The critical success of the album was cemented by Elusive winning the prestigious Ivor Novello award for best song and causing Matthews’ voice to be compared to that of the Buckleys. Almost three years have passed since then and expectations for this sophomore album are understandably high.
Matthews describes Elsewhere as coming “from the feelings and emotions that so often dictate my state of mind. It captures my thoughts, frustrations and memories and I also look back on a difficult time emotionally, where the music reveals its healing properties”.
This is apt. Where Passing Stranger revelled in wide-eyed innocence and optimism, Matthews is visiting much darker places this time around. The intervening years seem to have taken their toll. His talent is still evident, but the tone of the album is arguably excessively downbeat and feels too much like the perfect soundtrack to the break-up of a fracturing relationship – at times this leaves you hankering for the joy of some of his earlier songs.
The sweet Nick Drake influenced vocals are still there, but this time around there are several glimpses of Rufus Wainwright‘s theatricality. This is understandable considering they’ve toured together. His influence can be clearly heard in the tracks Jagged Melody and 12 Harp. The former is a highlight of the album and also features the legendary Robert Plant lending a hand to a fellow Midlander.
Other tracks include the opening heartbreaker Underlying Lies, a meandering track with some luscious moments and some great ‘fuck you’ break-up lines such as the chorus’ impassioned wail of “spare me your bullshit”. Tracks such as Fractured and Into the Firing Line up the tempo, but do little to alleviate the gloomy atmosphere.
There’s no denying Scott Matthews’ talent and skill, but it’s difficult to ignore the fact that Elsewhere is an album that you really have to be in the right mood to listen to. It’s less immediate than its predecessor and is more likely to provoke a sense of disappointment rather than the empathic reaction it’s aiming for.
So much of this album should work, for the instrumentation and Matthews’ vocals are spot on. But there’s no escaping the fact that hardly any of these 11 songs really stick. If you’re likely to be put off by the introspection then perhaps a place elsewhere is exactly where you should be looking.