Music Reviews

Matthew Dear Beams

(Ghostly International) Rating - 9/10

The British television network Channel 4 came up with an idea the other day, a tribute to clubbing, a six hour non-stop broadcast of “some of the best DJs from around the world”. A surreal experience doesn’t do it justice; Grandmaster Flash in a massive empty room sweating over a laptop and turntables while a man in the background wears a gas mask and presses buttons and a woman just stands there, nodding her head a bit. Then there’s the odd trippy (that’s just another word for shitty colours flying around the screen) visual. For 30 Rock fans, it was reminiscent of the Rockefeller Centre Salute to Fireworks that Jack plans, while it had never been done on TV before there was a reason why. So instead of enduring more of it, I stick my headphones on and listen to Beams. And it’s infinitely better. A cohesive album that makes me want to dance completely trumps what was essentially a medley and some flashing lights.

Beams builds on the dense, sexy sound of Black City. Great dance music makes you feel like a beautiful Adonis, like an existential god as you jerk your body around to the rhythm. Nothing else exists outside of your dancing, which the very best dance music makes you think is incredible. One More Time does that, LCD Soundsystem’s entire discography does that and, while some may tell you otherwise, Sexy And I Know It does that. And so does Beams. Partly because of Dear’s wall of sound style, there’s so much happening that you get completely lost, Fighting Is Futile is aptly named for that aforementioned reason. There’s bleeps, bass, blaring synths, a repeated incomprehensible hook, (take a trip on something else?) what more can you want? Headcage, is reminiscent, of all things, of PJ Harvey’s Working For The Man, that deep bass that makes it irresistibly sexy yet all the while incredibly sinister. It’s the breathy muttering that makes it so.

The record juxtaposes a few styles throughout the album, roughly dividing the songs into three types. The first type are high energy, sexy, jerky Saturday night songs, most of which include that beautiful scratchy guitar that Talking Heads perfected on More Songs About Buildings And Food’s Found A Job and Michael Jackson appropriated on Working Day And Night. Up And Out and Overtime share this sound, as does Earthforms with its sublime wandering bassline. The second set is essentially your Sunday morning songs, mellow, relaxed. Ahead Of Myself is as mellow as can be: simple synths and a soft drumbeat back a drawling whisper, the track then sweeps into Do The Right Thing, again a relaxed synth though this time with a cowbell replacing the drumbeat. The final set of songs is darker, filled with dread in a very Mezzanine like way. Harder to dance to and crap to romance to, it’s a testament to Matthew Dear’s skill that they don’t stick out like a sore thumb seeing as they share little in common with the other two sets of tracks.

I’m sure reading that last paragraph, everyone will think the same thing, that I’ve just described LCD Soundsystem, with all of the punk bits taken out. And that’s probably fair to say, Beams is a fair sister piece to that album, both are deep sonic pieces, both wear their influences on their sleeve and, most importantly, both are great to dance to.