Thursday, February 15, 2007

New England native scores in Valley music scene

Matt Beem approached us about reviewing his latest CD. It was a pleasure. Posted here because his local gig is too close to the print date of the issue carrying the review to necessarily help generate some attendance. God willing, a miracle may happen and downtown hipsters may log on here and follow up on the tip to go listen to this guy, at Modified Arts, Wednesday, Feb. 21 at the Paper Heart with Down Cast Fabel (other acts TBA),

You criticize the note in his ear when there’s a Beem in your own?

By David Tell, critic

From the very first signature guitar licks of the opening track on Matt Beem’s new CD “The Part You’re Playing, you feel as if it’s already familiar. That’s even truer as you go about your day, unable to get “ Starting to Crack” out of your head. It’s pretty catchy. (Almost too much so. Hard to resist cracks about “head starting to crack ...”) That’s true of the rest of the CD too, as well as past work by Beem, a childhood drummer who evolved into a guitarist-singer-songwriter and from a N’Hampshah rock star wannabe to whatever passes for mild success at it in the Valley’s music scene.
We’re not up enough on recent rock genres and icons (Beem refers to “jangle band” and “folk-metal” in characterizing some phases of his career) to informedly assess his influences and sound-alikes, but we can say the music manifests a tunefulness and dogged beat (as well as intelligent, clearly enunciated, irony-soaked lyrics) that help explain why he’s been a crowd-pleaser in some circles for several years locally—without the need for gimmicks such as the neo-Turkish riffs of bands such as the Hypno-Twists, reviewed here what seems like ages ago. (Get it from Mozart’s “Zaide,” and “Rondo alla Turca,” leave it out of rock, eh, guys and gals?)
Revealing my age, ignorance and tastes, I will say there’s a hint here of early Crazy Horse (Jack Nitzche, et. al., accompanying Neil Young in the early “Neil Young” and “Everybody Knows This is Nowhere” days—even the unjustly obscure “On the Beach,” which I think Ryan Adams said was an influence), Sheryl Crow’s backup musicians, and perhaps Western rockers whose stuff I’m not really too familiar with such as Warren Zevon and John Mellencamp, with a some of the parody and energy of the Stones when emulating U.S.-born musical styles—think stuff from “Some Girls” and whatever their even more mock-Country album was ...
Beem started his local career in a band with a brother of a guy in the Gin Blossoms, who he says gave up on them “because they were a bunch of nitwits”—then formed Solace, who became Long Wong’s house band before dissolving.
Then, according Beem, “I completed my first official release, ‘Choking Down the Roses,’ sparse renditions of new and old tunes, which gave birth to several crowd favorites, including ‘Valley Sickness,’ ‘Relatively,’ and ‘Dolphins Don’t Build Casinos.’ In 2002 I started a new outfit with drummer Matthew Salusky (formerly of local hardcore groups Longsuffer and Kilnemia), this time performing under my name, and recorded the ‘12/09/02’ EP, acoustic demos of new songs that would eventually be recorded by the full band for my next release, ‘The Way These People Drive, You’d Think They Want Me Dead.’ (2003) The band chugged along for a couple of years, went through several lineup changes, and eventually the thing fizzled out. I spent 2005 writing new songs and in ’06 enlisted local drummer and producer Brock Caldwell to put together the latest release, ‘The Part You’re Playing’ EP.”
As to that release, following the infectious “Starting to Crack,” there’s the mock-mournful “Spanish Girl,” which is ballad-with-a-beat stuff; “Everything Seen,” which mimics (not intentionally, we know) the frenetic pace and style of the aforementioned Stones in “Shattered,” their punk-y, Ramones-y paean to the New York rat-race (we referenced the lyric “Can’t give it away on 7th Avenue” in our headline on the Bowey rezoning flap a couple years ago, remember?). “The Fan” again builds on a spare lead guitar riff into a plaintive, fetching anthem; “Theresa” harks to the arpeggiated oldie love songs and other standards such as “House of the Rising Sun” (and, again Sheryl Crow takes on the style such as “Run Baby Run” and “No One Said It Would Be Easy”), and is perhaps a less original, and, to my taste, less enjoyable offering.
Representing the Myspace generation, music impresario extraordinaire Naomi Tell, who sampled the CD in Grand Rapids before her sound card died (was Beem’s music the culprit?), commented, “I did think it had a kind of soulfulness that most alternative-mainstream sounding rock is lacking these days. Damn kids. He also looks like [boyfriend] Jeremy's friend Ronnie.”
“Desert Eagle” rounds out the set, echoing early somebody else, another minor-key bio-ballad telling a road-trip tale. About ending up in Phoenix. I can relate.
More of Beem’s stuff can be listened to or downloaded free from his website, It’s all listenable, check it out. And/or catch him locally (see infobox, previous page).

No comments: