Music Reviews

Matt Elliott

The Mess We Made


It’s hard to determine whether former Flying Saucer Attack guitarist Matt Elliott sat down with the intention of making an abstruse album when he made The Mess We Made. Buried, sometimes backward vocals, muted horns and effects-laden keyboards provide the backbone to many of Elliott’s pieces of music. The lack of conventional song structure doesn’t do much to diminish Elliott’s music, which unfolds and floats by on wobbly, drunk-on-the-water legs, in seven-minute intervals.

Not surprisingly, what the album lacks in structure it makes up for in mood. The opener, “Let Us Break,” uses minimal instrumentation to create a sense of foreboding in the cascading quiet that surrounds it. Tension builds throughout the song, but there is ultimately no release as the instruments are eliminated, one by one, in the last minute before the song succumbs to the silence.

“The Dog Beneath the Skin” is as close to Kid A-era Radiohead as you’re going to hear this year. It evokes a similar cold and distant tone as “Everything in its Right Place.” Elliott even provides an admirable garbled Thom Yorke impression on vocals. Later, a penchant for Danny Elfman’s film scores rears its head on the skeletal sea shanty “The Sinking Ship Song” and the classically arranged spider-crawl of acoustic guitars and wordless vocals on “Forty Days.”

This album isn’t going to stay in regular rotation in my stereo for very long, but I’m sure to revisit it when the weather’s appropriately bad, or during the week leading up to Halloween. Y’know, just to set the mood and to scare little kids.

Merge Records: • Matt Elliott:

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