Matt Berry – Kill The Wolf (2013)
Matt Berry’s music is a recent discovery for me. I only bought his third album, “Witchazel”, a few weeks before this album was released because I read some very enthusiastic reviews for it and ended up very much enjoying its creative folk eccentricity. This led me to immediately pre-order “Kill The Wolf” and, now I’ve heard it half a dozen times, I love it even more than “Witchazel”. I’m not sure if Matt’s comedy/acting background does him many favours in the music business in that people may not initially take him seriously in this field, but knowing his persona does mean that you’re not expecting something too straight-laced when you do take the plunge. However, what the uninitiated probably wouldn’t expect is an album of such fantastic quality that cements his credentials as a terrific musician within the first couple of tracks alone. There are a lovely range of styles on offer here, with a folk theme underpinning the whole project. This is a gorgeous-sounding album with a huge amount of attention given to the instrumentation and production to make this as full and magical sounding as possible. It is more than apparent that English folk and rock acts of the sixties and seventies have influenced Matt strongly in his music, but this album is no throwback to a bygone era or exercise in nostalgia – it’s way too good and original to be slotted into that pigeonhole.
The opening song, “Gather” is a very folky piece, a near-chant about gathering herbs, nuts and other wild flora. You could be forgiven for wondering what on earth you’ve bought at this point, but it’s almost a red herring as the majority of the album is a mixture of genres, with “Devil Inside Me” immediately providing a rock/indie flavour. Other notable tracks include “Fallen Angel”, which is simply gorgeous, a shimmering slice of folk sounding very much like “Space Oddity” era Bowie and “Medicine” is a fantastic, catchy-as-hell, choral indie song, which could be described as Divine Comedy meets Polyphonic Spree with a Coral-like guitar solo in the middle. “Solstice”, probably my favourite track on “Kill The Wolf”, is an incredible piece of work; over nine minutes of fabulous prog-folk-rock, boasting seventies synthesiser sounds and a truly lovely, expansive guitar solo which Mike Oldfield himself would probably doff his cap at. “October Sun” is also rather splendid, an autumnal romp which delivers a whole dazzling spectrum of aural colours to your ears and “The Signs” is a straightforward, but excellent, vintage rock track, with a late sixties Zombies flavour to it, featuring some great electric piano, hand-claps and even a tasty blast of saxophone. The last of my personal favourites is “Knock Knock”, a genius portion of classic pop which has all the characteristics of a massive hit from around forty years ago.
It’s rare to find an album that sounds quite as beautiful as this one; a smorgasbord of acoustic guitars, mandolins, violins, animal noises, caressing choral sections, glockenspiels, richly descriptive lyrics and a sumptuous, creative mix of genres all the way through. If you don’t have any of the multi-talented Matt Berry’s albums yet, I would strongly recommend “Kill The Wolf” as a starting point and, if you enjoy this one, work your way backwards (although good luck getting hold of a copy of his rare second album, “Opium” and even rarer 1995 début “Jackpot”). This is definitely a slightly easier album to listen to than its predecessors and is, in my opinion, the most accomplished, consistent and complete piece of work of Berry’s so far. Apart from, hopefully, completing his transformation from cult, fringe artist to a respected, critically-acclaimed musician, “Kill The Wolf” is also one of the finest albums I’ve heard all year, so it goes without saying that I recommend it highly.