Matthew Ryan “Boxers”
Somewhat amazingly, and if we’re honest a bit ashamedly, this album marks our first introduction to Matthew Ryan. He has actually had a career that spans nearly two decades, over which he has been very prolific. Over that period it would appear his catalogue has created an understandably passionate and supportive fan base. This stretches right up to his musical peers as demonstrated by the strength of the guests who play on this album. Most notably it includes the remarkably talented Brian Fallon who has gained somewhat wider fame with The Gaslight Anthem.
As we were expecting a more Americana/Singer songwriter sound, opening track “Boxers” is a surprisingly full on song. It is a bold and confident start to the album and the sound appears somewhat at odds to the lyrics of the song. It is followed with the perfect mid paced rocker “Suffer No More” which moves from a warm melody to an anthemic chorus which again, despite the words, is very uplifting. We really get the full impact of the whole band sound on “God’s Not Here Tonight” which is a punk power pop song which recalls bands like The Replacements or someone like Jesse Malin at his most rocking.
The confident sound of the album grows even fuller on “The First Heartbreak” which has the added benefit of a nice bit of pop ‘shine’, especially as you get to the sing along finale. “We Are Libertines” is in a similar style with the repetitive use of the title resulting in the song getting firmly lodged in your brain. There is also room for a more soulful rocker called “Heaven’s Hill” which really allows Matthew’s gravelly voice to shine in a way not too dissimilar to some of Soul Asylums finer moments.
However, the album really hits an absolute peak with the supreme adult pop high of “Then She Throws Me Like A Hand Grenade”. It’s a brilliant song that could comfortably sit alongside any of Tom Petty’s greatest hits, it’s an infectious and wonderful track. Thankfully, it’s not a one off though, as exemplified by “This One’s For You Frankie” which will have you singing along to it at the top of your voice.
The album is really well balanced though and in contrast to the pop brightness we have songs like “An Anthem For The Broken” where the lyrical tone is matched by a more caustic sound. The album then ends with the slower and more poignant “If You’re Not Happy”. On this song it is the space and emptiness within it that really allows it to make its point.
This is a quite wonderful album which will surely find a place on many people’s “Best Of” lists at the end of the year, or at least it should do! It has the sense of an album that will become a source of comfort and inspiration for many of its listeners. You can see it being one where people end up saying “that was the album that got me through a very tough time”. One of its greatest qualities is its ability to offer heartfelt and poignant lyrical content but wrap them up in melodies that leave you with a sense of hope and aspiration. Amongst a host of solo artists dealing in more down beat tones, it makes for a unique and refreshing change. The biggest compliment we can pay, is that having finished listening to this album, we have immedialey sought out his back catalogue and plan to work our way through that…… we suggest you do the same!!