Release Date: Oct 4, 2011
Record label: Bar/None
Genre(s): Pop/Rock, Alternative/Indie Rock, Indie Electronic, Indie Pop
Former high school science teacher Chad Matheny returns with Western Teleport, a big frickin’ record that’s not only his Bar/None debut but perhaps his best album to date. Opening with the Fleetwood Mac-ish groove of “Erica Western Teleport”, the record develops in numerous unexpected (well, unexpected from virtually anyone besides Matheny) ways, as it drifts from the suburban dread of “Sig Alert”, into the lo-fi masterpiece “A Violent Translation Of The Concordia Headscarp” and ends with the hallucinatory “Erica Western Teleport Geiger Counter” just over one half hour after it all began. There’s an automatic quality to Matheny’s songwriting, a freedom evident in material such as “Canada Day” and “The Magnetic Media Storage Practices Of Rural Pakistan” that is enviable for its utter lack of pretentiousness, perfect imperfections and ability to touch the soul of the damaged land dweller in most of us.
Huzzah! After a six-year wait, Chad Matheny has finally, finally returned with a proper follow-up to 2005’s criminally overlooked mouthful Central Hug/FriendArmy/Fractaldunes (And the Dreams That Resulted). At the time, Matheny seemed unstoppable: his cartwheeling voice — like Yoni Wolf’s Dungeon Master sidestep in spirit but closer to John Darnielle’s explosive oaths in execution — captured and continues to capture private degrees of information age miasma with scrubbed-raw sanguinity. No surprise that as portable technology proliferated, so did its linguistic access points for guys like Matheny; these days, it’s almost more symptom than quirk.
While Emperor X is, at base, an earnestly quizzical, one-person project from a singer/songwriter obsessed with all things technical and geeky -- the first song on Western Teleport refers to Cylons, USBs, and Tasers, among other things -- the funny thing about Western Teleport is how it sounds and feels like a full band creating something multilayered. That sounds a bit flippant, given how easily and often a performer with the right dedication and talent can now literalize the idea of the one-man-band in the 21st century, but Chad Matheny, following in the footsteps of similarly inclined performers, has fully settled into the textural possibilities such options can provide. His dry but earnest singing, calling to mind the work of equally singular performer Stan Ridgway -- a parallel all the more clear given how still-newish-to-Southern-California Matheny is on Western Teleport, providing a vision of a less glamorous life in L.