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Matt Backer


Idle Hands
Right Recordings – NOVA

Idle hands ?  hardly, Mr Backer….this guy is usually somewhere playing for himself or someone else or a band or a TV show. I once had him as a guest on a radio show choosing favourite recordings, featuring his own recorded work and playing live to air, with me and solo..and all without a script or safety net – as is my preference. His previous solo work used good songs to put over his versatility, even playing slide and electric twelve-string guitars and adept acoustic. Sort of an American Chris Spedding ? but song-oriented

Matt is especially skilled at making female singers sound ace, though he’s probably too gentlemanly to claim this stature for himself ; there again, anyone who can play any kind of popular number  on Shane Ritchie’s karaoke television series has to have some talent, dexterity…and some patience.

What you WON’T get on a Matt Backer ‘own’ record is grandstanding or tracks used as a chance to show off or be flash ; better to assume that he’s thankfully found time to stockpile some decent numbers and get them finished for release. The cuts on ‘Idle Hands’ are co-produced by Ian Shaw. No, not the dry-as-dust vocal gymnast but a different Mr Shaw. I know, cos I checked with Backer.

It’s no shock that regal romantic singer Martin Fry guests here – Matt is the touring axeman with the splendid still-out-there-and –kickin’-it ABC. On ‘Halfway To Jessica’ Fry’s cameo vocal is as affecting as D Bowie’s turn on ‘Isn’t It Evening’ on Sargeant fave Earl Slick’s last solo album. Singing but not shrieking and quite a step a way from the Sheffield stalwart’s usual territory as it’s more Spanish-flecked and almost Michael McDonald in mood.  And still utterly romantic.   But how does Matt know Julian Lennon ? We shall have to ask him, but ‘All That You’ve Wanted’ finds a plaintive vocal with Lennon Snr distortion giving an eerie soundscape indeed. Backer frills this with splashes of phasing and deep sonorous keys-led chord changes. It’s a curious piece indeed, almost a warmed-up Gary Numan. And of course, listeners..there can be no such thing. Bashed-up harp drifts into hard electric guitar as the bass takes its own walk around the shape of the song, It will haunt you, as Julian Lennon songs tend to.
Opener ‘Let’s Art’ is a sly nod to or possibly parody of Steely Dan complete with damped chords, key shifts and clipped guitar chipping and then a Carltonesque twisting solo straight off ‘Kid Charlemagne’, all in all a rather fine shot at Emperor’s New Clothes pointing . Of course Matt loves to hate these pseuds, but he and I know that you learn a lot from the Fagens and Bowies whether you own up or not !  ;  ‘Freak Patrol’ has gorgeous chords, electric and acoustic mix and archetypal Backer in approach and another warped tale, if you are into Was Not Was you should try this material for size, the musicianship is used not flaunted. Incidentally the last time I saw Don Was I pointed  out he was playing half the notes he normally did on stage and he ‘fessed up to spending mellow time playing in Cuba with Bonnie Raitt…    ;

‘I’m No Fool’ has gritty vocal from Backer over a Keef stagger tempo.

‘Love is Overrated’ has a Beatlesque tread, he must have been tempted to get Fry singing this one, surely ?  A godawful old Yankee TV ad inspires ‘I’ve Fallen..and I Can’t get Up’ which has a mandolin intro and hesitant folky ambience for an easy-on the–ear song with echoes of ‘Rikki Don’t..’  ; surely a ‘Eurotrash’ reference is inspiring ‘Lolo’s Car’, Backer ? Stomping Warholish nightmare of a cut reeking of NY early Velvets. This set sure rings the changes.  Amp tremolo floats the detached ‘Blessed Assurance’ – disturbing yet prima facie relaxed, where IS his head here ?

Closer – skipping acoustic on ‘Shallow Depths’, either a love or hate song or somewhere in between. Set of songs or not, Backer should have allowed himself a couple of longer guitar solo’s on this collection, not to make a point, but sometimes the listener would like to hear him build up the tension as we know that he can. Perhaps though a live set would allow for this..and Matt, if you want a bass player for THAT, you have my number ….

Session guys can be jaded, cold fish. Backer is a mixed grill of spicy tones, meaty chords, fruity melodies and gourmet musical blends. Try, enjoy, savour….oh and visit www.mattbacker.com.

Pete Sargeant      www.fairhearing.co.uk

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