Reviews

Matt Pond PA + Bitter Bitter Weeks

Matt Gonzales
Matt Pond PA + Bitter Bitter Weeks

Matt Pond PA + Bitter Bitter Weeks

City: Columbus, Ohio
Venue: Red 16
Date: 2003-04-26

Matt Pond PA
Bitter Bitter Weeks
What is it about Matt Pond PA that so inflames the crabby asses of supercilious rock critics? I've read a couple of reviews of MPPA lately where the critic did that asshole critic thing. You know what I'm talking about: they don't like the album, either because it's not fashionably enigmatic enough or because Jim O'Rourke didn't produce it. Whatever the case, they make it clear that it has been nothing short of a life-sucking waste of time for them to review it, so they use the occasion to personally demean the band, as well as spit out what he or she surely thinks are just absolutely hilarious condescending witticisms. Authors of such banal pixel waste should be forced to actually meet the people they casually disparage, and explain why they chose to spew bile their way. Faced with the moment, they'd most likely apologize clumsily, offering explanations like "See, the thing is, our editor encourages us to be funny and sarcastic," or "I was trying to be unapologetic and salty like all of my rock critic heroes." Whatever. Don't mistake me for a distraught and protective Matt Pond PA fan. MPPA make benign and occasionally moving orchestral pop music, and I think it's alright. But you won't catch me signing their mailing list anytime soon. Instead of fandom, what moved me to write the above was seeing them live: Whether they were self-effacingly playing their set, warmly praising the opening act, or exchanging words among themselves on stage, it was easy to see that they are a group of courteous, good-natured, hardworking, and yes, even talented, people. They don't deserve second-rate put-downs from alleged journalists who find their music unpalatable. That's all I'm sayin'. Anyway, the show: The venue was...not enchanting. It was in the basement of a house-like construction ensconced in the middle of Ohio State's fraternity district. More aggravating was the absence of alcohol, despite a 21-and-over policy. As for the audience, well, who needs an audience? There were maybe thirteen people in attendance who weren't with the bands or the venue. Despite the discouraging conditions, opener Brian McTear started the night with a smile, fronting just an acoustic guitar and a microphone. Known for giving lush production to albums by Mazarin and Burning Brides as well as Matt Pond PA, McTear recently released his first album under the name Bitter Bitter Weeks. McTear looked straight out of one of The Onion's faux news stories about stoners. He sang with a strong, high-pitch rasp, and wasn't at all afraid to seek out the high end of the register. He supplemented his singing with technically solid guitar strumming, constructing a nice, above-average coffeehouse folk sound. He seemed to be a likeable guy, punctuating his songs with quiet and occasionally droll asides to the audience, and at one point gently admonished a girl who made a phone call while he was fixing a broken string. It was a pleasant, respectable set, but too homogeneous to wrangle my attention for much more than half a root beer (by which I was relegated to measuring time due to the heartbreaking lack of real, alcoholic beer). After a much-too-uncommonly brief interval came Matt "for the last time, we're not a solo act, but a band" Pond PA. The five members crammed themselves onto the stage, the drummer, bassist and guitarist hanging in the background, while cellist Eve Miller and Matt Pond (who also plays guitar) sat in chairs up front. Considering the acoustical shortcomings of the room (which could best be described as the inside of a giant shoebox) the band sounded pretty good. They seemed to be in great spirits, likely because it was the last show of their tour, and they were also unfazed by the lack of anything resembling a crowd. In fact, Pond talked about how it was better than the previous night's show in Chicago, where they played to a barroom full of disinterested kibitzers. After a nice rendition of "Measure 3" midway through the set, Matt Pond asked the audience if it'd be alright if he took a pee break. We were like, "Yeah, alright, sure." So Matt went to piss, and drummer Mike Kennedy decided to make a quick phone call to his friend and bandmate from Lefty's Deceiver (his side project), who was also supposed to play, but who was still en route. As Kennedy talked on the phone inaudibly, the sound of piss hitting toilet water echoed from the bathroom. Seconds later Pond emerged, hands dripping wet. "They're soaked in piss," he said. "We could hear you all the way out here," Eve Miller informed him. The show then resumed, and hit its stride with a cathartic, all-cylinders-hitting performance of "The Summer is Coming". Actually, I could have stood to hear more off of their newest album, The Nature of Maps. Actually, I could have stood to hear more, period. There's something to be said for small shows. I had no problem finding a seat, no problem seeing, and there was hardly any smoke in the room. I could have sat there all night, but Matt Pond PA quit after about a solid hour of performing.

This book offers a poignant and jarring reminder not just of the resilience of the human spirit, but also of its ability to seek solace in the materiality of one's present.

Marcelino Truong launched his autobiographical account of growing up in Saigon during the Vietnam War with the acclaimed graphic novel Such a Lovely Little War: Saigon 1961-63, originally published in French in 2012 and in English translation in 2016. That book concluded with his family's permanent relocation to London, England, as the chaos and bloodshed back home intensified.

Now Truong continues the tale with Saigon Calling: London 1963-75 (originally published in French in 2015), which follows the experiences of his family after they seek refuge in Europe. It offers a poignant illustration of what life was like for a family of refugees from the war, and from the perspective of young children (granted, Truong's family were a privileged and upper class set of refugees, well-connected with South Vietnamese and European elites). While relatives and friends struggle to survive amid the bombs and street warfare of Vietnam, the displaced narrator and his siblings find their attention consumed by the latest fashion and music trends in London. The book offers a poignant and jarring reminder not just of the resilience of the human spirit, but also of its ability to seek solace in the materiality of one's present.

Keep reading... Show less
8
Music

The World of Captain Beefheart: An Interview with Gary Lucas and Nona Hendryx

Gary Lucas and Nona Hendryx (photo © Michael DelSol courtesy of Howlin' Wuelf Media)

Guitarist and band leader Gary Lucas and veteran vocalist Nona Hendryx pay tribute to one of rock's originals in this interview with PopMatters.

From the opening bars of "Suction Prints", we knew we had entered The World of Captain Beefheart and that was exactly where we wanted to be. There it was, that unmistakable fast 'n bulbous sound, the sudden shifts of meter and tempo, the slithery and stinging slide guitar in tandem with propulsive bass, the polyrhythmic drumming giving the music a swing unlike any other rock band.

Keep reading... Show less

From Haircut 100 to his own modern pop stylings, Nick Heyward is loving this new phase of his career, experimenting with genre with the giddy glee of a true pop music nerd.

In 1982, Nick Heyward was a major star in the UK.

As the leader of pop sensations Haircut 100, he found himself loved by every teenage girl in the land. It's easy to see why, as Haircut 100 were a group of chaps so wholesome, they could have stepped from the pages of Lisa Simpson's "Non-Threatening Boys" magazine. They resembled a Benetton knitwear advert and played a type of quirky, pop-funk that propelled them into every transistor radio in Great Britain.

Keep reading... Show less

Despite the uninspired packaging in this complete series set, Friday Night Lights remains an outstanding TV show; one of the best in the current golden age of television.

There are few series that have earned such universal acclaim as Friday Night Lights (2006-2011). This show unreservedly deserves the praise -- and the well-earned Emmy. Ostensibly about a high school football team in Dillon, Texas—headed by a brand new coach—the series is more about community than sports. Though there's certainly plenty of football-related storylines, the heart of the show is the Taylor family, their personal relationships, and the relationships of those around them.

Keep reading... Show less
10

Mixing some bland "alternate" and "film" versions of Whitney Houston's six songs included on The Bodyguard with exemplary live cuts, this latest posthumous collection for the singer focuses on pleasing hardcore fans and virtually no one else.

No matter how much it gets talked about, dissected, dismissed, or lionized, it's still damn near impossible to oversell the impact of Whitney Houston's rendition of "I Will Always Love You".

Keep reading... Show less
4
Pop Ten
Mixed Media
PM Picks

© 1999-2017 Popmatters.com. All rights reserved.
Popmatters is wholly independently owned and operated.

rating-image