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The Indefatigable Matthew Good (Pt. I)

Wednesday, October 17, 2007
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matt15Me and Matt Good go way back — all the way to when I was sixteen. Not for him of course; he wouldn’t know me from Buddha, aside from my ubiquitous internet tag ‘James17930’ under which I sometimes post comments on his blog. But it’s been a pretty healthy twelve-year relationship from my end, so I thought I’d tell you the story of Matthew Good as it relates to me, because, well, that’s the only way I know how to do it.

Although, I guess I should give a bit of background for those of you not familiar with him and his music, and those who can’t be bothered to go here and read his Wikipedia entry. The relatively short version is this: he started off his career as a folk singer in the early ’90s, until one night when he had what he describes as a ‘nervous breakdown’ on stage, after which he sought out a new direction and eventually ended up forming the Matthew Good Band (MGB) in 1995; their second release, Last Of The Ghetto Astronauts, became a hit and set the record for the highest selling independent release by a Canadian artist.

After that was a spastic rise to the top of the Canadian music scene. The band’s subsequent albums Underdogs, Beautiful Midnight and The Audio of Being were massive from a sales point of view, but the pressure to keep producing hit songs, which led to turmoil within the group, eventually caused guitarist Dave Genn to quit MGB in Oct. 2001. Good eventually dissolved the band in early 2002.

But he wasn’t down for long, releasing his first solo album Avalanche in 2003. That has since been followed up with three more albums — 2004’s White Light Rock & Roll Review, 2005’s best-of compilation In A Coma, and 2007’s Hospital Music — and another nervous breakdown. I think he’s finally got everything figured out though.

Okay — so here’s how I fit into this grand narrative. I remember the very first time I heard his voice — I was sixteen, leaving school one afternoon in the first and only car I will ever own (that beautiful, brown, 1981 Buick hunk of shit), when Haven’t Slept In Years from Ghetto Astronauts came on the radio. The thing about Good’s music is it just strikes you somehow; even the simple songs resonate more than other artists’ because there’s something about his voice — an urgency, or hint of warning — that makes you pay attention. He doesn’t yell into the mic like so many other ‘lead singers’ — he actually sings, and when he belts something out it’s guttural because that’s where it’s coming from and he means it. After that first listen I made a mental note to look into the band, but unfortunately I never heard that song on the radio again, and I probably forgot about them for a while.

But then came Underdogs and Everything Is Automatic and the band started to gain some real notoriety . . . and somehow I missed it. I don’t remember how or why; all I remember is that I didn’t really catch this song until later on.

When I did finally see this video I have to admit I didn’t quite understand the full meaning of it — was still a bit too young and naïve at the time to get the Adbuster-style satire, but I knew something ‘important’ was being said and it was one of my first introductions to this particular form of social criticism. No, where I really got hit over the head was Indestructible.

I either heard it on the radio first or saw the video, but whichever it was I was blown away. Instant new favourite song. Remembered the band name from before. Went right out and bought the album (which happened to be when it was being packaged with Lo-Fi B-Sides, a three song EP of which only 5000 copies were made — that’s right, I have one! Suckas). Listened to it repeatedly — and by repeatedly I mean almost non-stop — for the next two years.

Then came Apparitions and everything blew up.

Matt has said that this is the best song he’s ever written — whether he still feels that way I don’t know, but it would be hard to argue the point. But it was this video which really made him a star. The abum won Junos. The video won MuchMusic Video Awards. Matthew Good was massive. I saw them at Edgefest one summer and sang along to every song. I read the ‘manifestos’ on his website. I honestly listened to the album nearly every day until Beautiful Midnight came out.

Which was a glorious day. In the weeks preceding its release, I was keeping as glued as I could to the radio to find out when they’d be premiering the first single Hello Time Bomb; it ended up happening one night while I was stuck working at a tuxedo store at Yorkdale Mall. And . . . I didn’t really like it at first. Was a bit of a letdown. I have come to, although it’s still my least favourite song on the album. It of course didn’t stop me from getting the album on that first day it was released, and, again, listening to it every day for the two years until The Audio of Being. Every single night before I went to bed I put it in my CD player, turned the lights off, lay down with my headphones on and fell asleep to that album. And I never got sick of it. I’m still not sick of it. The staying power of his music is astonishing.

As the pressure mounted for him and the band to produce hit songs, so to did it to keep producing kick-ass videos (they really dug themselves into that hole with Apparitions). But they did. Director William Morrison was at the helm for every video from Everything is Automatic to Audio of Being’s Carmelina, and for a while you’d have to say that Good’s music and Morrison’s visuals were synonymous with what MGB was in the popular imagination.

Load Me Up

Matt said that after filming this video he was bruised from head to toe.

Strange Days

The ‘street-kid’ in the video was an actual ‘street-kid’ in Vancouver that they conscripted for this shoot.

The Future Is X-Rated

In the same vein as Everything Is Automatic (but with humour and self-deprecation).

I saw a couple of MGB shows in this period, both of which were extremely memorable. One was at A.J.’s Hanger in Kingston, ON. Again I sang along at the top of my lungs to every song; when they announced they would do their cover of the Depeche Mode song Enjoy The Silence from Lo-Fi B-Sides, I yelled triumphantly, and was somewhat embarrassed to find I was the only one who did so (but I soon realized it was because I was the only one there who actually had a copy). After the show I hung around for a bit, and when their security guys weren’t looking, half-hopped up on stage and snagged a pick and the set-list (I still have them tugged safely into a large manila envelope). The second show was at Air Canada Centre in Toronto. They were touring with Moist and some other band, playing in the second spot on the bill. Usually an ‘opener’ wouldn’t play an encore, but when they left the stage at the end of their set I started yelling “M-G-B” as loud as I could. Other people joined in and very quickly the entire arena was shouting for more. They very graciously obliged us and did a couple more songs, and I don’t know how common it was for that to happen (if at all) to them on that tour, but I like to think that I was responsible for a little unique moment in their tour diary.

2001 saw both the release of Audio of Being and Good’s book At Last There Is Nothing Left To Say, a collection of the manifestos from his website. The album I loved instantly; I remember perfectly the first time I played it, standing on the Yorkdale subway platform, hearing the opening bassline to Man of Action and a huge grin breaking across my face, because I instantly knew it was going to be more of exactly the kind of music I loved. The book; well, it has its moments but overall it’s not that strong. Which is fine — the manifestos were written for the website, and I’m sure they were more ramblings than anything. I did however go a reading he did at a new defunct bar in Toronto (I think it was Ted’s Wrecking Yard?), and once again I think I caused a ‘first’ in the saga of Mr. Good. In the weeks preceding the reading, there had been talk of unhappiness with the band, and vague reports that guitarist Dave Genn was disgruntled. But then it all kind of blew over (this was late 2001, shortly after Sept. 11 actually). During the Q&A at the reading, I asked Matt what that was all about, and he revealed that the band had actually broken up for a few days before settling their differences and re-forming. It was a pretty big coup to get that info from him, I thought, and I was pretty damn pleased with myself. Genn of course left shortly after that in October, and the band went on to finally break up some months later, and so while they didn’t tour the album, and it wasn’t as popular as the ones that preceded it, it still did fairly well.

Carmelina

This was during his ‘mask phase.’ He also said that there would be no more ‘elevator shots’ after this (and you might notice that a lot of the actors from the previous videos show up in this one too).

Anti-Pop

He said he finally wanted to make a video that had nothing to do with the song. I always thought this would become a huge party anthem, but I guess with the band breaking up and no touring, the whole promotion machine wasn’t there as before and so it kind of slipped between the cracks. Oh well — I’m sure he preferred it that way anyway.

Part II 03971semaj

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11 Comments leave one →
  1. James17930 permalink
    Wednesday, October 17, 2007 10:39 pm

    I purposely didn’t mention two of the EPs — Raygun and Loser Anthems — because nothing really happened when they came out. I have both. That’s about it.

  2. Sarah P permalink
    Thursday, October 18, 2007 7:45 am

    I’m getting the feeling you like Matthew Good’s music, no?

  3. James17930 permalink
    Thursday, October 18, 2007 8:49 pm

    A fair assumption.

  4. James17930 permalink
    Monday, October 22, 2007 9:09 am

    Oh yeah, I almost forgot — Taiwan shout-out in The Workers Sing a Song of Mass Production.

    Yeah!

    • TMac permalink
      Friday, November 6, 2009 5:14 pm

      I love this song too but have a difficult time trying to figure out hwat he’s actually singing about and the song’s meaning…

      Sometimes his lyrics are pretty deep.

      • Saturday, November 7, 2009 9:33 pm

        Well, I’m not sure, but my best guess is that it’s something to do with the idea of mass produced culture, and how maybe we all have a part of us who just wants the cheap, easy thing; and how also there seem to be entire societies made up around the idea of producing such things.

        Taiwan’s not exactly like that, obviously, but he’s using Taiwan because of the ubiquitous ‘Made in Taiwan’ stickers that appear on much of what you can buy in the west (well, not anymore — now most things are made in China).

  5. Tina permalink
    Monday, October 22, 2007 11:48 am

    “I was made by the Taiwanese in Taiwan
    but they don’t like that much
    because it’s called Formosa”

    Is that true? ‘Wiki’ it…

  6. James17930 permalink
    Monday, October 22, 2007 10:34 pm

    Is it true those are the lyrics to the song? Yes.

  7. robbie permalink
    Tuesday, November 6, 2007 2:16 pm

    the workers sing a song of mass production , fuckin great tune

  8. Saturday, July 18, 2009 6:27 pm

    Just stumbled upon this… absolutely brilliant!

  9. Hollie permalink
    Wednesday, February 9, 2011 12:44 pm

    I’m having a real nostalgia day today. Google brought me to your blog, and its great. Thanks to Matt I survived my teen years and my 20’s. Although I don’t always agree with Mathew’s political views I always ‘feel’ his music. His songs will always resonate with me. Thanks.

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