It was always going to be tough following ‘Passing Stranger,’ Scott Matthews’ debut album. It was an album packed with ethereal beauty showing off his Buckley-esque voice and brought him an Ivor Novello for ‘Elusive.’ Second album ‘Elsewhere’ signifies a definite change of mood, in other words he’s “done a LaMontagne.”
The mood has become at times entrancingly downbeat and anguished. Whilst ‘Passing Stranger’ was optimistic, ‘Elsewhere’ is an intentionally reflective, slow journey through two or three long years of touring. Robert Plant even duets with Matthews on the lulling and gentle ’12 Harps’ after touring together. These live shows come through on the record; he’s gone from one man and his guitar to barely touching his acoustic, opting for a darker, more expansive sound. The guitars take a back seat for much of Elsewhere as the multitude of strings and horns hold most of the attention throughout, only adding to the sense of melancholy.
‘Elsewhere’ ends up sounding empty, lonely and lifeless; possibly a insight into his touring mind. ‘Into The Firing Line’ and ‘Speeding Slowly’ fall quickly a nothingness of a ragged electric guitar strum along. The exuberance of ‘Passing Stranger’ has been replaced with a desolate emptiness. Matthews is at his best on the sparse and ghostly ‘Jagged Melody’ and ‘Fades In Vain,’ both tracks that keep the focus on him and his voice.
The clichéd make-or-break pressure on album number two may have played a part on this change, but there are definitely signs that the Scott Matthews of old is still in there somewhere. Whether he will be able to find him again is another matter.
Words: Jack Phillips