Signed to Super Fan 99 Records, we had high hopes for Matt McKee, especially as the press release referenced the likes of Evan Dando and Elliott Smith. When we were lucky enough to see Matt at the recent all-dayer at Aldershot’s West End Centre, we were mesmerised. Soul-searching songs and self-depreciating wit, the whole crowd watched in silence as he laid his heart bare throughout his half-hour set – and threw in a Spice Girls cover for good measure.
Written and recorded following a painful break-up and a decision to quit a conventional job, ‘The Body You Ride Around In’ complements Matt’s decision to spend a bunch of savings on a 1981 VW camper van he found on eBay. Since buying the van, he’s been driving around the country playing shows and there’s a jaunt to Europe on the agenda, too. Produced by Henri Vaxby, the record is full of poignancy and melancholic moments. It opens with the rather poetic ‘Sonnet for Caged Bird Hopping Madly on Trapeze’ – a downbeat track in the vein of Jeff Buckley: ‘I long for you to feel my every word. I long for you to stay, my crushing bird’.
There’s a waltzier feel in the instrumentation of ‘Waldeinsamkeit’, a melodic song with a touch of Ed Harcourt. Complementing this is a chilling, atmospheric story about someone Matt used to know very closely dying: ‘Though you’re still dead, I forget that you died’. Following this is ‘Alchemy and Other Tricks’, a wistful piece of nostalgic folk that again has death as an omnipresent theme. The brilliantly named ‘Photography or when M. Swann Tell You that You Won’t Come Back’ is more in the vein of sunshine-tinged Americana, complete with handclaps, while ‘Dunno How’ recalls The Good Life with its direct and honest lyrics, punk-rock spirit and lucid lyrics: ‘Somewhere in my heart was in my head today. Soundtracking my dreams before I wake’.
‘Trouble Sleeping’ takes you on a tour through Bethnal Green. One night Matt introduces you to a homeless man from Liverpool struggling to survive that he sees while on his travels. The next time, there’s a millionaire in exactly the same spot as Matt muses about how ‘the only question is how does he sleep at night’. ‘Shilly Shally’ has a fuller sound complete with experimental guitars and pounding drums, while again the subject matter gets increasingly dark: ‘I read what you wrote, that there is no meaning’. Somewhat akin to Salvation Bill or Sweet Billy Pilgrim, ‘Photography #2’ starts with Matt accusingly asking: ‘The body you ride around in, where does it take you to?’ before sadness prevails and he sighly states: ‘You don’t know the difference between being happy and not happy’. As emotions build up, he gently explodes with anger: ‘You’ve got your incessant photography, can an object of me’.
The final song on the album, ‘Something Happened’ has a more traditional vibe with Matt using a falsetto as he talks about trying to find himself again, all while the word ‘home’ is sung in backing vocals time and time again. It ends with Matt rallying against how him and the subject of his affections used to sit in front of the TV and missed out on: ‘The places we could go, the people we could be’… Powerful, searingly honest and full of forlorn but fascinating melodies, this may be an album about heartbreak but it’s also one that looks ahead to better times.