest. While Nirvana’s Nevermind, Pearl Jam’s Ten and the other grunge spinoffs had been dominating American airwaves for a few years with a hopeless sort of “who cares anymore” resignation to the machine of globalized Western capitalism (or any number of other things, I guess…), Radiohead didn’t quite give in that easily. “The Bends” feels to me like a drowning man who is forgoing his final breath in favor of one more chance to get his middle finger above the waterline.)

    At the same time, Muse stirred something more energizing…a desire to start a fight and break some stuff… but it still stirred something. What would have bothered me (and possibly cemented your now defunct “music numbskull” status) is if you told me you just didn’t experience anything at all. Most of American FM is wallpaper… the kind of thing you can leave on in the background while you bathe your huge, huge cat, that will generally keep you from getting bored enough to notice without asking anything of your brain, heart or soul. You don’t really feel anything at all. Try that with Radiohead, Muse, Mute Math, John Coltrane, Queens of the Stone Age, Rush, Lizst, Bjork, Pearl Jam, Nirvana, Miles Davis, Fiona Apple, Black Flag, Queen, etc. etc. etc. and I think you’ll find you either have to stop what you’re doing or turn off the music. It’s a full-contact experience…there’s a reason you shouldn’t play rugby and wash your dishes at the same time, and I think really powerful music works the same way… whether you like that music or not.

    So, all that to say, if indeed music is the language of the soul, I think your soul is, after all this, quite in tact and conversing.

    Cheers,
    Justin

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