Album Review: Matthew J. Tow – The Way Of Things
Matthew J. Tow has built a wildly successful career since he formed the psych-pop band Drop City in the early 1990s. The band released five albums in a seven year span from 1993 to 2000. Tow also formed the experimental project Colorsound in 1994- releasing four more albums in a ten year period. Most of Tow’s acclaim has come in his home country of Australia, but after touring in the United States as the rhythm guitarist for The Brian Jonestown Massacre in 2003, he started to make a name for himself stateside. His current band, The Lovetones, was born from the West Coast psychedelic rock sound and continues to be a successful touring and recording act in Australia. Obviously Tow’s name has made it into quite a few album credits over the years, but his 2013 offering is the first to fall under the solo category. Released by Xemu Records, The Way Of Things is an album that spans many genres in just under 50 minutes of run-time. While the album transitions effortlessly from song to song making each track a memorable experience in their own right, the sum of its parts is where the real beauty is. The album’s opening track “Night And Day” is an almost 12 minute slow-burning sonic display. The journey starts with a predictable psych-rock beginning, but eventually turns itself into a full on jam fest by the 8 minute mark. Floating and echoing vocals create a corridor of sound that envelops the listener. As it speeds up into a guitar solo breakdown, gospel-esque backing vocals kick in. If you put your music player on shuffle, you would probably think this was the close to the album, but it’s only the beginning.
“Night And Day” gives the impression that you are in for one of those drifting but highly enjoyable pysch-rock albums that fills up the majority of the output in the genre today. That perception is immediately changed on “It’s Gonna Be Alright”. Tow breaks into a single worthy track that instantly reminds the listener of a spaced-out Tom Petty in his prime. There’s an underlying David Bowie in the cosmos vibe to the track that is undeniable. That becomes even more evident with “Crazy Ramblin Broken Heart” that displays the beautiful simplicity of the lyrics of Tom Petty with the complex song structure of David Bowie.
A fantastic start to the album is made even better at it’s half-way point. “When I Get To Sydney” is an absolute gem- one of the best songs released this year. If there was any doubt about the influence of David Bowie in The Way Of Things, there’s no question now. The lyrics drive the melody, and we are in full Bowie mode at this point. Each note flowing slightly behind Tow’s vocals at every crescendo. The stars shine bright here as Tow dances the line between psychedelic rock and pop music from past decades. This is classic 60s pysch-pop, worthy of standing next to some of the classics of that time.
“Seven Days” is a brisk and sunny stroll that sees Tow dive into a folk song. It’s warm and bright, with a catchy folklore whistling tune and accompanying accordion. The love generation would be proud of this one. “Worlds Collide” is another gem in an album that continues to engage the listener with storytelling in it’s best musical form. It’s a song about being in love, but don’t think it’s going to go down the sappy route. This is a cautionary tale, but one with a sense of honesty. It’s a deep look within, but it never feels melancholy. There’s a longing and questioning, but there’s a ton of hope in the presentation.
If there is a slow point in the journey, “Sail Tonight” somehow manages to disappoint in the slightest. It comes off a little too easy for Tow. A sense of magic is lost in the track that propels the others into the stars. It’s not a skip, but it’s definitely a pause in the journey. “I Love My Brother” is a fitting close to an album that oozes with honesty and carefully depicted mental imagery. A bare bones track that fades into black… haunting, brutally honest, and engaging.
The Way Of Things is a psychedelic journey through the cosmos that takes creates carefully crafted moments to explore the flow of life and the human experience. The journey takes you to the stars, but never falls too far down the rabbit hole to lose the listener. The story telling is complex yet concise, but you never feel lost, you are always kept in the narrative with the excellent song writing brought to the album by Tow. It’s hard to call this album a pysch-rock experiment. It’s more of a life journey with peaks and valleys, and it’s a journey that you owe it to yourself to take more than a few times.
You can stream a few tracks from the album at Matthew J. Tow’s official site here.
~ A concise narrative in a wonderfully orchestrated musical cosmo. The Way Of Things could benefit from a few additional tracks, but it’s hard to fault Matthew J. Tow for getting it right every other time. A must hear journey that will appeal to the fans of the psych-rock genre and far beyond.