Mat Weitman releases his debut album, ‘Grief Museum’, under his Hotels on Mars moniker and as the title suggests, it’s informed by the power of loss. Following a break-up and sudden death of a friend at the start of the pandemic, Mat processed his anxiety and dark thoughts in a quickfire recording session that forms the basis of these 10 raw and poignant songs.
Opening with the rather aptly titled ‘The Worst Year on Record’ (none of us are going to forget 2020 for a while…), Mat recalls how ‘The city was devoid of people, they were locked up in ther houses. In this way, the city seemed to reflect my state of being’ before talking about how this lack of interaction made him want to chew on both the walls and ‘the President’s fat neck while he laid down in bed’. The pacy bluegrass country feel of ‘Indiana’ follows with more self-depreciating tones (‘I started to break down’) as Mat talks about finding somewhere where he feels comfortable: ‘Indiana, where I can rest my bones. Indiana, where I can be alone’. This feeling of wanting some form of community continues through ‘All I Want is a Picture of Your Favourite Bar’, a one-way conversational plea to a loved one to show him their favourite tavern: ‘I don’t need to see you in it, I just want to imagine the place you go to drink’. We were reminded of Willy Mason, especially when Mat flips the song’s theme and anguishes over his own pain when the subject goes out drinking without him.
There are visceral and visual lyrics throughout ‘Catalina Pigtail Pork-rind’ – think Craig Finn from The Hold Steady fronting My Morning Jacket – as Mat talks about getting close to a tornado before revealing how he thinks of someone close to him first as a secretary and then as a therapist who helps him deal with his anxiety: ‘I stop to think how strange life it as I’m swept away’. ‘Grief Museum Rag’ is a dubbed-out instrumental interlude, while the Nick Drake-esque ‘(I Don’t Want to) Hurt Myself’ is a deeply honest account of his innermost thoughts and feelings of emptiness: ‘Lately it seems as though all the things I do just cause me pain and not only that but all the things I touch oddly feel the same. I picked a flower the other day and it ided before I could get it into a vase’; ‘Tell me it’s too late to take back a joke I made about drinking myself to death’. This subdued tone follows through the album’s 6-minute instrumental centrepiece ’13 Mimosas’ before turning into something altogethr more dreamy and floaty on ‘For Dee’.
The penultimate ‘Chernobyl’ has a sound and fragility in Mat’s voice that brings to mind a lo-fi Flaming Lips (‘The look in your face when I start to equate mass tragedies to my own fate’) while ‘Untitled No. 4’ closes the album with Mat revealing the pain the romantic break-up has caused him – and how it’s changed his future plans – against a backdrop of emotion-led slide guitar: ‘Now, you know I’ve got nothing left to do. All my love was saved up for you. Now you’re gone, I’ve got nothing left to do except drink myself to death because all my later years were gonna be spent with you’.
While Hotels on Mars may be full of heartbreak, it’s definitely one you’ll want to stay with for a while.