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Eric Matthews
 It's Heavy in Here, Sub Pop 312b CD

 Boy, you got to carry that weight

The label says Sub Pop and the title has the word "heavy" in it, but one glance at Eric's tailored suit and neatly styled hair on the cover art should tell you something. Plunk the disc in the player and you'll find that Eric favors string quartets and oh-so serious lyrics over the squeal of a SuperMuff and the muse of a 12-pack of Schmidt. Matthews's vocals are inspired by the breathy folk of Nick Drake, with long drawn-out phrasing and plenty of overdubbed harmony parts. Melodic and introspective, many of the tunes have spare string and horn arrangements.

All of this works pretty well on the songs that were written on guitar. "Fanfare" is a sweeping pop number with a majestic trumpet line and a sitar-like guitar (thank you, George Harrison). "Distant Mother Reality" creates a dreamy slice of 60's psychedelia. "Angels for Crime" is a nice mood piece with interesting guitar changes, muscular drums (in one channel, a lá the Beatles) and an interesting clarinet arrangement. "Hop and Tickle" sounds like Nick Drake sitting in with REM, with nice guitar work (including a nice bit of spacey slide guitar that could have been more developed).

But things get a little too heavy when Matthews' dumps his guitar in favor of the piano. Without his guitar's simple folk underpinning, Matthews's songwriting takes on a bland identity that only serves to highlight his ponderous lyrics ("Fried Out Broken Girl" or "Faith to Clay"), or else the songs collapse under their top heavy arrangements ("Three-Cornered Moon"). All in all, a promising debut (plus, you gotta hand it to Sub Pop for not playing it safe on this one). Next time, let's hope Eric sticks with his guitar. --  Scott Boggan

Copyright © 1996 Peppercorn Press. All rights reserved.