Album: Matt Keating

Tiltawhirl (Poptones)
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The Independent Culture

What's this? Alan McGee's label in gimmick-free, "proper" songwriter shock? Compared to the usual run of novelty acts and droning indie makeweights that have so far comprised the Poptones roster, the very normality of Matt Keating's Tiltawhirl marks it out as different and unusual. Keating has been around for more than a decade now, garnering steady acclaim for albums like 1994's Scaryarea and 1997's Killjoy, and Tiltawhirl displays the benefit of that maturity in songs which call to mind the classic singer-songwriters, from Dylan on down. The fingerpicked guitar and well-turned metaphors of "Executioner", for example, recall the UK folkie heyday of Al Stewart and Ralph McTell, while the nagging fatalism of songs such as "Window Booth" and "On Closer Inspection" summons ghosts of any number of alt.country composers. Best of all is "Jacksonville", whose elegant resignation ­ not to mention lines like "To put our faith in earthly things/To try to fly on painted wings" ­ makes it something like the Florida equivalent of Leonard Cohen's "Famous Blue Raincoat", whatever that might be: a famous blue thong, perhaps? Unfortunately, song after song is marred by inconsistent production quality, which, combined with the fact that Keating's not the world's greatest singer, leaves too many of his excellent compositions undersold. Next time round, a decent recording budget might pay fulsome dividends.

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