Album Review: Matt Cardle, THE FIRE
THE FIRE entered the album charts at a very creditable #8.
Matt Cardle's new album THE FIRE is out and selling well. His debut album LETTERS peaked at #2 behind the juggernaut that is Noel Gallagher and went platinum later the same year. The singer songwriter co wrote all but one track on that one, the exception being his XFactor winner's cover of Biffy Clyro's Many of Horror, renamed When We Collide. Despite the strong showing of LETTERS and three sell out tours, Matt felt that he could do better if only he had a little more control. Many fans agreed. Now I'm not knocking LETTERS, it's a great album and I play it a lot, but when I heard him performing the songs live, I realised that it could have been so much more incredible if he'd had a say in the production. The man has been in and around studios for years and knows what he's doing, but I guess those with the money weren't willing to take the risk.
For THE FIRE he has gone back to his indie roots, declining offers from other big companies to sign with a smaller label SO RECORDINGS just so he could get the control he lacked with Letters. SO is part of SILVA SREEN RECORDS which supply music for the film and television industry. Matt's songs have already been heard in trailers for films like Best Marigold Hotel and the 2012 Olympics, so this seems an astute move.
It would make most artists' heads spin to co write, sing, play all the instruments and co produce an entire album's worth of songs, plus bonus tracks, but he seems to have thrived on the pressure and come up with something very special. He admits he left the really complicated stuff to the experts, but on the whole we are getting Matt's heart and soul, a gospel choir and his collection of guitars, piano and drums. Again there are a couple of exceptions: he wrote All That Matters on his own and has included a new and beautiful recording of his XFactor hit First Time (Ever I Saw Your Face) which was written by Ewen McColl.
The inspiration for THE FIRE came from a relationship breakdown which, surprisingly, seems to have caused him to write a number of really upbeat and catchy tunes interspersed with some slow, soulful numbers that can leave you feeling emotionally wrung out if you really get into the lyrics. On the whole there is a good balance and variety of quality songs that are all difficult to forget once heard. This is one of those albums that has no real weak link. Knowing his work from way back I expected something special, this is far more.
Of course, we know that albums these days are released in a variety of formats and THE FIRE is no exception. We have the standard, deluxe, poster and standard autographed cd's, plus the standard and deluxe downloads to choose from. I'm not a big fan of this kind of marketing, but it's the way it's done so we all have to make our choices and pay out our pennies. More information can be found on his website www.mattcardlemusic.com
1. IT'S ONLY LOVE - The lead single from the album and a cracking upbeat tune. This is a song to stand strong to. Its message according to Matt is that not everyone can rely entirely on love for their sole strength and support. You can be alone and still happy. It was the last to be written and is a collaboration with Paul Statham. The single is released simultaneously with the album. If you want a taster, download this one. Personally I'll only be happy with the full album.
2. THE FIRE - Title track, chosen because it was the first track to be written specifically for the album and the last to be finished. It is a collaboration with Eg White and Jack McManus. There's a lot of angst in here. It chronicles the mismatch in expectations that many couples experience with one needing constant reassurance and the other not able to understand why they can't simply believe that once said, "I love you" remains true without constant reiteration. Nice guitar riffs in this one and another powerfully upbeat track.
3. FOR EVERY HEARTBREAK - Full on Tamla style backing vocals support this rocky little number written with Steve Booker. See if you can sit still all the way through. In the chorus, "For every heartbreak there's a reason." I initially thought he was saying he got it wrong, but on fresh listening its a message of hope - if things go horribly wrong, it may be setting off a chain of events that will bring something better further down the line, so it isn't all doom and gloom, quite the reverse.
4. WATER - A complete change of pace. This a simple song of loss that left me in a pool of emotion when I heard him sing it at his album launch. There is so much I could say about this one, but I'll keep it brief. The arrangement couldn't be more simple, with a soft, flowing piano, subtle backing vocals and Cardle's famous falsetto used to what must be close to the top edge of its range as notes soar upwards. This is not a virtuoso piece though, it is beautifully performed with no pretensions. Tears will flow, mark my words.
5. ANYWHERE - The tempo trots along and lifts the mood completely. Cardle describes it as being in the moment, perhaps at a festival. It has a similar message to his old Seven Summers song Growing Up High, but with a much fuller sound and I really love it.
6. ANYONE ELSE - Written in Los Angeles, it has a gritty guitar riff that works well with the sharp, choppy lyrics. It is the most pop of the tracks and reminds me of something Michael Jackson might have put out. The beat is so precise I keep getting visions of it being used on Strictly. Dance on!
7. EMPIRE - Another big track that just grabs you. If you listen to this one while driving, don't get carried away tapping the rhythm out on the steering wheel. Airbags can sometimes be fooled into going off by too hard a bang. You have been warned.
8. ALL THAT MATTERS - Written in less than an hour, it was the first track created on a piano and is his thoughts after an argument on what would happen if his girlfriend left. Before the song was finished, she had gone and he never did write another verse and so this really is a song of the moment and needs to be accepted for that. As he says, it is what it is. I say it is rather haunting.
9. LATELY - James Walsh co wrote this one. It is my absolute favourite of the entire album. Because I love it so much I find it hard to describe it in any meaningful way. It is sad, optimistic, comforting and heart rending all in one. I can happily sit with this on repeat for hours. A fabulous ending to a fabulous album.
10. FIRST TIME (EVER I SAW YOUR FACE) - If I'm honest this track is likely to be skipped simply because I've heard it so many times now, but I fully understand why it's on there. Pressure for him to record it has been intense since his two show stopping performances on the XFactor and the live recording has already appeared on the AMAZING e.p.. This new version with piano and cello is delicate and beautiful, but sadly still misses an entire verse that was in McColl's original and my favourite of the entire song. Never mind, few people will have such long memories and the main meat of the album is plenty for me to be going on with.