To this point, I had yet to hear anything that made me truly glad UK hip-hop superpower Ninja Tune founded a rock sublabel, but Stories From the Watercooler is it. Produced by the infamous label-owning Coldcut duo themselves, the sophomore album from John Matthias makes its case with attainable lyrics surely relevant to office debate, driving folk guitar, wistful violin, and a touch of banjo, accordion, and the like. Tracks like “Spinnaker” and “Blind Lead The Blind” go so far as to introduce some alternative rock and new wave electricity, but the record usually concerns itself with campfire folk and post-apocalyptic roots. It’s like Tom Waits meets Fink, with a little Gary Numan thrown in for flavor. Interesting to note, John was an old college buddy of Thom Yorke, chumming it up enough with the Radioheader to play in a band with him and later contribute some violin to The Bends. Though Thom obviously achieved a greater level of success, I find John’s alienated, deadpan growls and electric influences come across that much more compelling and engaging. Watercooler succeeds where Eraser left me wanting. It’s a class effort all the way, and one you too will be thankful for.
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