Thursday, May 28, 2015

MATTHEW SQUIRES & THE LEARNING DISORDERS
“Where the Music Goes to Die”
(Already Dead Tapes)



I’m gonna talk about the Mountain Goats first, and you’re gonna wonder why, so I’ll just come out and say it – Matthew Squires is a dead ringer for John Darnielle, voicewise. Well, I guess he’s not a 100% perfect match (who is to anybody?), but it’s pretty damn close. Close enough that your enjoyment of the Mountain Goats will likely pave the way for your enjoyment of this tape.

Good thing, then, that I happen to dig on some Mountain Goats from time to time. I’m on board.

Squires, and his band the Learning Disorders, play a brand of low-key indie indebted to everyone from the Byrds to Figurines, the Danish pop band whose singer, Christian Hjelm, Squires also kind of sounds like, especially on standouts “Devotional #2” and the title track. (Also the Prayers and Tears of Arthur Digby Sellers – anyone remember them? They covered the Mountain Goats one time.) Heck, pretty much any nasally voiced frontman with some folk and some rock in his repertoire could be called upon as a stylistic touchstone.

The jangle should be no surprise – Squires is from Austin, Texas, where jangle and barbecue and South By (that’s SXSW for you ignoramuses) rule pretty much every aspect of modern living. And Squires takes his Texan heritage seriously, apparently – or maybe not so much, I can’t tell – in roster construction. From Fartbook: the band is “Matthew Squires and a rotating lineup of people who he forces to play with him at gun point. Shows can be pretty intense.”

Only in Texas!

But still, this turns out to be the kind of rainy-day, sad bastard music that I turn to every once in a while. We need that sometimes – good lord, we need it. We all do. You’ll go crazy if you listen to the Beach Boys or Weezer nonstop. Crazy, I tells ya! So when heartbroken Matthew sings on “Echo,” “I am an echo. One voice torn in two. I am a memory of you,” I get a little verklempt, you know? You know? Or try my personal fave, “Trophy Song”: “And here we are, we are emptying ourselves. This is greater than any trophy we could fit on our shelves.” I’m not a terribly sentimental person, but I love this stuff. I eat it right up.

Looks like Already Dead Tapes – an absolute institution! – has already run a second pressing of these bad boys – I’ve got 50/50 of this batch. But Matthew Squires and the Learning Disorders deserves to be heard on a bigger platform – I’d love to hear this crackle through stereo speakers from 180-gram vinyl. But this is a cassette blog, and this is a cassette, so you’re left in this situation. While we wait for our wax, we can help Matthew get out of Austin and into the bigger, wider world. It’s waiting for him.




--Ryan Masteller

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