Review: Matthew Friedberger – Matricidal Sons of Bitches
Published on September 17th, 2012 | Jonny Abrams
First things first, and barring something truly remarkable, 2012 has its finest album title. Gold star for that alone.
Anyway, Matthew Friedberger – one half of The Fiery Furnaces along with his sister Eleanor – follows his eight-album Solos series with a 45-track ‘score’ for a fictitious film inspired by B-movie studios Poverty Row, or Poverty Rue as he’s appropriated it for this. As Friedberger explained when Rocksucker got to pick his brains last month, the absence of a supplied plot to this soundtrack owes itself to not wanting to impose his own associations on anyone else, although he did go as far as to say that he imagines it to be set in California, people trying to make their own ways in life with fake smiles etched across their faces, and that it might be a horror movie.
Matricidal Sons of Bitches has its fair share of sinister moments, but as with his Fiery Furnaces work these come wrapped in a playful eccentricity that certainly excludes it from the realms of slick, modern Hollywood production. Getting underway with a dreamlike synth melody equal parts jolly and creepy, we are welcomed to this strange little world with the album’s only vocal part: a slow, deliberate, French female voice filmically intoning “I have hated many people in my life, but some stand out / My father / My brothers, too / The neighbors / But the person I hate the most is my mother”. The music swells with a deceptively uneasy sense of nostalgia, glitchy electronic touches coming over as suggestive of corrupted childhood memories, and this suddenly gives way to the kind of madcap, menacing synthery you might associate with The Fiery Furnaces’ harsher moments
In spite of its childlike properties, this is a sophisticated composition, and delightfully odd with it: sections interplay, motifs recur, and all in all it paints a picture in Rocksucker’s mind of the kind of mad that doesn’t know it’s mad, someone or something complex and unstable going about their day normally, doing normal things, cheerfully wishing folks a good morning as the psychosis lies dormant. In contrast to Friedberger’s own imagination of a California setting, the sound effects of bells and animal noises place this – at least for us, and how else to review this but with a heavy dose of subjectivity? – in a rustically rural village not unlike that in The Wicker Man.
Our imagined protagonist sits with a coffee, leafs through the Sunday newspapers, an undetectable insanity raging within, as indeed it might do behind the pleasant smiles of everyone else in this scenic, dark-underbelly-concealing microenvironment. It would be laborious and unnecessary to track every single musical movement across Matricidal Sons of Bitches, but in general its ornate, otherworldly expressiveness totally overrides the absence of vocals and even has a touch of the SMiLE about it, albeit within a singular setting as opposed to the America-spanning voyage of said Brian Wilson/Beach Boys opus: it’s warm enough to lull you in, then jagged and bizarre enough to remain challenging and clear of any comfort zone, adding up to a psychedelic wonderland that this writer hasn’t been able to resist basking in repeatedly of late; and – contrary to Friedberger’s suggestion of consuming the album in installments (it’s even presented in three sections: “Ladies-in-Waiting – Waiting Forever”, “Brand-New Mothers – Trying it Out” and “Expectant Fathers – In for a Surprise”) – all in one sitting.
An accompanying film could be mesmerising in the right hands, but if you’re anything like Rocksucker then you won’t require a narrative to find yourself thoroughly immersed in this. Matthew Friedberger may not place much stock in critical acclaim, but that doesn’t change the fact that Matricidal Sons of Bitches is one of the most entertaining, colourful, confounding and ultimately satisfying listens to have come our way this year.
Rocksucker says: Four and a Half Quails out of Five!
Matricidal Sons of Bitches will be released on 29th October through Thrill Jockey. For more information please visit thrilljockey.com/thrill/Matthew-Friedberger/Matricidal-Sons-of-Bitches