ALBUM REVIEW: PHIL MATTHEWS AKA THE VILLAGE - CARNIVAL OF FOOLS
Folk musician 'Phil Matthews AKA the Village' releases his third solo album.
Veteran multi-instrumentalist Phil Matthews has amassed quite the back catalogue over the past couple of decades. Most notably his eight records with 'LaF' and two solo records under the name of 'Phil Matthews AKA the Village'. Matthews describes his latest record 'Carnival of Fools' as sharing "the pop sensibilities of the first two but with a slightly more organic feel." With a varied mix of instruments (all played live), Carnival of Fools is definitely an ambitious output that shows that he isn't shy to experiment.
The record opens with upbeat track 'Voodoo Skull'. Initially intended as the title track for album number two, Voodoo Skull serves as a smooth transition between the two records. Instantly catchy, this is a song that could only have come from the British Isles. Matthews describes himself as "more Anglicana that Americana" a sentiment that is neatly summarised in this three minute package. You can hardly fault him for wanting to keep hold of this song as opposed to letting it slip into the cracks of hidden tracks and B-Sides.
The album then moves on to two slightly more melancholic tracks. Softer and slower, the listener is transported to a world of village fetes and open roof car journeys through rural England. This is a feeling that you get throughout the album, especially with track four 'Muses'; an inventively fresh take on folk love songs as Matthews paraphrases great poets and lyricists throughout history in order to change the subject of their writing.
Track six 'Last train Home' is a two minute instrumental that builds over a repeated bass riff, gradually adding more instruments and melodies. Last train Home not only shows off Matthews musical dexterity and expertise, but also serves as a useful bookmark between the two halves of the album as the final four songs are noticeably rockier. 'Seeking Clues' harkens back to the albums opening, before 'For I Am So Old (And I Have Seen The Sky)' launches in with a lead guitar tone not dissimilar to Carlos Santana. The Beatles similarities truly come to the fore for this and following song 'The Secret Garden'. The record finishes with title track 'Carnival of Fools'; a thoroughly enjoyable song that makes you want to dance, sing and stomp your feet.
Clocking in at just over thirty minutes, Carnival of Fools is a great selection of tracks that will appeal to anyone with even a slight interest in folk music and the lighter end of 1960's pop-rock. Matthew's voice is a lovely blend of Bob Dylan and early David Bowie. If there is any fault to be found with Carnival of Fools it is that at some points the record seems a bit like two different records forced together, but that is hardly an issue when the songs are of such high quality.
Personal Highlight: Instrumental track 'Last train Home' builds and builds from a simple bass melody to a broad and varied soundscape that encapsulates the atmosphere of the entire record into a small two minute long piece of music.