Painting Outside The Lines with Matthew Good

It was an uneasy marriage of convenience, in some ways,” he continued, speaking of the decision to release Coma. “[Universal] felt it was time to do it. And I agreed, primarily because I thought it would be a great way to end a chapter. Take Pablo Picasso. He wasn’t always a Cubist. First there were the Blue and Rose Periods, six years that showed tremendous talent. But it wasn’t exactly genre defining. That came with the creation of Cubism, later memorialized by The Three Musicians. Throughout his career, Picasso experimented with styles and techniques, often combining two or more in a single work of art.

Matthew Good’s like that, and right now, he’s on the cusp of his own form of Cubism. First there was the Matthew Good Band, a relatively straightforward (if thinking man’s) rock ’n’ roll. Next up, we had the solo artist currently known as Matthew Good, which found the artist experimenting with string orchestras and live-off-the-floor recording.

As either a collector’s item or an introduction to Good’s genius, the recently released retrospective In a Coma is necessary, containing singles, acoustic reworkings, previously out-of-print EPs, behind-the-scenes footage, and music videos. Good’s a genius on so many levels—lyrics, composition, instrumentation, social awareness—that it’s hard to focus on a single element of his craft.

Watching Coma’s DVD, the making of the nine-track acoustic interlude, you can almost see his brain turning over the various components of the song, slipping into gaps and identifying absences. But how? “I just sit down and do it,” he said. “People are intrinsically born with talents. There is no comparison, but how did guys like Mozart compose entire symphonies in their head? You look at their original work and it’s all first draft. No corrections. The fact that John Lennon couldn’t read or write music and yet is able to produce something like ‘I Am a Walrus.’ You just do. You are.”

Like most artists, Good’s hard on himself, and resentful of what he perceives as commercialization on the part of the record industry. “It was an uneasy marriage of convenience, in some ways,” he continued, speaking of the decision to release Coma. “[Universal] felt it was time to do it. And I agreed, primarily because I thought it would be a great way to end a chapter. After I put Avalanche out, there should have been some discussion about how they were going to present me. And there was none. Basically, [it was] ‘Here’s the Matthew Good Band, minus the band.’”

Good sees his artistry as something to bear rather than celebrate. “I have an anxiety disorder that I’ll live with the rest of my life,” he admitted, “caused by my time with the band, all that pressure and stress and anxiety. People don’t sit down and write and create art because they can. It’s exorcizing demons. It’s like throwing up. It’s a struggle with yourself; that’s what being an artist is. You can’t find a great artist in history who was just a normal, well-adjusted person.”

With the release of In a Coma, Good’s colored periods have concluded; he’s ready for a new direction. Though it’s not entirely fleshed out, he’s definitely given it plenty of thought. “Basically, the next thing I want to do is beam that [acoustic] vibe through some drums and bass,” he revealed. “I work at a well-known studio…in a really seedy part of Vancouver. My engineer and I are going to go around to the lower east side and record conversations of the street people. And I’m going to conjoin all the tracks and have it be a running stream of audio over the whole thing.”

Just the kind of thing that will have some people shaking their heads, and others heralding Good as the genius many of us have long known him to be. Much like Picasso’s Les Demoiselles d’Avignon, Good’s next project may be ahead of its time. It may be misunderstood or misinterpreted. But will it be visionary and controversial? You can bet on it.

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