Matt Berry is not someone you can imagine approaching the early hours of the morning at anything other than ramming speed. The Matt Berry most are familiar with possesses a mighty bush of hair, an oh-so-manly moustache (in Toast Mode) and that voice. He seems to be a man built entirely for pleas-uuuure. His peculiar way of pronouncing things gives his delivery of a joke a peculiar sense of elasticity and rhythm, whilst the volume is rarely set below “ear mangling”.
Matt Berry may be best known for his series of hilarious characters on TV shows like The IT Crowd, Snuff Box, and Toast of London, but he's had a musical career cooking along at the same time. With interests in space jazz, pastoral folk, wibbly prog rock, synthesizer music, and smooth indie pop, by the time of his 2016 album, The Small Hours, Berry had explored all these avenues on albums he'd mostly recorded on his own in a home studio. For The Small Hours, he and his live band laid down the main tracks before Berry headed home to add vocals and embellishments to the mix.
With an intro that evokes the outro to Strawberry Fields Forever, The Small Hours immediately broadcasts its starting point. Though not in full freak-out mode, this Berry is in comfortable psych-tinged folk-prog territory, playing with more confidence than ever. Following on from 2014’s Music For Insomniacs, it finds him continuing to worry away in the predawn, when otherwise negligible concerns take on gargantuan proportions as the frazzled brain short-circuits.
It looks like turning 40 may have been the spark for Matt Berry to realise his musical potential. The arrangements that became recognisable TV themes were catchy, but nothing deeper. His previous albums show he was not just spinning-off his comedic career with throwaway ‘funny songs’, but they weren’t setting the world alight. The Small Hours is completely different.