Music

Matt Pryor: Confidence Man

Sure, he didn't have a perfect record before this album, but Matt Pryor has shown us enough before for us to know that he's better than this.


Matt Pryor

Confidence Man

Label: Vagrant
US Release Date: 2008-07-29
UK Release Date: Available as import
Amazon
iTunes

Matt Pryor has moved a good distance away from his years with the Get-Up Kids. The albums he records with the New Amsterdams are the quieter, more brooding side of the Get-Up Kids' irrepressible emoting. And now, with his new solo album, Confidence Man, he's turned the volume down even more, and gives us his most reserved vocals to date.

And while it was nice to see him step away from the emo-pop and into something a little more grown-up, Confidence Man goes way past sounding tempered and becomes, quickly, a dull collection of pop songs that pose as folk songs. The acoustic bounce, the use of banjo, Pryor's ever-confession lyrics, all hint at a folk inspiration. But the melodies, and Pryor's delivery, are still pure pop. And if Pryor could embrace that, it might be fine.

"A Totally New Year", with its understated electric guitar and bass bracing Pryor's acoustic strumming and vocals, shows us what Confidence Man could have been. The song melds all its parts nicely into a pleasant glide, and there is just enough life and hope in Pryor's voice to prepare us for an album where he refrains from the whining that mars some of his records.

But from there, there is little to talk about on the record. Pryor settles into tired, half-hearted vocals, and a bunch of acoustic numbers that, both lyrically and melodically, fail to distinguish themselves from one another. The broken relationship story of "Loralai" comes off as rushed and, built around details like a stolen car, sort of empty. "I'm Sorry Stephen" may be a earnest attempt at apology, but considering how little energy he puts into the song -- and up against his more accusatory songs, like "Who Do You Think You Are", where he is always more strident -- I'm not sure Stephen will take much consolation in the track.

And with the inclusion of a few strong songs -- like the full-band energy of the title track, where Pryor dips into his old school shriek without overdoing it, and the equally catchy "Still, There's a Light" -- one wonders why Pryor didn't cut a number of tracks and expand on his better ideas. With 15 tracks, most of which cut out around the two-minute mark, the entire album feels rushed and unfocused. And with so many tracks, Pryor has too many opportunities to give us songs like the gooey "I Wouldn't Change a Thing" or "Who Do You Think You Are", where he has been vaguely wronged (again). And by the time he gets to the pretentiously titled "On How Our Paths Differ" where he congratulates himself on being different, the charm he shows on the better tracks here is completely wiped out.

With the success he's had on some of the New Amsterdams' records, it's hard to figure the reasons behind making Confidence Man, considering none of these songs are given the time they need, and most feel like they could use more instrumentation -- the kind of instrumentation Pryor's band could give him. Instead, the album comes off as long on songs and short on ideas. Sure, he didn't have a perfect record before this album, but Matt Pryor has shown us enough before for us to know that he's better than this.

4

Cover down, pray through: Bob Dylan's underrated, misunderstood "gospel years" are meticulously examined in this welcome new installment of his Bootleg series.

"How long can I listen to the lies of prejudice?
How long can I stay drunk on fear out in the wilderness?"
-- Bob Dylan, "When He Returns," 1979

Bob Dylan's career has been full of unpredictable left turns that have left fans confused, enthralled, enraged – sometimes all at once. At the 1965 Newport Folk Festival – accompanied by a pickup band featuring Mike Bloomfield and Al Kooper – he performed his first electric set, upsetting his folk base. His 1970 album Self Portrait is full of jazzy crooning and head-scratching covers. In 1978, his self-directed, four-hour film Renaldo and Clara was released, combining concert footage with surreal, often tedious dramatic scenes. Dylan seemed to thrive on testing the patience of his fans.

Keep reading... Show less
9
TV

Inane Political Discourse, or, Alan Partridge's Parody Politics

Publicity photo of Steve Coogan courtesy of Sky Consumer Comms

That the political class now finds itself relegated to accidental Alan Partridge territory along the with rest of the twits and twats that comprise English popular culture is meaningful, to say the least.

"I evolve, I don't…revolve."
-- Alan Partridge

Alan Partridge began as a gleeful media parody in the early '90s but thanks to Brexit he has evolved into a political one. In print and online, the hopelessly awkward radio DJ from Norwich, England, is used as an emblem for incompetent leadership and code word for inane political discourse.

Keep reading... Show less

The show is called Crazy Ex-Girlfriend largely because it spends time dismantling the structure that finds it easier to write women off as "crazy" than to offer them help or understanding.

In the latest episode of Crazy Ex-Girlfriend, the CW networks' highly acclaimed musical drama, the shows protagonist, Rebecca Bunch (Rachel Bloom), is at an all time low. Within the course of five episodes she has been left at the altar, cruelly lashed out at her friends, abandoned a promising new relationship, walked out of her job, had her murky mental health history exposed, slept with her ex boyfriend's ill father, and been forced to retreat to her notoriously prickly mother's (Tovah Feldshuh) uncaring guardianship. It's to the show's credit that none of this feels remotely ridiculous or emotionally manipulative.

Keep reading... Show less
9

To be a migrant worker in America is to relearn the basic skills of living. Imagine doing that in your 60s and 70s, when you thought you'd be retired.


Nomadland: Surviving America in the Twenty-First Century

Publisher: W. W. Norton
Author: Jessica Bruder
Publication date: 2017-09
Amazon

There's been much hand-wringing over the state of the American economy in recent years. After the 2008 financial crisis upended middle-class families, we now live with regular media reports of recovery and growth -- as well as rising inequality and decreased social mobility. We ponder what kind of future we're creating for our children, while generally failing to consider who has already fallen between the gaps.

Keep reading... Show less
7

Gallagher's work often suffers unfairly beside famous husband's Raymond Carver. The Man from Kinvara should permanently remedy this.

Many years ago—it had to be 1989—my sister and I attended a poetry reading given by Tess Gallagher at California State University, Northridge's Little Playhouse. We were students, new to California and poetry. My sister had a paperback copy of Raymond Carver's Cathedral, which we'd both read with youthful admiration. We knew vaguely that he'd died, but didn't really understand the full force of his fame or talent until we unwittingly went to see his widow read.

Keep reading... Show less
8
Pop Ten
Mixed Media
PM Picks

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

rating-image