The Mattoid. To be taken seriously or not? This is the puzzling question that springs forth when listening to Hello. Described as originally being from Helsinki, Finland, and playing a sort of rhythmic music called "sango", the Mattoid blazes out of the Nashville area with this album of strange pop that's neither here nor there. And whatever the hell sango may actually be is anybody's guess, but to me it sounds like a standard bouncy, rhythmic sort of music.
Hello is one of those albums that dares music critics to come up with some kind of reference point. Well, I have mine. To me the Mattoid at his most energetic sounds like Cookie Monster. All of a sudden things will be normal, the song playing will be going at a nice leisurely pop pace, and then all of a sudden, the Mattoid starts singing in this gurgly voice, making freakish guttural noises that sounds just like Cookie Monster when he's going bonkers for a pack of Lorna Doones. So there you have it. Sesame Street mixed with a touch of gothic chamber rock.
Actually, I want to take that one step further. The Mattoid is not "goth" as in Sisters of Mercy, Lycia, Bauhaus, etc., but goth as in a late-night cheeseball horror movie TV show host. So, in addition to the Cookie Monster sound, throw in Count Floyd from SCTV's Monster Chiller Horror Theater skits. Count Floyd mixed with Cookie Monster. There you have it again. Now that I have established my reference points, onwards to the actual music.
To put it bluntly, yes, Hello is some rather bizarre stuff. But perhaps the most bizarre thing about it is how accessible it actually is. The Mattoid goes through freakish bends, at one point rocking out like the Velvet Underground on a tight, live take of "Funeral Party" ("The priest is here / And the casket is ready / Body inside / Looks nice and steady"), and then turning out a schmaltzy lounge croon the next on "Slacker's Pain". The first verse to this latter tune is literally "Doink doink doink / Doink doink doink doink / Doink doink doink yeah / Let's dance". You figure it out.
Then there's the strange ode entitled "Juri Gagarin", which is quite beautiful musically. It almost seems of another time and place, as if constructed in a vacuum elsewhere and finally set free on this album. Or take "Rat Poison", featuring vocals by the Mattoid's female partner-in-crime, Poppy Fields. It's a very calm and loving tune featuring lines like "One day she decided / That she didn't want to live / With that man anymore / So she started to cook / For him every day / Hey hey hey / Adding some spices / Salt and pepper, hint of herbs / And some rat poison too". A touching ode to true love, "Rat Poison" is Hello at its most perverse.
There's also "Blue Suede Shoes" (not a cover of the classic staple), which goes: "When it's time for me to die / I'm gonna die / With a smile on my face / I'm gonna be high / On drugs and booze / I'm gonna be wearing / My blue suede shoes". If it all wasn't so damn cheery and strangely rocking, the Mattoid and Hello would be considered a joke, I think. And maybe this whole thing is a joke, but it's hard to tell. The music is quite earnest, and the production impeccable.
So I leave it to you, dear readers and listeners, to put the pieces together for yourselves and figure out the Mattoid. Will sango music be the next hot craze? Will Hello propel goth pop into an entirely new direction? Will Nashville be able to sustain such an odd icon, or will the Mattoid have to travel back to Finland to reap greater rewards? Oh hell, the guy's already 100 times better than that "other" Finnish export, the Rasmus, which is currently being hyped on our shores. Do yourself a favor and check out Hello and hear something you've truly never heard before.