Sunday, 11 August 2013

Review: Mathew Gray – The Crocodile EP

I approached Mathew Gray and The Awful Truth's EP, The Crocodile, with a little caution; more than a little in fact. For some reason, I was fearful of sub-Syd Barrett whimsy. Maybe it was the title and the cover image and I am clearly as shallow as a puddle because, it turns out, I was miles and several genres wide of the mark.

The title tune is our entry into Mr Gray's world. It is dense with wordplay, poetry and imagery, deeply serious in subject, and light, skippy and joyous in performance. He wraps a deep sense of our place in the world as puny humans and our tiny part in the history of the earth, in something we would dearly wish very cool teachers to play to our children at school. The next song, ‘Took Away Tomorrow’ aches to its bones with emotion and is sung with a rare blend of sadness and detachment, with faint echoes of the criminally underrated Ed Harcourt. I especially love ‘Someone To Blame’, a cool dissection of the motivators of extremism with a percussion part so perfectly placed it made me grin like I was having my feet gently ticked.

In fact, all the playing here is from the very top drawer: all the musicians knowing when to hold back and when to politely run riot. The EP closes with ‘The Soldier’, its first person narrative occasionally dipping into the well worn war's a bad thing, who exactly are we fighting for? point, but driven forward by genuinely wonderful instrumental work pulled in from the worlds of classical and folk. The Crocodile by Mathew Gray and The Awful Truth is altogether rather ace.

Words: John Wigley.

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