PopMatters is moving to WordPress in December. We will continue to publish on this site as we work on the move. We aim to make it a seamless experience for readers.


Richard X. Heyman: Incognito

Photo courtesy of artist

Heyman's catchy guitar lines and pleasant vocals create an agreeable sound without ever getting buried under their own weight.

Richard X. Heyman


Label: Turn-Up
US Release Date: 2017-07-23

Richard X. Heyman plays almost all the instruments -- drums, guitars, keyboards, and more -- and sings lead vocals on his 11th studio LP, Incognito. That’s nothing new, as he’s been doing this type of thing since the early '70s. Because of technological issues, however, this was much more difficult to do back then, and it's still uncommon today. Yet, doing so allows Heyman to make personal music without compromise.

On his latest release, Heyman posits himself as a lone wolf on the roadside who observes society from the outside. We experience the world from his perspective, without really knowing the narrator except through his reactions. In a world where trust is at a premium, it’s difficult to judge what he sings. “Confusion” and “illusion” are just two words he himself uses to describe what he sees. Heyman even admits to traveling incognito and pretending to be someone he’s not. Trust in the disguise? That’s asking a lot from the listener.

As a result, the best way to hear this 14-song disc may be through a filter, such as in a noisy room or next door to the hi-fi. The catchy guitar lines and pleasant vocals create an agreeable sound without ever getting buried under their own weight. There's always something happening, be it a shift in tempo, a nice guitar riff, and/or a voice insistently making a statement. The pieces of his songs work as independent hooks that invitingly beckon (just don’t listen too closely). The result is that “confusion” mentioned earlier.

This may sound harsh -- or at best, like faint praise -- but that’s not the case. The music on Heyman’s new release reveals his considerable talents. He started rocking as a teenager in New Jersey during the '60s, and he's performed and recorded for decades, contributing much during the years. He was once on a major label, but he has also been too idiosyncratic for the general public. His flaws are those of a man who believes in himself a bit too much, but who is also wise enough not to buy into social definitions of who he should be. He is a bit of an oddball. But, he is also a very talented musician!

Heyman may be eclectic or even eccentric, but he’s also a rocker. His songs fall into the power pop category; along with musicians like Marshall Crenshaw, Material Issue, and the Posies, Heyman understands that hard rock can be loud without heavy thuds. After all, the sound of an electric guitar or a human voice has much more force when it is not part of a wall of noise. On the best songs here, such as “A Fool’s Errand”, “Her Garden Path”, and “Gleam”, Heyman controls the material through his voluble ringing guitar. The music fluently travels higher and higher without ever losing its way. There is no noodling, just clean playing.

As mentioned, Heyman wrote, produced, and performed Incognito with minimal assistance. He nimbly added harmony vocals, strings, and horns with a tasteful touch. That said, there is a purposeful fuzziness to the overall sound. The music is never too clean and polished; it has a roughness to it. The singer may be an outside observer, but he does feel things as this is an emotional album.


Please Donate to Help Save PopMatters

PopMatters have been informed by our current technology provider that we have until December to move off their service. We are moving to WordPress and a new host, but we really need your help to fund the move and further development.





The Return of the Rentals After Six Years Away

The Rentals release a space-themed album, Q36, with one absolute gem of a song.


Matthew Murphy's Post-Wombats Project Sounds a Lot Like the Wombats (And It's a Good Thing)

While UK anxiety-pop auteurs the Wombats are currently hibernating, frontman Matthew "Murph" Murphy goes it alone with a new band, a mess of deprecating new earworms, and revived energy.


The 100 Best Albums of the 2000s: 80-61

In this next segment of PopMatters' look back on the music of the 2000s, we examine works by British electronic pioneers, Americana legends, and Armenian metal provocateurs.


In the Tempest's Eye: An Interview with Surfer Blood

Surfer Blood's 2010 debut put them on the map, but their critical sizzle soon faded. After a 2017 comeback of sorts, the group's new record finds them expanding their sonic by revisiting their hometown with a surprising degree of reverence.


Artemis Is the Latest Jazz Supergroup

A Blue Note supergroup happens to be made up of women, exclusively. Artemis is an inconsistent outing, but it dazzles just often enough.


Horrors in the Closet: A Closet Full of Monsters

A closet full of monsters is a scary place where "straight people" can safely negotiate and articulate their fascination and/or dread of "difference" in sexuality.


'Wildflowers & All the Rest' Is Tom Petty's Masterpiece

Wildflowers is a masterpiece because Tom Petty was a good enough songwriter by that point to communicate exactly what was on his mind in the most devastating way possible.


Jazz Composer Maria Schneider Takes on the "Data Lords" in Song

Grammy-winning jazz composer Maria Schneider released Data Lords partly as a reaction to her outrage that streaming music services are harvesting the data of listeners even as they pay musicians so little that creativity is at risk. She speaks with us about the project.


The 100 Best Albums of the 2000s: 100-81

PopMatters' best albums of the 2000s begin with a series of records that span epic metal, ornate indie folk, and a terrifying work of electronic music.


The Power of Restraint in Sophie Yanow, Paco Roca, and Elisa Macellari's New Graphic Novels

The magical quality that makes or breaks a graphic novel lies somewhere in that liminal space in which art and literature intersect.


'People of the City' Is an Unrelenting Critique of Colonial Ideology and Praxis

Cyprian Ekwensi's People of the City is a vivid tale of class struggle and identity reclamation in the shadows of colonialism's reign.


1979's 'This Heat' Remains a Lodestone for Avant-Rock Adventure

On their self-titled debut, available for the first time on digital formats, This Heat delivered an all-time classic stitched together from several years of experiments.


'The Edge of Democracy' and Parallels of Political Crises

Academy Award-nominated documentary The Edge of Democracy, now streaming on Netflix, lays bare the political parallels of the rise of Bolsonaro's Brazil with Trump's America.


The Pogues' 'The BBC Sessions 1984-1986' Honors Working-Class Heroes

The Pogues' BBC Sessions 1984-1986 is a welcome chapter in the musical story of these working-class heroes, who reminded listeners of the beauty and dignity of the strong, sooty backs upon which our industrialized world was built.


Mary Halvorson Creates Cacophony to Aestheticize on 'Artlessly Falling'

Mary Halvorson's Artlessly Falling is a challenging album with tracks comprised of improvisational fragments more than based on compositional theory. Halvorson uses the various elements to aestheticize the confusing world around her.


15 Overlooked and Underrated Albums of the 1990s

With every "Best of the '90s" retrospective comes a predictable list of entries. Here are 15 albums that are often overlooked as worthy of placing in these lists, and are too often underrated as some of the best records from the decade.


'A Peculiar Indifference' Takes on Violence in Black America

Pulitzer Prize finalist Elliott Currie's scrupulous investigation of the impacts of violence on Black Americans, A Peculiar Indifference, shows the damaging effect of widespread suffering and identifies an achievable solution.


20 Songs From the 1990s That Time Forgot

Rather than listening to Spotify's latest playlist, give the tunes from this reminiscence of lost '90s singles a spin.

Collapse Expand Reviews

Collapse Expand Features

PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 PopMatters.com. All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.