If I won the lottery, or if I somehow found myself with enough money to start up a respectable label, the very first thing I would do is hop on a plane for the Boston area and track down Chaz Matthews. I would grab him by the top of his pompadour, and drag his butt down to the nearest professional studio and set him up with some of the best musicians I know. Not the kind of studio that some washed up "Rocker" is running in his remodeled garage, but a REAL studio. Not some flashy "Prog" or "Widdly Widdly" style flash guitarists, but some real honest to god musicians who know good, true, Rock and Roll. I would then go through his new material, and grab his best from the past, and then he would start to record, and what would come out of that dang studio in a weeks time would be the single greatest Rock and Roll record ever recorded.
Chaz Matthews is amazing on so many levels, and his new solo CD entitled Amazing Graceless is further proof of that. His hooks are some of the best, and his voice never goes beyond its boundaries, but it rules within them. You want a voice with attitude? Chaz has it. You want a voice that is hurting? Chaz has it. His guitar playing is precise, sloppy, and well tuned to hit all the right notes to match his emotions. The guy knows Rock and Roll, the guy knows his emotions, and he doesn't shy from honesty.
The CD opens with a blast. His past band The Dimestore Haloes specialized in Punk style that sit with bands such as Generation X as much as it did with Hanoi Rocks and The Rolling Stones. The beginning track "Girl From Detox" and the second track "100 Years O' Fun" lands right in with that style, though adding a touch more "Glam" to it than the Haloes ever touched. "Detox" is a bit of a Thunders tribute, using "Thunder's" style lead breaks, and even mentioning ol' Johnny in the lyric "I'm in love with the girl from the detox ward / told her about Johnny Thunders, she'd never heard of him before". That's a bit of a nice thing about Chaz, if you know who his influences are, you will find them hiding in his music, but they never become the main thing or "rip-off's". He's very mindful of his influences and the people that he loves. His "tributes" come in the form of a note played here or there, or a guitar tone used at a certain time. You'll find The Clash if you look, but it won't jump into your face.
In my opinion Chaz really shines when he isn't "rocking out" at full force, but rather when he finds that groove and swagger he showcases on songs such as "Holocaust Face". It's not a mellow tune by any means, but it moves at a easier pace than the Punk style.
This CD seems to be a compilation of things Chaz has worked on since the demise of The Haloes, especially since the production changes a few times on the disc. In the beginning the vocals sound like they were recorded in a tunnel, but by song 5, "Can't Start Loving You" we have a drier vocal production. Plus certain songs have a very similar feel to what the Haloes were doing on their final release Ghosts Of Saturday Night (though to be fair that is one of my guilts, I still have yet to buy that one, though from what I have of it in the form of a pre-mix sample from Chaz, it's in my top 20 of all time).
There really is not one single bad song on this CD though, as is the typical thing from Chaz. He never writes or records bad songs. There might be a weker moment here and there, on this one it falls to the final track for me, "Rocketship Down", which is a bit of a standard "rocker", and doesn't really close out how I was hoping the CD would. But it isn't "bad". But that's fine, there are so many great songs here that a song like that one might be a great song anywhere else, but it is a bit short when up against songs like "Hating The Weekend" and "Black Heart Stationary".
If there was one thing that hurts with the releases Chaz has put out, it would be that his stuff is always hurt by either a mediocre production or a lack of musicianship on the backing musicians. Drums have always been a weak spot from time to time, though this time out there is more consistency on good drumming. But at the same time, both of these weaknesses are also part of the charm. It's so damned "Rock and Roll", with warts and all. RnR isn't about perfection, it's about feeling, it's about honesty.
So yeah, Chaz has another winner for me. The man is criminally overlooked by the world and he deserves to be a star. Someday the world might catch up, but I doubt it.
Now, if you'll excuse me,
I have to go buy a buncha goddamn lottery tickets
8 out of 10
by Carl I.
Visit the Chaz Matthews Website