Album Reviews

Matthew Friedberger – Matricidal Sons Of Bitches

(Thrill Jockey) UK release date: 29 October 2012


There seems little coincidence that Matthew Friedberger targeted a Hallowe’en release date for this album. Just one of a recent flurry of esoteric concept albums by the Fiery Furnaces man, it purports to be the soundtrack to a (non-existent) horror film. But frankly it’s only scary because he thought someone would sit down and listen to the record from beginning to end. It soon becomes clear that this endeavour is a near impossibility. And if you achieve it, you will probably never give it a spin again. The horror!

Initially it seemed promising that Paris-based Friedberger, on his fifth album of the year (!), had split the 45 songs with unwieldy names into four conceptual parts: Ladies In Waiting – Waiting Forever; Brand New Mothers – Trying It Out; Expectant Fathers – In For A Surprise; and Dying On The Sixth Side. But it turns out to make little difference considering that the distinction between the four long-winded movements, and even songs within them, haphazardly start and stop with little clear sense of where Friedberger is heading. That said, at least there appears to be some method to his madness, which is found in the disc’s reliance on repetition.

The revisited theme which dominates the seemingly-endless 60 minutes features him combining creepy keyboard sound effects (which almost sound pinched from B-grade horror films) with snippets of scratchy recordings, obscure passages of dialogue, operatic blasts and – oh yes – woozy lounge jazz.

Within that limited sonic palette, Friedberger does hit on some powerful moments that befit an artist of his undoubted talent, such as the beautiful dark haze of an organ riff on Trying It Out X. What? Again? mixed with the chirping of distant birds, a harp and a Laurie Anderson-esque vocoder vocal clip. Or the sombre yet articulate and joyous saxophone line on Tell Me What It Is You Want, Boys which segues into a chopped up underwater violin passage.

Friedberger does occasionally pull off some compelling moments of sonic madness and curiosity; check out the ascending Alice Coltrane-like harp run on That’s A Rendezvous And A Half! as it collides with a flanged soundbite that recalls a Nintendo 64 game, or the chopped and screwed wind section on In For A Surprise VIII: Paternal Prerogatives.

Despite these rare gems, the album is a total failure. It jerks from one disconcerting and disorienting sound collage to the next. But the best thing he could have done to the listen – which seems far more likely to induce suicide rather than matricide – is to emerge from the shadows with his head down and slowly pull a dagger from his cloak and savagely splice the album into an EP. That brutality could have resulted in a more effective listen ­ maybe even something his mum could enjoy.


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Matthew Friedberger – Matricidal Sons Of Bitches