The culmination and pinnacle of five years of dedication to writing pop music Bonfire Night is literate, funny, clever and experimental; as expressive as it is catchy, as interesting as it is indispensable. The title track took more a decade to complete, spanning numerous iterations and reworks, false starts and throw aways. But it’s all there now – time, aging, liberation from anxieties. It is symptomatic.
The core cycle here shows the diversity and songcraft at play, telling the story of a romance beginning to end. ‘Things To Do With Your Hand At Parties’ is a total romp of popping slap-bass, vocoder and sky-scraping guitars and arpeggiators. ‘Chicken Wings’ is a stately string-led tale of a nocturnal breakup, late night sadness as night turns to dawn and silence turns to birdsong. Referencing existentialist philosopher Søren Kierkegaard’s doomed romance with Regine Olsen, ‘Soren & Regine’ is a beautiful piece of chamber pop. But there is plenty more where that came from. ‘Repeating’ comes in with a kraut pulse, motorik beats sounding like cLOUDDEAD colliding into Dexy’s Midnight Runners. In ‘3am, Phnom Penh’ delayed vocals are a call back to Brian Eno’s ghostly Berlin era productions with synth lines straight out of The Cure’s Disintegration. ‘Glue’ brings beautiful brass borrowed from Neutral Milk Hotel and swung drums beloved of almost every great nineties pop hit.
The concluding track ‘Talk Less Say More (Three Birds)’ is the last track Matthew will be making as Talk Less Say More. It’s gorgeous: 90s house piano lilts with flutes over with bubbling synths, choppy guitar alongside 80s inspired bongo solos and a chant. These elements are somehow brought into a seamless whole. The attention to detail is staggering – from the random analog blasts to the clipping of a snare drum reverb in the introduction. “So no more songs for these three birds” sings Matthew “no more agonising over words”.
Bonfire Night is a brilliant record, the final part of the art pop trilogy of albums begun with the critically acclaimed England Without Rain in 2012 and continued with Violent in 2014. It is a bittersweet because this is an ending. But what a way to go out.
- 1. Bonfire Night (3.38)
- 2. Things To Do With Your Hands At Parties (3.38)
- 3. Chicken Wings (3.18)
- 4. Soren & Regine (1.39)
- 5. Repeating (2.48)
- 6. 3am Phnom Penh (3.44)
- 7. Do You Beat Your Heart Or Don\’t You (4.10)
- 8. Glue (2.43)
- 9. Worker\’s Stadium (3.51)
- 10. Mononoke (1.37)
- 11. Talk Less Say More (Three Birds) (4.38)